A couple weeks ago, I was in the old city area of Montreal. Amidst the quaint cafes and wide cobblestone streets, I observed several street performers. Musicians, buskers and comedians entertained the tourists and collected money for romanticizing the environment.

Sometimes you give to a busker because you are truly entertained. Other times, you give because you feel sorry for them. While a few are truly gifted performers, others appear to be beggars with a gimmick. The out-of-tune guitar and crackly voice singing Neil Young worse than Neil Young might inspire a handful of change in the open guitar case.

And then, there are honest beggars. A few will tell you that they want money to buy beer, food or pay their rent. One of the begging men in Montreal held a sign that read, ‘Too ugly for prostitution.’ Now, that’s honest.

If you ever had to beg, you know that your presentation is everything. You need to compete for the attention of the softhearted passerby. You need their money before they spend or give it elsewhere. You count on the fact that plenty of people have spare change and will give it to you if you ask in the right way.

Some people approach God in a beggarly fashion. They hope that if they ask the right way or impress Him in some way, they will receive mercy from on high. Many people who came to Jesus had this approach. Desperation moved them to attract His attention in demonstrable ways.  And it works.

But there also spiritual street performers. They demonstrate their religious behaviour in public ways to persuade you of their closeness to God. There is a right place for public prayers and preaching effectively. But what happens when people put on a prayer, preaching or worship performance to gain admiration for themselves?

Matthew 6:
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Sometimes we think that putting on a show will lead to a reward. We actually believe that if the right people see us being godly, they will elevate us to public esteem. We are deluded like the American Idols who make it on the show just to be laughed at. But, we think we can really sing, pray or give spiritual advice—if only the right people would notice..

Might we better hang a sign around our neck that says, ‘Too ugly for prostitution’? We do not need to impress anyone but God. We do not need to put on a show for any passerby. We do not need to sell ourselves.

What we really need is to discover the fulfillment and protected secrecy of the closet. When we are hidden away with God, we can reveal all of our neediness, ugliness and loneliness. In the secret place with God, needs are met and beauty is bestowed.

In God’s presence, you soon discover that you are not a beggar or a prostitute. You are not just tolerated but welcomed. You do not have to perform. You can be yourself with God.

Do you have a hideaway? When was the last time you snuck away unnoticed to be with the lover of your soul?

You sneak around in the dark to fulfill the desires of the flesh. Why not sneak away into a closet of prayer? You can wrestle your demons alone or you can wrestle an angel and be forever changed. You can avoid relational intimacy for fear of rejection or you can surrender to God’s embrace and be healed by love.