Matthew 6:7-8 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Living in a nominally Buddhist country, this is very clear, since there are groups that believe that saying, “The name of the Lotus Sutra, the name of the Lotus Sutra” over and over constitutes effective prayer. For that matter, even Catholics are taught that how many times they say specific set prayers gains them favor with God. That’s not the kind of prayer Jesus taught at all, so it’s very ironic that the prayer He taught right after this is one of the ones that gets assigned for repetition! There have been several excellent expositions of that prayer, showing how it covers various categories of prayer that should be characteristic of our prayers, but how many times you say it certainly isn’t the issue. One thing that stands out to me about all the Biblical teaching about prayer is that it assumes that God is intelligent and He is listening. Here, Jesus is cautioning us not to think we are telling God anything He doesn’t already know. I think all human beings instinctively cry out to a “Higher Power” when they are in trouble, but who and how we see Him to be makes all the difference. When we really understand that He is our loving Creator who chooses to be called Father, and is the ultimate example of what a father should be, then our prayers are forever impacted. What father would want his children repeating the same things over and over? And what father would be pleased if his children fail to trust that He desires the best for them? Sometimes we might hide things from our human fathers, or at least try to, but that certainly doesn’t work with our heavenly Father. Knowing that, we need to be totally open before Him, not for His sake but for ours. When that is our attitude, then our prayers will have real weight before Him.
I was incredibly blessed to be raised in a home where prayer was as natural as breathing. I can’t remember ever hesitating to pray, which makes me less than the best prayer coach, because I haven’t had to overcome barriers to prayer, so I’m not sure how to help those who feel them. What I can do is set an example. I have found that I am often called on to pray publicly in Christian settings, and people seem to be blessed by hearing me pray. I need to be very careful not to be like the hypocrites Jesus mentioned in verse five! We are starting a series of readings on prayer today, going to Genesis tomorrow and working through the Bible. My desire is that everyone in this church would have the same freedom in prayer that I experience, and would delight to pray even more that I do, if possible. I feel that God really is about to pour His Spirit out on us like we haven’t experienced to this point, and that is certainly inseparable from prayer, since He helps us in our praying. (Romans 8:26-27) If we are to be the church God wants us to be, then we will certainly be a people of prayer and a people of praise, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Father, thank You for this strong encouragement. I ask for Your anointing as I speak on Resurrection Power, that is, the Holy Spirit, this Sunday and then prayer the next Sunday. May Your Word through me penetrate all barriers and set people free to be the children You want them to be, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!