“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”
(Matthew 6:7-8, NLT).
After discussing hypocrisy (refer to Matthew 6:5-6), Jesus next pointed to the practise of “other religions” and highlighted another truth about prayer. To “babble on and on” is to repeat the same words over and over, like a magic incantation. Many pagan worshipers believed that saying certain words and phrases and repeating them often would help them get through to their gods.
Jesus wasn’t belittling prayer or even the idea of being persistent in prayer, something that he would later encourage his disciples to do (Luke 18:1-8). And the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples has been repeated by church congregations and individual believers for twenty centuries. Instead, Jesus condemned the shallow repetition of words by those who don’t have a personal relationship with God and who are not thinking about what they are saying. Prayer isn’t magic, like waving a wand and saying “Abracadabra,” and God doesn’t offer secret formulas for us to use. Prayer is communication, one person talking to another. As this passage shows us, God is more interested in our hearts (our focus and motives) than our words. He wants us to approach him with openness, honesty, and sincerity, engaging our minds and emotions.
Think about this: Believers should come to God as to their loving Father, sincerely bringing specific needs. This statement that “the Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him” doesn’t excuse believers from praying; it’s just that we don’t have to spend a long time reciting our needs. God doesn’t need our prayers, but he wants our prayers and knows that we need them. God knows you inside-out: thoughts, feelings, relationships, conflicts, dreams, anxieties, hopes, and needs. As your loving Father, he cares about you, his child. And as his child, you can approach your Father at anytime and anywhere, coming boldly into his presence (Hebrews 4:16). Open your heart to him. Amen.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.