“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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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. 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.” Matthew 6:5-8
Most of us were taught the prayer “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” when we were children. It was good for us to say that prayer every night to get into the habit of praying. But as we grew older that prayer became childish. We needed to pray more maturely, but how? Maybe you were taught the ACTS formula for prayer – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
The people following Jesus, including His disciples, didn’t really know how to pray to God. The priests did most of the praying. The Pharisees usually made a big show of praying as if to say, “Look all you people, I’m praying to God.” Jesus tells us how to pray in His Sermon on the Mount. He calls the Pharisees “hypocrites”. They just wanted to show off, have the people admire and praise them for their devotion.
This is not what God wants. He wants us to be sincere when we pray. Our prayer time is to be a time of solitude, just us and God. There is nothing wrong with public prayer. It happens in churches and other places all the time. The difference from the Pharisees is that the prayers are genuine communication with God and not for putting on a show. But we also need quiet time talking one-on-one with God.
Before Jesus the people had to go through the priests to talk to God. After Jesus that barrier was taken down. We can go directly to God with our thoughts, questions, sorrows, and joys. Everything can be taken to God in prayer.
Jesus tells us not to babble. More words don’t make the prayer more important or effective. God doesn’t want to hear meaningless jabbering. God desires for us to speak from the heart. If we don’t have the words that’s OK. God knows what we need before we tell Him.
The important thing is to keep the line of communication with God open, to keep it personal and genuine.
APPLICATION: Make sure to spend some time everyday in quiet, personal communication with God.
(I also write a weekly devotional on Thursdays on www.thewritingshow.com for Christian writers)