“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling. . . .”
Some of the best advice for giving a speech is “Keep it simple!” Keeping it simple, according to Jesus, is good advice for prayer as well.
In his teaching in Matthew 6 about prayer, Jesus advises, “Do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” He was talking here about people who believed in false gods and thought that you needed to make a spectacle with flashy and showy prayers to get the gods’ attention. But the true God has no trouble hearing us, and he is attentive to all our needs.
Now, this was not to say that public prayers or even lengthy prayers were a mistake. There were often prayers in public worship, where a leader would speak for all of the people, who prayed together at the same time. Also, there were often many things to give thanks for and to be concerned about, so it could be appropriate to pray for a long time. Jesus himself did that often.
When we pray, alone or in public, the main thing is to focus all of our attention on the Lord, to whom we are praying. He made the heavens and the earth. He loves us so much that he did not spare his only Son in rescuing us from sin and death. In a simple, heartfelt, direct way, we can share with God all of our thanks and cares. And Jesus promises that our Father will not only hear but also answer our prayers. What could be simpler than that?
Spirit of God, speak in us and through us as we pray to our heavenly Father, who loves us more than we can imagine. Amen.
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