The Lord’s Prayer: Stop Babbling

“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 6:7-8)

Some idol worshippers believed their gods were more likely to give them what they wanted if they prayed by the hour. That is, some would chant the same things over and over and over and over and over, hoping to impress their gods with their dedication or desperation.

hands_350Jesus said our God doesn’t need that from you. He’s not running a word count on your prayers to measure how serious you are. In other words, we can keep it simple. Tell God what’s on our minds and believe that he heard us and will answer (one way or another). It’s another act of faith, isn’t it? Jesus said the Father already knows what we need. He doesn’t require us to write it on the board 900 times before he responds.

Does that mean we should never ask the same request more than once? Or more than once a day? I don’t think that was Jesus’ point. In fact, one of his parables encourages the practice of repeatedly knocking on the door until you get an answer. He’s talking here about senseless and/or superstitious repetition of prayer. But he doesn’t want us to stop talking to him, just to be in the moment, to be present with him in the conversation.

Think: Do you ever catch yourself praying without really thinking about it? What does it say about our prayers if our minds don’t have to be involved with the words we’re saying?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to fall into mindless repetition when you pray, but to be real and present when you talk to him.

Do: To avoid falling into the pattern of mindlessly saying the same thing to God over and over again, try making a “cheat sheet” of talking points before you pray. Make a list of things you want to say to him, then pray through the list. Come back to it when you find yourself distracted by other thoughts.