“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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
6 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.
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.—Matt. 6:5-8
Jesus warns us about two errors in praying:
The Greek word, ‘hypokrites,’ translated as “hypocrites,” is actually “actors.” Jesus is warning us about showing off in public, with fancy, flowering prayers, intended to show what great prayer warriors we are. The second admonition is likely more applicable to us. “Pagans” are people who do not know God. But for us, I would add, “people who do not know God as their loving, caring, personally involved Father.”
Why do they babble on? Jesus tells us:
“ … for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
Why do they, why do we, go on and on in our prayers? Why do we keep going to God with the same … worrying … prayers? Because we are worried he is not listening, or not aware of our situation. Or we are worried we are not getting it right.
Either way, we feel stressed about the whole prayer thing, especially when it is about something or someone that evokes great concern. We are emotionally charged, so we charge at God with many words.
We “babble on” because we “worry on” that he is not listening. We worry that he is not even aware. Yet, Jesus is very clear that our Father is deeply involved in the details of our lives:
“Not one sparrow falls from the sky apart from your Father’s will.”—Matt. 10:29
In essence, nothing, not one thing is happening in your life in which your loving Heavenly Father is not intimately involved.
But it is the second worry that typically causes us to babble on: We do not think we are getting it right. I rarely meet anyone who feels confident in their prayer life. Not confident in God, but in their ability to pray properly to God. Please, once and for all, let Jesus’ words disabuse you of that worry today:
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Bold added)
Therefore, because you have a loving, involved, Heavenly Father – who knows what you need before you ask him – relax, and just open up your heart to him.
Relax, Jesus is urging you. Relax, Jesus is encouraging you.
He knows what you need before you ask him, so you can have zero concerns about getting it right. After his introduction, Jesus then gives us his very straightforward prayer, free of babbling on and free of worrying on.
A straightforward prayer, straight to the heart of the Father.
Relax. He knows what you need before you ask him.
Next Week: If He Knows, Why Pray?