THE WORDS OF JESUS
Creative, Causative, Prophetic, Instructional – Part 19
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:” The Words of Jesus, Matthew 6:7-9
Another way of saying this is, “do not use thoughtless repetitions”. Prayer is not a magic formula or an incantation. Prayer is not an endless repetition of words that are meant to bring about a desired result.
The Greek words for “do not use thoughtless repetitions” has a force but is feebly rendered in the English. Formed from a word which reproduces the repeated attempts of ‘the stammerer to clothe his thoughts in words’, it might be almost rendered, “Do not stutter out your prayers, do not babble them over.” The devotion of the rosary, in which every bead is connected with a ‘Pater Noster’, (Our Father), or an Ave Maria (Hail Mary), reproduces the eighteen prayers of the Rabbis, which they held it to be an act of religion to repeat. These words describe only too faithfully the act of prayer when it becomes mechanical, and Jesus, Himself, says thoughtless, repetitive phrases disguised as prayers will not produce ‘the reward’ of answered prayer.
There is more here, however. Jesus is warning that we shall not be like the hypocrites (an actor, a pretender, a fraud), or like the Gentiles (Heathens; usually referring to non-Israelites; a pagan, a “non-covenant person,” standing outside God’s covenant of salvation).
One of the greatest dangers that has always faced the church is Syncretism, the attempted union of principles or practices which are irreconcilably at variance with each other, the merging of two opposing religious belief systems.
We are not to think like the Gentiles (Pagans) and hypocrites, in any fashion.
Do not dress like them, do not act like them or eat like them, drink like them, talk like them and in particular, do not practice your righteousness like them, and never approach God and never pray like them. Its end is vanity and loss.
Jesus gives us a model for prayer when He says,
“Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
“Give us this day our daily bread,
“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Of course there is nothing wrong with repeating this prayer, but if it is done mechanically, as becomes the tendency, it can become a meaningless repetition and will lose its effect. Instead,
Acknowledge, greet and call God by name and relationship: Father.
Remember, confess and admit His sovereignty and presence.
Ask for your daily sustenance from God, alone.
Confess your sins before God, and
Pray for His deliverance, daily
Your Brother and Friend,
NEXT: THE WORDS OF JESUS – What Are You To Do With Them? Part 20, “Thy Kingdom Come”.
PREVIOUS: THE WORDS OF JESUS – What Are You To Do With Them? Part 18, “And when you pray…”