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BABBLING IN PRAYER

 

Question: Explain Matthew 6: 7.

 

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

 

Answer: Jesus here finds fault with those prayers in which the perceived value is primarily ritualistic and devoid of sincerity. As Gentile languages sounded like meaningless babble or stutter to the ears of the Jews, so empty appeals from an empty heart sound to God.

 

This does not mean that complex, formal, or even repetitive prayer is necessarily improper or would be unacceptable to the Heavenly Father.

 

It is not the form which is in view, but the nature of the prayer. Private prayer ought to be a response of the believer’s heart; how it is expressed is secondary. It is not in itself intended to fulfil a meritorious obligation – a merely perfunctory exercise of devotion.

 

Do not pray on ‘auto-pilot’. As with so many things in life, rote prayer can become dull and monotonous, even for the most sincere, and it’s probably a good idea to vary one’s approach in this regard.

 

Jesus sets forth His famous ‘model’ prayer, the Lord’s Prayer of in verses 9-13:

 

9 ‘This, then, is how you should pray: ‘“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

 

This exemplifies the basic elements we may well touch on in our own prayers:

 

a. Reverence for God and His exalted nature;

b. Grateful acknowledgement of His power and providence in our life;

c. Recognition of the sacrifice of His Son and our resulting forgiveness and justification by faith;

d. The expression of our continued trust in Him and His plans for our future.

 

Whether one chooses in private to reiterate word-for-word the Lord’s Prayer on a regular basis is a matter of personal preference. There is, however, something to be said for repetition in a formal religious setting; in fact, some repetition is unavoidable under such circumstances.

 

Most churches have some form of oft-repeated declaration of faith or devotion, intended to foster community spirit. Many churches and schools throughout the land say the Lord’s Prayer in unison on a regular basis. Indeed, this is the means by which generations of Britons learned this prayer (and many hymns) in the first place, so the practise has its advantages.

 

Still, as a general rule we do well to avoid a formula from which our mind or heart is disengaged.

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