In the previous two verses, Jesus talked about our motivation for praying.
In today’s two verses, He talks about the mechanics of praying.
Just as He did when He talked about motivation, Jesus again tells us what NOT to do. He says NOT to pray like the pagans. Specifically He says not to “keep on babbling.” The Amplified Version says “heap up phrases” and adds “multiply words, repeating the same ones over and over.”
He says the reason they did this was because they thought God would hear them if they kept talking.
The Amplified Version references the event on Mount Carmel where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a prayer showdown. Baal’s followers prayed to him all day long, but to no avail. They didn’t shut up all day. And Baal never answered them. Ever.
I wonder why Jesus had to tell His followers not to babble. He wasn’t talking to pagans. The people He was talking to weren’t praying to an idol that couldn’t hear them. They were praying to Jehovah.
And yet He still felt they needed this instruction. Apparently they did.
Apparently we still do.
I love the way He gently reminds them (us) in verse 8 that “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Yes, He does.
But apparently I don’t always remember that. Because I have been known to babble when I pray. Especially when I’m in pain or someone I love is in pain and I KNOW there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s totally out of my control.
I wonder if that could be part of our problem. Control.
Being in pain or loving someone in pain and realizing you have absolutely no control over the situation can be agonizing.
And making the decision to let go—to give up all your attempts to control and manipulate the situation (and God!)—feels a lot like freefalling. Without a parachute. Knowing that if God doesn’t come through for you, the crash at the end of your descent will be catastrophic.
But that also sounds a lot like faith.
Could that possibly be the way God wants us to live life? Trusting Him to lead us. Trusting Him to protect us. Trusting Him to provide for us.
Trusting Him to know and do what’s best—for us and those we love. Even when things look and feel like they’re out of control?
Especially when things look like they’re out of control?
And could that possibly be the reason He sometimes allows us to be in those situations—to give us another opportunity to learn to trust Him more?
When we pray about those situations, we don’t need to repeat ourselves. God already knows . . . everything. Including how we feel about how He’s responding. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t want us to tell Him what’s on our hearts and how we feel about it. I just don’t think He wants us begging or babbling—acting as if He either doesn’t hear us or doesn’t care. Like the pagans and their gods.
God hears us and He cares. More than we know.
We can trust God to do His job—which is to take care of us on our journey of becoming more and more like Him and bringing His kingdom to earth.
And if we do that, our prayers will be full of faith. And they’ll sound a lot like the model prayer He shares next.
I’m gonna shut up now before I start repeating myself.
And everyone said, “Amen.”
- When was the last time I babbled while praying?
- What issue am I praying about that I would like to be able to control?
- What is it about God’s response that makes me wonder if He either doesn’t hear me or doesn’t care about my problem?
- How have I seen God work in a similar situation?
- How well am I doing my job—of trusting God to take care of me and those I love?
Matthew 6:7-8 New International Version (NIV)
“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.”