Daily D – Matthew 6:7-8
When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.
MATTHEW 6:7-8 (CSB)
Through the years, I have attended many different kinds of prayer meetings. I was invited to a large, community prayer gathering some years ago. A big venue with vast numbers of participants gathered. Breakfast was served. People from all kinds of backgrounds gathered.
There were several short prayers from different community leaders as part of the program. One well-known local celebrity led one of those prayers. The big event was a speech by a celebrity Christian. This prayer breakfast was not very prayer-filled. I felt a little like I had been invited to a pizza dinner where everyone got a slice, maybe two, and that was all.
On the other hand, I have attended numerous prayer gatherings at churches and in homes. Some of these prayer meetings felt a little like an all-you-can-eat buffet. One after another, individuals prayed for a very long time. Much emotional energy was expended.
As a young church leader, I worked hard to figure out how to teach others to pray. I am embarrassed to say that it took a long time to learn how to integrate prayer into my life before I could help others do the same. This may sound completely logical. However, when you are The Preacher, you are supposed to know this kind of stuff by virtue of the job description.
It is hard to disciple others in areas where you have not been discipled.
Here are a few things I have learned about prayer over the years:
1. Some of the best prayers are the shortest.
2. Some of the best public praying is silent.
3. Those who lunge into prayer when asked to lead may be responding reflexively rather than prayerfully.
4. The Bible gives us more prayer assistance than we use.
Let’s consider number four above. Psalms contains 150 prayers. There are prayers of all kinds. There is praise, thanksgiving, asking, and prayers of lament. There are angry prayers. There are deeply emotional prayers. How can we pray when we don’t know what to say? Psalms is always a good place to start.
We can also learn from the prayers of Bible characters whose prayers were answered. Moses, Daniel, and Paul have some pretty good prayers for us to ponder. Check out Colossians 1. You overhear Paul’s prayer for those new followers of Jesus.
In the next few verses in Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us how to pray. A few of Jesus’ own prayers are included in the gospel accounts. We can learn from him. When we pray his prayers, we pray his will.
Two prayers are always with me to help me know how to pray whatever I face from day to day. Psalm 23 and what we call The Lord’s Prayer or the Model Prayer guide me. Psalm 23 is 6 verses long. The Lord’s Prayer is five verses long. I double-dog dare you to find two more potent prayers. Few indeed are the prayers to match the focus of these two.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 is a fitting companion to Jesus’ instructions not to babble like the Gentiles. It says, “Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”
Our Father in heaven knows our hearts, knows what he wants for us, and awaits our asking from a place of deep relationship and loving trust. We do not have to manipulate him with many words. We do not have to work up powerful emotions. We relate to him with deep understanding and mutual agreement.
I will keep my prayers babble-free and Bible-full.
Our Father, teach me to pray. Grow me into the kind of relationship with you that I can live free from the temptation to say more than necessary. Amen.
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Jeremiah 35:12-14 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the Lord. ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me.”
Psalm 78:70-72 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
Jeremiah 23:20-22 The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly. I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.