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Monday, October 24, 2016

Daily Devotion for August 23, 2013

Elijah and the Priests of Baal by Lucas Cranach the Younger, ca. 1545. With characteristic flamboyance, Cranach illustrates the futility of long repetitious prayers in the famous story from 1 Kings 18.



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


This 16th-century Ave Maria by Tomas Luis de Victoria is sung as written, for a capella male choir in 8 parts, by the Cambridge Singers.

Prayer for the Morning

Oh God the King eternal, who divides the day from the darkness, and has turned the shadow of death into the light of morning; I pray that this day you will incline my heart to keep your commandments, driving temptation from my mind. Guide my feet into the way of peace; that having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, I may, when the night comes, rejoice in giving you thanks for a day lived in your presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Strength of my Heart

Strength of my heart, I need not fail,
Not mine to fear but to obey,
With such a Leader, who could quail?
Thou art as Thou wert yesterday.
Strength of my heart, I rest in Thee,
Fulfil Thy purposes through me.



O  God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore: Let the whole earth also worship you, all nations obey you, all tongues confess and bless you, and men and women everywhere love you and serve you in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, I pray,


(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.

endless knot

Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NKJV)

Do not be rash with your mouth,
And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few.

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 6:7-8 (NKJV)

Sermon on the Mount - Repetitious Prayer

“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

Notes on the Scripture

Many people, if not all, have a subconscious conviction that the longer they pray, the better God hears them; that they can, perhaps, batter down God's door with sheer persistence until He gives in, or that the degree of a person's piety may be accurately measured by the duration of their prayers.

One would be hard-pressed to pick the winner in a long prayer contest, but certainly the Jews of Jesus' time played in the major leagues. They had specific prayers to say at sunrise and sunset, and a litany of eighteen prayers to be repeated three times every day, for starters. In addition, there were prescribed prayers for every occasion, and long prayers to be said in synagogue; one, for instance, recites sixteen different adjectives for God.

The practice of such religions as Islam, with set times every day to remember God, is commendable, as it forces them to break out of their worldly frame of mind, remember God, and reset their thinking. The danger is that such prayers may become mindless rote; they will simply slip off the tongue, with no more meaning than dropping a quarter in a parking meter. How many times have you said an automatic blessing before a meal, or recited the Lord's Prayer, and realized afterward that you had managed to bypass your brain?

Some religions actually stress repetitious prayer that is not really meaningful at all, but a chant designed to induce a mystical trance. There is nothing wrong with this, as a form of relaxing meditation; but you can get the same effect using any word. It is not effective praise of God. The Hare Krishna sects, who will say the same phrase for an entire day, must be a top contender. Muslims will recite the sacred word “HE” for many hours. This is not prayer, but self-hypnotism. It intentionally disengages the conscious mind.

One must associate the practice with paganism, for it is there we find the extremes of repetitious prayer. In 1 Kings 18:26-29, we discover that the priests of Baal would repeat the phrase “O Baal answer us” for half a day. And Paul, when he got into so much trouble in Ephesus, related that the supplicants of Artemis shouted “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for hours. (Acts 19:34)

The beautiful liturgies of more formalistic churches can be profoundly moving, but the tendency to say them without any real thought or feeling must be avoided. Even though sacramental practices may be central to our life in Christ, Christianity is not primarily a mystical religion. In our prayer, we attempt to engage our consciousness, not lull it into inactivity.

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Memory Verse

Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.

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