Babbling Like Gentiles
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:
~ Matthew 6:7-9
Luke 11:1 tells us that Christ was “praying in a certain place” when the apostles came to Him to ask for guidance on prayer. Perhaps His example spurred them to ask; they saw that He did something they did not, and they wished to become more like Him. People, at least if they have any spiritual sense at all, feel a natural need to pray; but sometimes we get stumped or feel a bit lost, especially when we are starting out, on just what to pray.
To pray is to come into intimate contact with God; in fact His Holy Spirit is physically present with us when we pray. It is a gift sent to us after Jesus left us, and God sent the Spirit not simply for our benefit, but also because He wants us to know Him. Prayer can be a bit selfish — we do and are encouraged to take our needs to Christ in prayer — but we also submit ourselves to Him in the process, knowing that the answer will have a wisdom that our limited vision of what we want can never have. God knows what we need before we ask; it is the opportunity to be in communion with Him that is important, and also the opportunity for us to hear and learn — sometimes without realizing it — how God wants us to change.
The Lord’s Prayer is recited mechanically a million, a billion, times every day; but it was intended as an experience to change our lives. Even the person, I imagine, who runs through the words without thought on a regular basis eventually must be affected by them. They will seep into our mind. Of course, Jesus warns against “heaping up empty phrases like Gentiles” or “babbling like pagans.” He wants us to think about what we pray, to question, to say what we are really thinking, to mean our praise and put some heart into it, and to listen for answers when we ask questions. So at least on occasion, say the Lord’s Prayer and pause to meditate on the meaning of each phrase. It holds enormous power for us.
Lord, lead me in my prayer life, for I desperately want a closer communion with you. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer