Thursday, August 28, 2003

Jesus on Prayer 3

After Jesus spoke on having a private prayer life, he spoke on the need to base prayer on real communication and faith.    

Putting Prayer in Perspective

Jesus' instruction on prayer in Matthew continued with this admonition

When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8, The Net Bible)

Jesus contrasts prayer to the Father with the prayers of the Gentiles. He describes Gentile prayer as the repetitious babbling of many words. What might this mean and how do we relate this to our prayers?

  • "Like the Gentiles". The Gentiles did not worship the true God.
  • Repetitious babble connotes a lack of real content.
  • Many words to be heard suggests rituals, incantations, and technique.

Gentile prayer is about the manipulation of spiritual forces and entities that do not generally care about you as an individual. 

We can, of course, now give Jesus' words a Christian spin:

  • "Like the Gentiles" -- Praying to God in Name, but not in knowledge. This is similar to what Paul wrote to the Romans about the Jews who did not accept Jesus as their Messiah, "For I can testify that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not in line with the truth." (Romans 10:2)
  • Repetitious babbling -- Praying without real content. Perhaps this would be like reciting liturgical prayers without connecting to their content.
  • Many words to be heard -- Praying with an attitude that God is not listening and must be manipulated to answer.

In answer to this, Jesus says that our Father knows what we need even before we ask. We are praying to our Father, which means that we are in a family relationship. We are part of His life, and he anticipates what we need. We can, therefore, come to Him as transparent people. We can come before Him glad, sad, or mad and He will be there in full understanding. That, by the way, is what Job did over and over as he sought to understand the cause and meaning of his suffering. Manipulation is not required.

If our Father knows what we need before we ask, why should we pray? There are two reasons. The first is because of the rewards of prayer that go beyond just meeting our needs. The second is that there are many other things for which to pray.

So Jesus has instructed about the place and manner of our prayers. We are to have a private life of prayer, and we are to pray to a real person. This person is interested in us and our needs and does not need to be manipulated.

So what makes for a good prayer?

Friday: Directing the Heart

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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