“Dear gracious, omniscient, omnipresent granter of salvation and justification through the propitiation and substitutionary atonement of our great and glorious Redeemer….” Ever hear anything like that? Hopefully not quite that bad but we’ve all heard something like that. Or have you ever been told that repeating a certain prayer a certain number of times would bring forgiveness or repentance? I really wish that would work. If I told my son to take out the trash 25 times, perhaps he would actually do it!
What does God think about those scenarios as they relate to prayer? Well, I think we get a pretty clear picture from Matthew 6:5-7: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 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.
Magic words and multiple repetitions are not part of God’s idea of prayer at all. Prayer is simply communicating with God…both speaking to Him and listening to Him for an answer. There is no basis for talking to God in a way that we would not talk to someone else. Imagine this, “Oh beautiful and lovely bearer of my children, whose intellect is far beyond that of a Rhodes Scholar and whose beauty would shame even Gwyneth Paltrow…please pass the salt”. That would be weird wouldn’t it? When we pray we are simply communicating with God. Now, that’s a pretty amazing privilege that we have but we don’t need to use words or repetition to get God’s attention. We already have His attention even before we begin praying.
Next week’s blog will focus more in detail on the model prayer that we are given in the following verses but for now, let’s just pray…without the pretense!