And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:7-8
It is better to pray with a few words and deep, meaningful thoughts than many words without meaning. In fact, the shorter the prayer, the fewer the words, the better. Many words without meaning is pagan but few words with meaning is Christian. This is also what Christ means when speaking to the Samaritan woman, “His worshipers must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). To pray in truth is very different than a fake prayer and a spiritual prayer is very different than a prayer driven by evil desires.
A “showy” prayer is one that comes from evil and is pointless babbling. It shows no fear of God, but only shows pride. Those watching or hearing such a prayer may think it’s prayer because it has spoken words…many spoken and repeated words, very emotional and seemingly spiritual but it isn’t based on the truth of God’s Word. We consider such prayers as the “name it and claim it” prayers, prayers always focused on getting things from God, or prayers which are based on the idea that there is a secret language a person must learn to speak in order to “unlock God and His blessings.” Further, because some people don’t know how to pray and are uncomfortable with silence, they fill the gaps with many unnecessary words and essentially “copy” what they’ve heard others do in their babbling. There’s also a modern trend where those listening to a prayer will start to speak and groan during the prayer and turn it into a competition of who can appear the most “spiritual.” It reminds me of many pagan rituals I see when watching Amazonian tribes on PBS. This is not Christian prayer!
True prayer is from the depths of the heart, is simple, is never about the show, and is often without words. It is from a place of humility and trust in God that He knows our needs even before we ask it. True Christian prayer is like a child speaking to his father, full of trust, hope, respect, and dignity, and it is personal and never requires a performance. True Spiritual, Christian prayer produces true believers and makes them reverent, humble, respectful children of God who trust in His Word. And the best Christian prayer, which should also be a model for all our prayers, is the prayer our Lord taught us to pray, the Our Father.
Merciful Lord, continue to teach us to pray as you taught Your 12 disciples to pray and hear and answer our prayers according to Your gracious will. In the name of Christ, amen.
Learn more about the words you love to sing in this second volume of Eternal Anthems: The Story Behind Your Favorite Hymns Volume 2. Published by Concordia Publishing House and available in both print form and e-book (Amazon Kindle and Apple Books).
Includes stories and commentary on 50 hymns, including:
Abide with Me · Amazing Grace · Angels We Have Heard on High · Christ the Lord Is Risen Today · Crown Him with Many Crowns · Hark! The Heralds Angel Sing · Holy God, We Praise Thy Name · I am Jesus’ Little Lamb · Lift High the Cross · On Eagle’s Wings · Onward, Christian Soldiers · Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow · Silent Night, Holy Night