Apart from telling us not to babble on in prayer, Matthew 6:7-13 also teaches us that the things for which we pray are reshaped as we come to understand that prayer begins with God.
â€œWhen you pray, donâ€™t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine theyâ€™ll be heard for their many words. Donâ€™t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.
â€œTherefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.â€
(Matt 6:7-13 HCSB)
Itâ€™s good to get a handle on this when we spend time praying together.
Often we allow our particular needs (and wants) to dominate prayer times. As a friend said recently, â€œSometimes our prayers never get out of the hospital.â€
God knows what we need, and has very clearly demonstrated his great love for us, there is no reason to babble on in prayer. In fact, (being a little provocative) there is no need to be primarily concerned in prayer for our own wants and needs.
There is a great contrast between Christian prayer and pagan prayer. In prayer the pagan is seeking to manipulate god into doing something for him or her. A pagan prayer needs lots of big words, and promises to God, and it must be accompanied by great sacrifices in the form of all-night prayer-vigil endurance. The Christian, on the other hand, is confident in Godâ€™s loving provision and prays that God would do his will, that Godâ€™s kingdom would come.
Now this will mean some very specific prayers about our own particular needs and situations. The first patch of ground on which I can pray to see Godâ€™s kingdom come is my own two feet. The prayer that Godâ€™s kingdom would come is a specific prayer about how I will study for my exams; the relationship I have with my wife; how much time I spend on the computer; whether I buy too many books; what Iâ€™m going to do with my summer holidays. In prayer we are able to bring all our needs and anxieties to the Father who will meet them and calm them in ways which grow his kingdom.
But we know well that itâ€™s also a much wider prayer. The coming of Godâ€™s kingdom is a prayer for the work of Christians in other countries. For the perseverance of Christians under persecution. It is a prayer for Godâ€™s mercy on our hedonistic Western culture.
Itâ€™s a specific prayer about the fighting and dying in Iraq, itâ€™s a specific prayer about who will win the next US presidential election. It is a specific prayer about rain and drought.
As we work together to encourage each other in prayer, donâ€™t let our focus always be on the list of upcoming events on campus or in Church. If you are running a prayer meeting, donâ€™t always spend the majority of time on study, exams, and sickness. Our heavenly Father who has approached us in his Son, knows all our needs. Our welfare is completely covered by the prayer that we would see his kingdom come.
As we are able, letâ€™s pray for the coming of that kingdom everywhere.