October 18 I Sunday
2 Thessalonians 1
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” —Matthew 6:7
Jesus taught His disciples how to pray with The Lord’s Prayer, which many of us are probably familiar with. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, 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 lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).
While The Lord’s Prayer may not have been intended to be repeated parrot fashion, it is intended to be a model of what is effective praying. In Jesus’s teaching about prayer in Matthew 6, He warns about the hypocrites, saying, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others… And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:5, 7). There are some people that like to be seen when they pray, thinking they are impressing people with their spirituality, and others who like to be heard praying, but it is just babbling.
Growing up in England, we had to recite The Lord’s Prayer every day from elementary to high school. Since the age of five, nobody showed me the words to The Lord’s Prayer, I just learned by rote. When I was twelve, our English teacher gave us an assignment saying, “I want all of you to write down The Lord’s Prayer on a piece of paper. You have been saying this every day since you were five. Now, write it down.” When we completed the task, it was interesting to read what people wrote. One person had, “Our Father, Richard, in heaven.” Another person wrote, “Our Father, which art in heaven, Harold be thy name.” The assignment revealed it is very easy just to babble The Lord’s Prayer without really praying.
Jesus, however, instructs, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). Not that the only acceptable way of prayer is to pray alone, because Matthew 18:19 tells us, “…if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”
What Jesus cared about is that our prayers come from the depths of our hearts. If we have been babbling when we pray, will we spend time and genuinely pray to God with our heart?
Prayer: Father in Heaven, praise be to Your Name. Teach me to pray, not babbling to be see or heard by others, but with a genuine heart towards You. Thank You, Father.