July 20 I Wednesday
“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
From the opening verse of this devotion, Jesus teaches His disciples another pitfall in our prayer life, and that is the temptation to talk too much. This is not to say that God does not like long prayers; what Jesus describes is when a person’s prayer is filled with nonsense language and just babble. In the ancient Near East, during the New Testament time, there were many pagan religions where they would pray repetitive incantations or prayers, believing that this could bring blessings. In other words, if they said it a certain way or repeated the statements, they felt the gods would hear them, look upon them and bless them.
As we look around some of the prayer practices in our world today that exist in different religions, such as mindfulness or yoga, not much has changed in our day and age. There is still a fair amount of influence placed in prayer, whereby people are chanting or speaking mantras to send positive thoughts out into the universe to seek blessings in return and to manifest things with their words. These may look peaceful, and even spiritual on the surface, but the remarkable thing is that Jesus described these as mere babbling, nonsense and foolishness. Jesus, who is God with us, teaches us when we pray to not use too many words. Why? Because our heavenly Father already knows what we need before we ask.
When we approach God in prayer, what is our mentality? Do we believe that He hears our prayers and will give good gifts to us? Jesus tells us, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11). The problem with babbling is that it undermines this truth about the character of God.
Jesus reassures us that our Father knows what we need before we ask. As we spend time with Him in the secret place, orient ourselves around His desires—not ours—because He already knows what we need, then we can ask Him what is on His heart and how He is working around us.
May we come to the secret place of prayer, not simply to repeatedly babble our wish list to God, but reorient our hearts and minds to earnestly seek His will in this world and submit to His work in our lives.
Prayer: Lord Heavenly Father, You are the God who knows what I need before I ask You. Teach me to seek Your will in this world and submit to Your work in my life. Thank You, Father.