August 25 I Thursday
1 Corinthians 7:20-40
“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
If we were to ask Christians when they pray, who are they directing their prayers to, everyone would straightforwardly answer, “God, of course!” When we study the Greek New Testament, we will find the most common word for prayer is proseuché, which occurs about 37 times. The literal meaning of that word is “directed prayer towards God.” Yet, should it not be obvious when we pray that our prayers are directed towards God? Why does the New Testament use a word to remind us whom our prayers are directed to?
One possible explanation could be because there are all kinds of world religions that exist and all kinds of prayer that could be observed as part of a religion. For example, we could travel to India and find amongst the Hindu religion, thousands of deities that one could pray to. This could be why Scripture wants to remind us that when we pray, we are praying to the One true God.
It is possible even as we pray to God that our prayers are not directed towards Him. In one of Jesus’s parables, He taught that someone could go through the exercise of prayer, but in fact, not be praying to God. He tells us, “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (Luke 18:10-13).
What is the difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector? Both were engaged in the exercise of prayer but the main difference lies with whom they were praying to. We may assume both were praying to God since “God” is mentioned in each of their prayers but if we look closely at the words of the Pharisee, we find that he is not truly praying to God. Rather, the Pharisee was praying to himself as he elevated himself in prayer. While in contrast, we see that the tax collector actually directs his prayer towards God because of the humility behind his words as he soberly acknowledges his standing before God.
As we pray, may we be reminded of proseuché and the attention that our prayers are directed towards the One true God, and the One mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus Himself.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for being the mediator between God and man. It was Your death on the cross that made a way for me to be reconciled to God. I ask that I never lose sight of You when I pray.