Archive 2014: Matthew 6:7-8

Matthew 6:7-8

The next section of Scripture shows Jesus giving his disciples instructions on how to pray with the right intentions. But first, he finishes describing how the Gentiles have approached praying in the wrong fashion. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (verse 7). I have a very hard time not equating a long speech to a perfect prayer that God appreciates. I was very convicted when I read this verse, because a pretty large percentage of my public prayers have been nothing but empty words heaped together. And when you fake something in public, it can be hard to have a different mentality during private prayer. This is why I’ve started to pray less frequently in public. Praying in public had become such a charade that I would find myself doing the same in private. And that left me very frustrated because I felt like I was performing for God rather than coming to Him in a humble place. Verse 7 gives an example of how frustrating prayer can be when done on the premise that God needs us to keep Him entertained and that our speeches have to be long and drawn out. Yet many prayers that God blessed looked humble and contrite. Let’s look at an Old Testament example. Hannah was barren before giving birth to Samuel the prophet, and when she was praying to God asking for children, the verse describes her in a very troubled light. “She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly” (1st Samuel 1:10). Eli the priest thought she was drunk because her lips were moving but no words were coming out. Does that sound like a prayer to be proud of? Yet Hannah was blessed by God because she wasn’t interested in how other people saw her or what they thought of her prayer. This is how we need to approach prayer, not concerned with public opinion but concerned with trying to communicate with God honestly. I really enjoy verse 8 of Matthew 6, because it takes off all the pressure on us when we pray to God. “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (verse 8). How comforting and relieving! God knows what we need and therefore, we don’t have to feel frustrated trying to communicate with Him. We can just come before him humbly knowing he understands us, loves us, and knows our hearts and our desires. I’m not suggesting that we come before God broken in order to elicit a response, because God isn’t a vending machine who spits out healing or answers to prayer based on our coming to Him. I’m suggesting we come to God exactly how we’re feeling. If you’re frustrated, go to Him frustrated. If you’re joyful, go to Him joyful. We shouldn’t try and mold ourselves into some kind of penitent person because we believe God will appreciate that. I love the last part of the verse, the one that says God knows what we needs. This may seem judgmental, but how often do we really pray for what we need rather than what we want. I’ve prayed some incredibly stupid prayers before, asking God to get a girl to like me or praying for money or other selfish things. I’m not saying God doesn’t care about us, but I think our times in prayer could be spent much more beneficially if we prayed for others or simply worshiped God in our prayers, rather than selfishly submitting requests that could go against what God wants to happen in our lives. Again, I’m not being judgmental here, because it is very hard to pray and not have it be self-focused, it’s something I really struggle with. Yet when I break down my life, I really don’t “need” a lot. I like having a car to get around in, but I don’t “need” it. It wouldn’t kill me if I didn’t have a vehicle. I enjoy having financial security, but my job isn’t something that I need per say. Look at how little Jesus had on earth. He walked everywhere he went, he chose to multiply food rather than foraging it, he paid taxes by taking coins out of fish, and he probably had a pretty simple wardrobe. Yet look at Jesus’s relationship with God and with those around him. He didn’t “need” anything, because relationship was all that he needed. It’s hard to think about a life where our material possessions don’t constitute as needs, but I think this may have been what Jesus was trying to get at here when he said God knows our needs. What is better than salvation? What do we really “need” besides God? Nothing. I’m not trying to discourage our prayers, because going to God can be very comforting when we’re hurting. But I think Jesus was trying to get us to look past our own “needs” and desires and look to other people and even to God as subject matter for prayer. When we examine the Lord’s Prayer, we’ll dig into this idea more.

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