“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8).
As the saying goes, “empty vessels make the loudest noise.” A prayerful Christian is not necessarily a noisy Christian. The effectiveness of prayer is not in the number of words used, but the faith underneath every word.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus already told us to pray in secret so that our prayer is heard only by God who sees in secret. When we begin to shout and shakedown entire buildings, we not only draw attention to ourselves, we also display a gross lack of faith in the power of God who hears even the whispers of our mind.
In truth, when faith is lacking, we tend to use more words because it always seems to us that God hasn’t heard it enough or that God needs to be shouted at before He can take action. Jesus warns us today not to be like the Gentiles who heap up empty phrases.
What is an empty phrase? A meaningless combination of words or could it be what many often refer to as speaking in tongues? It is one thing to truly have the gift of the Holy Spirit, utterance, but a different thing altogether when you just make unintelligible sounds so that people would think you are speaking in tongues.
Before ever we set out to pray, we must first believe that the God we are about to talk to is more than able to do anything we ask. In this way, our prayer carries more weight even when we do not use many words. For instance, in today’s first reading, we hear God saying that just as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return without first watering the earth, so is every word that comes from His mouth.”
This means, it really doesn’t matter how many times we repeat it, God’s words are “Yes” and “Amen” They must surely work. Those who believe in prayer know that every word uttered in faith works like magic, they don’t fuss like the prophets of Baal who were attempting to challenge Elijah.
In teaching us to pray, notice that Jesus makes use of intelligible and coordinated statements. Jesus did not speak in tongues. Jesus did not even repeat any phrase or statement.
Jesus addresses God as our Father. He praises God, asks that His Will be done (not ours), He asks for our daily bread, forgiveness of sin and deliverance from evil/temptations.
The Phrase, “Let Your Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” is one that teaches us to be truly humble and place our absolute trust in God’s direction for our lives.
Why am I always trying to give God specific instructions about my future and my life when in truth, God created me without even seeking my permission?
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus also makes us understand that prayer is never complete without the necessary corresponding actions on our part. That is to say, if I do not forgive those who sin against me, I am actually asking God not to forgive my own sins against Him.
It doesn’t matter how many words I use, if there is bitterness in my heart, if I cannot give to my neighbour what I am asking from God, my words at prayer carry no value.
How can I be asking God for protection when I am silently wishing the death of my neighbour? How can I be asking for my business to prosper when I long to laugh over the collapse of my neighbour’s business?
How can I be asking for
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my faith in you that I may realize the need to use less, but only meaningful words in prayer and grant that my actions may not nullify for my prayers, Amen!
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Tuesday of the 1st Week of Lent. Bible Study: Isaiah 55:10-11, Psalm 34 and Matthew 6:7-15).