Matthew 6, 7-8
Something to read
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
King James Version
When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that 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.
New Revised Standard Version
Something to think about
What is babbling? My dictionary tells me it is talking continuously and fast in ways that are foolish, excited, or incomprehensible. Jesus says that this is what prayer can be like but not what prayer should be like.
Now there are plenty of times when our prayers are fast and furious. There are times when we can do little more than cry or moan or scream at God. There can be moments of ecstatic worship when the Spirit draws out from us the most incredible sounds; language that we can’t decipher but which echoes heaven.
So what should we make of what Jesus says here? Perhaps he’s asking us to trust God more in our praying. The babbling he’s warning against is a form of faith that seems intent upon bombarding heaven with our own words.
But Jesus wants us to know God intimately. And this intimate relationship shouldn’t need bludgeoning verbal assaults. God’s heart doesn’t have to be hammered down by us because it is already open wide. Instead we need just a few words. And, often, not even words but simply the silence of resting in God’s love.
Something to do
Get pen and paper, or grab your keyboard. Give yourself a space – say five minutes simply breathing in silence. Then write down just one sentence of what you most want to say to God. What about doing it again but using fewer words? What if you only had one or two words? What would you most want to say to God today? What does God most want you to hear today?
Something to pray
Heal our hurts.
Show us our sin.
Change us deep within.
Today's contributor is the Rev Neil Thorogood, Director of Pastoral Studies at Westminster College, Cambridge, and author of the Surefish monthly prayers.