Lord, teach us how to pray [2]   Leave a comment

Prayer

Prayer

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. .” Mat. 6:9-13

Before Jesus taught how to pray, He explained how not to pray.

How not to pray

Jesus said: “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Mat. 6:7

The prayer our Lord abhors is litany. Prayer is not repeating a formula of words. How can conversation occur between 2 persons if it is just about repeating a set of words? How would you feel if your child or spouse repeatedly told you the same thing everyday? For thousand of years our Lord was probably tired of hearing such prayers on His throne and I guess it was time to pass on this message: “Stop babbling!”

How then can there be a cordial communication with God if the “prayer” is not genuinely from our heart but is just tentative to impress God by some well formulated exalting words?

Another attitude our Lord reprehends is hypocrisy. This is what Matthew mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 6.

Don’t perform acts of righteousness such as fasting, prayers and alms giving to be seen. This means that God takes no pleasure in pilgrimage, prayers made in the public to be noticed or fasting to be seen religious.

When man prays or fasts, our Lord recommends that we do these in secret instead openly like the pharisees.

We do not have to talk with eloquence or try to impress God by our theological knowledge. God knows our intention and heart. Adam Clarke in his commentary mentioned that a prayer in the style “By the splendor of your throne” or “By the glory of your creation” would lead to suspect that the Almighty derived glory form the heavens. It is not these which make our God glorious. God does not need to be flattered. These are fake prayers our Lord rejects.

It is essential that we do not pray with a sense of superiority or by comparing ourselves with others. Jesus gave an illustration:

 “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 18:11-13

In our context, many of us won’t say the same words like this Pharisee. However, we must be careful that we do not adopt the same attitude. For example, we must be careful of spiritual pride when praying. Our spiritual gifts or calling can be a barrier to our prayer if we do not come to God in humility. The blessings God gave us can make us think that it is because we are champions in prayers or have great faith that God has blessed us and not others. Who we are and what God has given us are all  of grace.

Where to pray?

Our Lord takes pleasure in prayers made honestly in secret.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Mat. 6:4

While it is not a prerequisite to have a specific place in order to pray, it is good for man to have a place where he can retire himself to seek His creator alone. God is present in this secret place listening. Jesus retired Himself many times to pray on the mountain alone. My best moments in prayers were when I was alone talking to God undisturbed by my relatives and duties. It is good to pray while in fellowship with other brothers and sisters but it is still better to have a dedicated moment to spend with God alone. Why not trying to find an undisturbed environment to pray if you find it difficult?

Next post How to pray.

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Posted October 14, 2014 by Cedric in My writings (English)

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