We are now in Part 10 of our series on Kingdom Living. In Matthew 6-7, Jesus lays down principles on how to practice kingdom righteousness—how to live according to the rule of God. In Matt. 6:7-15, Jesus teaches about praying and forgiving. Kingdom living is praying and forgiving.
This passage deals with three themes—(1) What Prayer is Not; (2) What Prayer Is; and (3) the Importance of Forgiveness.
We shall now study deeper into the text.
What Prayer is Not
There are three things that prayer is not. First, prayer is not repeating meaningless words. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do” (Matt. 6:7). Literally in the Greek, it reads, “But praying, do not use meaningless words again and again as the Gentiles.” The words, “heap up empty phrases,” is just one word, battalogeo, which means, “to speak much or extensively, with a possible added implication of meaningless words – ‘to use many words, to speak for a long time’” (Louw-Nida); “use many (meaningless) words, babble, use vain repetitions (MT 6.7) (Friberg). The NKJV translates it, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.” The NASB reads: “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do.” The idea here is meaningless repetition and lengthiness.
Why do the Gentiles or pagans pray like this? Jesus said in v. 7, “for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
That is the second thing about what prayer is not.
Second, prayer is not repeating many words to be heard by God. They pray with many words believing that God will hear them. They believe that if they pray with many words over a long time, maybe God will listen to them. They believe that if they repeat the same words, God will hear them.
Have you prayed like that? I’ve prayed like that since I was a child. I was taught to pray the same words in the same prayer. I was taught to pray the same words over and over again. But our Lord Jesus commanded, “Do not pray like that. Do not pray like the Gentiles do. Do not be like them.”
Sometimes, we pray to earn God’s blessing. But we pray not to be heard by God, or to earn God’s blessing. We pray to show our dependence in God who knows our needs.
Some of you grew up in a religion that taught you this kind of prayer. But I encourage you to follow Jesus from now on. Are you willing to follow Jesus together with me? Let’s obey our Lord Jesus in all things, even though it goes against our religion.
“Pastor, does this mean that I can pray a short prayer and God will still hear me?” Yes!
Thousands of letters are addressed to God each year and sent to Jerusalem. One asked the “God of Israel” for help in getting a job as a bulldozer driver.
Another: “Please help me to be happy, to find a nice job and a good wife–soon.”
Another asked for forgiveness for stealing money from a store when he was a boy. (“Sermon Illustrations: Prayer.” Cited October 18, 2014. Online: http://hotsermons.com/sermon-illustrations/sermon-illustrations-prayer.html)
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Christians’ prayers are measured by weight, and not by length.”