Have you ever heard a pastor or elder pray for what seemed like an eternity? How about heard all the prayers asking for blessings? And they may not even seem like vain blessings. Like “bless this food for the nourishment of our bodies” or “Lord please let me drive home safely in the rain” or “Lord, please help me to remember all that I have studied and do well on this test”. How can we be so selfish to ask God for these things? I thought being a Christian had to do with accepting God’s will? What if God’s will was for you to choke on your lunch today?
The best part is that God (Jesus) actually told us how to pray. And the prayer he gave us sounds nothing like the long drawn out chants that we hear these days.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)
How short and sweet is that? Where does it mention anything about flying Daddy safely on his business trip? The one line that is even remotely selfish is “Give us this day or daily bread”, and I’m pretty sure God intended that to mean, “God, give us whatever you feel we need.” Definitely nothing about a promotion, or a new car, or anything like that.
Scroll in Matthew a few verses and we find these guidelines:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:5)
Half the time I feel that people who pray on and on do so because they feel they’re showing off how Christian they are. If you can’t pray for at least 5 min, you’re not a respectable Christian.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. (Matthew 6:6)
Sounds like God doesn’t even want us to share our prayers with others. If it truly is a personal relationship with God, why publish your communication with God to the world.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking (Matthew 6:7)
So much for the five minute prayers. Heathens!
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:8) … Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. (Matthew 6:19)….For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Why even bother asking for anything? All you need is your “daily bread” which your Father will give you. I’m sure God wonders that same thing when we ask him for things. Most people who pray for material and worldy “blessings” have their hearts in their wallet and their egos.
So there we have it. A guide of Dos and Donts laid out for us in the Bible. I have no idea how prayer evolved into these dramatic monologues that have nothing to do with the original design of prayer. The next time you hear someone pray see how close (or how far) they come to following the instructions in Matthew. And then ask yourself why they deviated from how God taught us to pray.
There is a reason God asked us to pray like this. Prayer is how we communicate with God. If we want to have a “personal” relationship, prayer is the only way. Imagine if you were communicating with your actual Father, and you were trying to build a relationship with your Dad. Would any of these modern-day prayer marathons improve any sort of relationship? The last thing your Dad wants to here is a wish list of things he knows are not important for you to have. Talk to God like a friend and a father, not like Santa Claus.