Day 29: “Motives, Manipulations and Prayer” Part Two 09.18.2018
Matthew 6:5-8 (NIV) “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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think 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.”
I have a particularly cranky response to sportscasters when watching a big game. I admit it. Maybe it is just me but in my view, usually, they talk far too much! I often think that perhaps they get paid by the number of words they use. So, it’s not unusual for me to simply mute the sound and watch the game. I wonder … does God ever put us on “mute?”
The Lord Jesus Christ said this: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
This is really interesting. The word “babbling” is a combination of two Greek words: “battos” meaning to stammer and “logos” meaning “word.” So, Jesus is literally saying “Don’t go on and on with stammering words” as if that will be persuasive. But wait…. did Jesus not teach a couple of parables that seem to contradict that warning? Suppose someone sitting on the mountainside once again speaks up. He or she might say “Wait Jesus. Please? We heard you tell a parable about a woman who needed justice against her enemy. It went something like this:
The woman brought her case to an indifferent and uncaring judge but he ignored her pleas. Finally, the judge said ‘ok’ because she was wearing him out! She was bothering him so much that he gave in. Well … were you not saying that God will also respond and that if an unjust judge finally answers the prayer would not the perfectly Holy God also answer the prayer? What’s the difference?” (Luke 18: 2-7)
I think our Lord would commend the question and then answer it. First, he was teaching that we should “always pray and not give up.” That is found in the same parable; Luke 18:1. He was not saying don’t repeat your request but rather, don’t stop bringing it AND if it is just and right….IF IT IS JUST AND RIGHT…sooner or later the Father will answer it and provide relief. In other words, we should continually pray, for example, for a missionary being held unjustly. Everyday several times. But we don’t need to give God the details and endlessly “explain” everything to Him. That is why some of our best prayer experiences will be those results rooted in short and humble prayers. Prayer is not about length but frequency!
Sometimes we find ourselves praying as if God is uninformed. As if God is listening and might say “Oh? No kidding? That happened?” Rather Jesus said:
“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Prayer, then, is in the asking not in the informing. That might even go back to the tiresome sports broadcaster who insists on telling the viewer what they already know because they are watching the game. At this point, let’s look at the parallel passage in Luke. Notice that the same theme of persistence is taught:
Luke 11:5-10 (NIV) “Then he said to them, suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Jesus often used this technique of the “absurd comparison.” Once again, as in the case of the unjust judge, we see a selfish and even lazy fellow who won’t answer the petition. He literally will not open his door to his friend! Our Lord says: “Yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” This is a great word picture! It literally says “Because of the man’s lack of prudence….or because of the man’s impudence!” The point seems to be that God wants to hear from His children secretly but frequently and boldly so as to trust Him in all things! He never stands far off … although it may seem that way.
Consider these words of David when it FELT AS IF God was ignoring him:
Psalm 13:1-2 (NIV) “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
But prayer that is “unanswered” for a time is essential for the building of trust. After all, God has our best interests at heart in all things. Thus, David says:
Psalm 13:5-6 (NIV) “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”
So …next let us look carefully at how we approach God our Father. Free of babble and filled with reverence!
Blessings! Pastor Alberta