by Pastor Tim Burt
Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
I’ve noticed that when people come to church, they often sit in the same seat or at least the same section if its open. It sparked my curiosity so I asked many of my co-workers if they usually take the same route to work each day. Their answer was almost always yes with the exception of when traffic jams happen. I believe most of us have a great many routines in our life that are very repetitious in nature. Is that bad? Does that mean we are boring? No, not at all! There is a part of routine that is very stabilizing and reduces stress in our life. It’s why parents get excited to get their kids back into school at the end of summer—to get the household back into a routine!
Jesus teaches us some about prayer and repetition in Matthew 6:5-13. “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 vain repetitions 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…” “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
You probably recognize what you just finished reading as the Our Father—a prayer that has become repetitiously and mindlessly said countless times in many Christian’s lives. Before Jesus gave us those words, He had just finished saying, “…And when you pray, do not keep on babbling vain repetitions like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them…” The words in the Greek defining vain repetition are implying to get away from praying words to God that just come mindlessly—without thought from your mouth, but don’t come from the heart—mindless or vain repetition.
We all do many repetitive things in our daily routine where our mind barely needs to be engaged. My heart is not engaged in brushing my teeth. There are things I do repeatedly but can do with little or no thought. That isn’t what God wants when it comes to prayer. So, when Jesus gave us the words that have since and contrary to His will, been formalized as a rote prayer called the Our Father, He wasn’t violating His previous directive about saying the same prayer over and over mindlessly. He was giving us an outline and guideline of how to pray. Jesus was teaching His disciples HOW to pray—NOT word-for-word WHAT to pray.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come Jesus taught them, when you go to the Lord, go to Him in the Spirit of worship for who He is as God Almighty. Elevate and worship Him for who He is to become to you—the perfect Heavenly Father. When you do this, God will become bigger in your eyes and your faith and trust in Him will grow.
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven Jesus then instructs us to pray for God’s will to be done in our lives NOW—here in this life—the same that He would want in Heaven. Jesus will one day come back and restore life and this world so that it will exist without the defilement of sin and all its horrible impact. That’s why you say that your loved ones have gone to a better place when they die. Because that defilement is not in Heaven. It will one day, again, not be on earth either. Though we live in a defiled earth, God wants us to experience as much of His blessing and love on earth as it is in Heaven. That means walking after God’s ways and in His love!
Give us this day our daily bread Jesus talks about daily bread but He isn’t just talking about praying for provision. He is talking about asking God to reveal heart revelation of the scriptures we read that build our hope and encourage our faith. He wants His Word to come alive in our heart and bring hope and promise each day to lift our faith and trust toward His provision and protection. That’s what Jesus meant when He said “daily bread.” In Luke 4:4 Jesus spoke saying “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” He wants us to feed on and put faith in His Word and promises daily!
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors Jesus is talking about forgiveness. He goes on to teach that forgiveness must happen or our relationship with God and to our answered prayer is interrupted. We must forgive others who hurt us just as He has forgiven us and washed away our sins!
And lead us not into temptation He also taught them to pray that they would grow in spiritual strength and learn to resist temptation and any evil thought or desire Satan would bring, as well as the strength to resist the temptation to not obey God. That happens through prayer and drawing from His strength.
but deliver us from the evil one Finally He taught them to pray for God’s protection—something that God wants us to stand in faith for as we see in Psalm 91:11. “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”
When we pray to God, a part of what we pray for will be for things we often hold up before the Lord on a daily or ongoing basis. People are going to pray for their family and loved ones daily. They are going to pray for their livelihood and protection again and again. This isn’t vain repetition. This is renewing our prayers of faith over these issues every time they arise in our heart. It isn’t vain repetition if we engage our heart and faith! God just doesn’t want it to become mindless. The rest of what we pray will be from our heart over concerns, or over the desire to give thanks, or regarding prayers of intercession for others and more. Those parts of prayer will change often.
Mindless repetition carries no faith and without faith it’s impossible to please God! Keep your heart engaged and take whatever care or concern or need that you have before the Lord in faith, knowing that He cares about the intimate details of your life and desires to help. It takes faith to believe that and walk in it. And so, you must have your mind and faith engaged. Just do it in the outline or guide for prayer that Jesus laid out. It will teach you how to pray and access the throne of God in faith!
Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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