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Sermon on the Mount: Avoid Repetition
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
Matthew 6:7-8 NASB1995
These verses in Matthew Chapter 6 of the Sermon on the Mount are delivered to the crowd just before Jesus thrills us with His beautiful Lord’s Prayer. Jesus has told us to give and pray in secret. He now cautions against meaningless repetitions in prayer, something that would probably be a surprise to people who mindlessly repeat the many words in creeds and confessions and liturgies and rosaries on a regular basis or even say the shorter Lord’s Prayer without thinking about the words.
The photo shows a detail from the huge cast iron doors on the splendid Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain (a work that has been in progress for nearly 150 years). The doors have many words, blurring together in different languages, with a few highlighted, like the name “Jesus”. I felt the imagery was perfect for this short passage - we can throw many words at God during prayer, but He already knows what we need before we ask Him and we need a few words that really matter. This is a cautionary statement for Steve and I, because we do hour-long intercessory prayer sessions for our church, so how much of that is repetitive or mindless babbling? We do follow a framework for our prayer (the ACTS or Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication approach) but it can always be improved and more heartfelt and perhaps shorter.
Prayer is also really for the person praying, as it brings us into true communion with God (a wonderful place to be!) Here is what David Guzik from Enduring Word commentaries has to say about coming into God’s presence with prayer:
b. Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him: We don’t pray to tell God things that He didn’t know before we told Him. We pray to commune with and appeal to a loving God who wants us to bring every need and worry before His throne.
i. “Prayer is not designed to inform God, but to give man a sight of his misery; to humble his heart, to excite his desire, to inflame his faith, to animate his hope, to raise his soul from earth to heaven, and to put him in mind that THERE is his Father, his country, and inheritance.” (Clarke)
The next few devotionals from the Sermon on the Mount series will focus line-by-line on the perfect words in the Lord’s Prayer, starting with Our Father…(Matthew 6:9)
Commentary from David Guzik and Enduring Word is used by written permission.