This, Then, is How You Should Pray
By Lloyd Roberts
When Jesus speaks we should listen. Even agnostics and atheists respect his wisdom and insight. Christians should pay particular heed to their Lord’s words.
In the sixth chapter of Matthew, Jesus discusses prayer with his followers. First, he tells them what not to do.
“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 others. Truly I tell you, 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.”
We’ve all heard those who fall in love with the sound of their own voice when offering a public prayer. They drone on and on in apparent pursuit of personal validation and glory rather than any sincere conversation with the Almighty.
The second injunction confuses many. When Jesus admonishes us to “not keep on babbling,” he refers to the practice in pagan temples of that time, of attendants chanting over and over a short mantra, imploring help from their stone god. The chants go on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Some believe Jesus condemned the use of written or memorized prayers, like the Lord’s Prayer, in worship services. They contend the Lord’s Prayer is a model on how to pray. I agree the Lord’s Prayer can be an outline or guide for our devotions, but it can also be a liturgical touchstone for many believers as they approach the throne of Grace.
“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.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil.’”
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