Wednesday, August 22, 2007


It's interesting and confusing when you teach others, but hit a roadblock along the way.

Tonight, I was encouraging a new 9-year old Christian the importance of prayer. I dug up one of those old worksheets that has several scriptures about prayer and then has Yes or No written out to the side for the student.

Of course, we studied Matthew 6, one of Jesus' prominent teachings on prayer. I was doing fine until I came to this passage:

"7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

Here's the struggle:

On the one hand, I have heard (and probably taught) that you should be able to tell God ANYTHING! That the conversation should be open and honest, and that you should be able to tell God everything about your life, even the smallest of details (like David in the Psalms!)

And then, Jesus says, "Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

This makes it sound like I should NOT share the smallest details of my life. It makes it sound like God already knows, and therefore does not need me telling Him about my life.

This is both comforting and frustrating. Comforting because God already sees what is going on in my life, and He knows what I need. I don't have to tell Him, or make requests all the time because He knows. He is a good Father who knows me inside and out, and wants to take care of my needs.
But, it's frustrating because, as a human, I badly WANT to have someone with whom I can share the details of my life!

I need to study this passage more. Any insights?


Karen said...

Yeah, this is a tough one. But I think there's a difference between telling God what's on our hearts and then "babbling" like the pagans. It sounds like they thought that it was the manner in which they asked (lotsa words, maybe $20 words when nickel ones would do) was what would get their prayers heard. Obviously God still wants us to ask; Jesus just finished telling the apostles the kind of things to ask for. But maybe he's reminding them that it's not the eloquence, but the simple fact that they ask.

Lest I get any more longwinded... I have tried to put myself in God's place with my children. Even when I already know what they need, it sure is nice when they ask me, rather than just expecting me to kowtow to their whims.

One Observationist said...

Good post Franklin.

Here's my two cents.

Ever since I studied this passage I have had issues with the prayers in the public worship service. Sometimes they are repetitive and I just have a hard time relating to what the person is saying most of the time.

I think the main point of this passage is that our prayer life is supposed to be private. As far as keeping prayers simple and short I don’t necessarily think this is what he’s saying.

Most of the time when I pray about issues I'm faced with I pray desperation prayers and I don't go into a lot of detail. I just assume He knows what I'm talking about. Like, "Lord. I have no idea how I am supposed to respond to this situation. I have no idea which path is the right one to take. I need your help. I'm drowning here. HELP! Amen."

For those that pray in detail I think it’s great. If it helps you with your relationship to God then how can that be a bad thing? I think Jesus is mainly instructing his disciples to communicate with God in a private way. So much of our spiritual life is spent in solitude. I'm sure even ministers spend more time in their own thoughts than they do conversing with other people. Our relationship with God is mainly one-on-one interspersed with public stuff like Church.

I don’t know if this helps, but as I said, I think Jesus is talking about the people that pray long elaborate prayers in public.

Dannielle said...

I was gonna say bits of what the other ""comment-ators said. I have always understood it to be those prayers that last 10 minutes and at the end you had no idea what was just said... People that pray to hear themselves speak rather than praying to speak to GOD. Where are you going on vacation? When did you go to Disney?