Praying Through the Bible #121
TEXT: Matthew 6:1-8
1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
So far in this series, we have looked at five principles that Jesus taught regarding prayer:
1. Prayer should be a regular, everyday activity.
2. Prayer ought not to be done for the purpose of being seen by others.
3. Those who pray in a hypocritical manner — that is to be seen by men — will get their reward: they will be heard by men, and receive their praise from men, but they will not have their prayers answered by God.
4. Prayer ought to be carried out faithfully in private before God alone.
5. Those who pray in secret before God will be heard by God and rewarded openly.
Today, we are going to look at the next principle Jesus Christ gives which is, “use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
What is “vain repetition”? “Vain repetition” is the continual reciting or repeating of meaningless words under the guise of real prayer. It is the idea that the repetition of our requests somehow makes an answer from God more likely. This type of praying is very prevalent among those who worship false gods or idols. Tibetan Buddhists have what is called a “prayer wheel” — a revolving cylinder inscribed with written prayers that they repeat. Catholics pray the rosary — a set of three prayers one of which is repeated ten times. Hare Krishna devotees have a mantra that they chant; they call it a prayer, but if you have ever actually heard it, it sounds like mindless babbling.
So, Jesus Christ is telling us that we should not engage in mindless verbal repetition when we call ourselves praying. Charles Spurgeon said, “The heathen repeat over and over again the same words…This is sheer mockery. God is not deaf or forgetful, neither does he delight in mere sounds. Prayer is the intelligent approach of the mind of man to the mind of God, and in that coming we must not think of adding to the divine knowledge, which is infinite, or dictating to the divine will, which is sovereign.”
Jesus never implied that more value is to be put on prayers that are long, wordy, or fancy. One commentary noted that Jewish religious leaders were very fond of lengthening their prayers by the “abundant use of synonyms and synonymous expressions.“ In other words, they said the same thing over and over again using different words. These are the same people Jesus called hypocrites a few verses earlier. Their whole purpose was not to be heard by God, but to be seen by men. And they thought the longer they prayed, the more spiritual they would appear.
So, Jesus is dealing with this issue from two perspectives. First, there is the person who thinks that God hears Him by virtue of his long, rambling, repetitive prayer. That person may be sincere in his beliefs, but He is misguided. Second, there is the person who is not really interested in praying to God, but is mostly concerned with impressing other people by the length and wordiness of his prayer. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who engage in that kind of prayer in the church. They get up and pray for what seems like an eternity, and yet, God did not hear one word that they said.
Now, we also must be on guard against carrying this command to an extreme. There is nothing wrong with a long prayer. There are some beautiful long prayers in the Bible. Solomon prayed a long prayer in public at the dedication of the Temple. Nehemiah prayed a long prayer. Daniel prayed a long prayer. And all of their prayers were heard by God. So, if you have a lot to pray about, by all means, pray about those things. Just make sure that you are praying sincerely and in faith believing unto God alone.
Another thing Jesus does not intend to discourage with this command is perseverance in prayer. That is, praying repeatedly about the same thing until a prayer is answered. If you are praying for something that is in the will of God, there is nothing wrong with praying about it every day until you receive an answer from God. Jesus Himself gave us two examples of this kind of persistence in prayer — one, with the widow who kept going to the unjust judge until she received justice in her case; and another, with the man who went to his neighbor’s house even though it was midnight to ask for what he needed. Jesus’ aim in telling us not to use “vain repetitions” in our prayers is not prayer length or prayer frequency, but prayer motive. Prayer is not a matter of repetition but relationship. Constant repetition in prayer does not change God’s will one way or the other. We cannot manipulate God like that.
When we pray, God looks at our hearts just as much as He listens to our words. Perhaps, even more so. So, when you pray be concerned more about what your heart is saying than you are about the words being said. God understands “groanings which cannot be uttered.”
When Jesus Christ was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He emphasized something in his prayer that he felt the need to say over — “Lord, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” However, there was more to Jesus’ prayer than just His words. There was the heaviness of His heart and spirit, the mental anguish over what He was about to do, the distress of soul so much so that He sweat great drops of blood.
What a powerful example of someone pouring out their heart over an issue that caused them great concern. Jesus’ prayer was short — only two sentences — but it was prayed out of the heart of One who was utterly dependent on the Heavenly Father — not to be seen, not to be praised of men, not to force God’s hand or change God’s will — but to be heard in Heaven.
What do you intend for your prayers to accomplish? Do you want to be heard in Heaven? Do you want answers from God? Then pray sincerely without vain repetition so God can hear and answer your prayers.
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Now, if you are with us today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, your first prayer needs to be what we call the Sinner’s Prayer. Please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…” This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.
The good news is found in John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! I want to congratulate you on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for over twenty-seven years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.