The Song of the Mountains – Verse XXIX – Stop Babbling?
In my recent article on Matthew 6:5-6, I addressed Yeshua/Jesus’s words on prayer, specifically, “when you pray,” not “if you pray.” In Matthew 6:5-6, He corrects us with regard to praying in order to be seen and acknowledged by men, urging us to seek the lonely places when we pray as a personal practice. He now corrects us with regard to our words in prayer.
“And when you are praying, do not babble on and on like the 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” (Matt. 6:7-8).
Immediately we note that Yeshua is expecting us to pray, as He says, “And when you pray,” not “if you pray.” When we pray, we are not to pray as the heathen or pagan, prays. It is beyond the scope of this article to delve into the meaning of heathen or pagan as Yeshua understood it, but suffice to say, historically, the practices associated with foreign temples were deeply offensive to the covenant community of Israel. Yeshua is calling His followers to prayer differently, to pray with an understanding that our Father is listening, attentive to our needs, and will make provision.
How are we to be different?
Firstly, we are not to babel on. Repetition in prayer does not sway heaven. To be clear, this is not specifically about keeping something before the Lord in prayer, but a guard against vain babbling.
Secondly, we are to pray, in faithful confidence, that the Father knows our needs. As Yeshua reminds us so beautifully, “For your Father knows…” This Father/child relationship is not by natural cause – as Yeshua teaches in John 3 – but by spiritual adoption (Ro. 8:15-16, 23). Consider:
- John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
- Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
- Ephesians 1:5, “Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Yeshua Messiah to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us acceptable in the Beloved.”
Under ideal circumstances, parents know and supply the needs of their children: food, shelter, clothing, education, etc. … Yet, there is not always agreement as to the definition of “need” between parents and children. Children often believe they “need” gadgets or toys advertised on TV or promoted on their apps; truth be told, because we love our children we do indulge them to some degree, and from time to time as we are able.
Most of us would agree that “needs” differ from “wants.” Not that any of us understood that when we were children, I know I did not. How often do our wants in prayer override our needs in prayer?
We are not to pray like the “nations,” meaning the manner of prayer that they pursue. The question is why? For one thing, disciples of Messiah do not believe in a God persuaded by word and repetition – we do not need to gain His favor. Yeshua did not teach us to perceive our relationship with the Father in this way, because, “He knows what you need.” He knows. He is not waiting for a revelation of need from us, neither does He need a reminder. He is a loving Father, tending to the needs, not necessarily or principally, to the wants of His children.
Why pray then?
It is not to remind Him of His duty. It is not to overcome His reluctance towards us. It is, however, an avenue to arouse us to seek and know Him. It is a way of relieving our fears and anxiety. Prayer is an exercise of meditation on the promises of His Word, and to remind the worried man from where hope comes. As the words are spoken, those words which tumble from a trembling heart and soul instruct us, not Him.
Here it is:
Prayer is an invitation to spend time with the Lord, and it is a commanded invitation. The Lord honors obedience and honesty in prayer, not as a result of favoritism, but relationship (Jas. 5:16b.). Prayer changes us in the process of asking for our needs to be supplied. Prayer recognizes that the author of the beginning knows the end; prayer aligns us with both ends of the drama.
The Lord promises to answer prayer from a humbled, and expectant heart. Mindless babbling, and useless repetition closes our ears to His voice. He hears us in prayer because He loves us. He answers, and demonstrates His faithfulness to us, even when we are undeserving. As we pray, we are standing on His promises.
We pray because we have need. We pray because we must. We pray that we might grow in relationship with the Lord of Heaven and earth – our Father.
We are not praying to a distant god who has no concern for us, in an attempt to find favor. We pray to our Father in Heaven who loves us.
Shalom. Be well.