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Question and Answer

Reading about Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:7, I’m wondering what He means when He says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” It makes me a little nervous about how I pray, as though I will be judged as insincere if I use too many words or pray too long. Does it mean we have to be careful in prayer instead of just pouring out our hearts to God?

Jesus is not suggesting here that all repetitious or lengthy prayer is meaningless. And I think that if you’re pouring your heart out to God, you are genuinely in relationship with Him.

Notice the word used to describe the prayers of the pagans: “to babble.” Jesus is describing a type of prayer that was being used more like a chant or incantation, using the same wordy phrases over and over until they had lost their meaning. These people were not praying to God from the heart; they were using so-called prayer as though it were a magic spell.

Some people have thought that a long prayer with impressive words earns more favor with God. Such a prayer is impersonal, done from the wrong motivation. We don’t impress God with our fancy words; we talk to Him from our honest hearts.

I think we do need to pay attention to the way we pray. Language is important; we can pray to God in our own words, not in the clichés we too often hear and think are expected of us. And it would be good for us to remember that the God to whom we pray is a God of love who listens, who doesn’t need to be coaxed repetitiously into answering us. We must pray knowing the character of God, which leads us to pray with an open hand.

BY Dr. Rosalie de Rosset

Dr. Rosalie de Rosset has been teaching at Moody Bible Institute in the Communications Department for over five decades. She is occasionally featured on Moody Radio. Rosalie is a published author, respected speaker, and talented writer. She lives on the northside of Chicago, a city she enjoys for its natural beauty and multi-faceted art offerings.

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