But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.- Matthew 6:7
I look at this verse and the two words that immediately stand out are “vain repetitions“. I don’t know why — maybe its the words that have been focused on by others when explaining the meaning of this verse or maybe its just how my brain is wired. I don’t know, but when I pondered this verse a while back I got a flash of inspiration. Whenever this happens I think of this verse in John.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.- John 16:13
My inspiration led me to think about something I experienced in church. On a Sabbath day after returning to the church from my many years absence we were asked to rise for prayer. I did so, bowed my head and closed my eyes then the gentleman started praying. At these moments I like to let the Lord take over and touch my heart and open my mind to receive the prayer. Nothing happened — sometimes these things take time I thought. The gentleman was fluent in his delivery of his prayer and seemed like a consummate professional. I couldn’t pray very well and thought that it would be good if I had some of this guy’s talent. He appeared to me to delight in his ability to conduct such a masterclass. I knew something was wrong because I was thinking rather than listening and soaking in what this gentleman had to say. As I listened and thought, I shifted my weight on my other foot — this is the ultimate indicator that I was getting nothing from this prayer. I scolded myself when I followed up my shift by asking the question, “when is this guy going to finish?”.
I was past the point of no return so I waited for the prayer to finish and sat down. I pondered as to why there was nothing for me in that prayer. Why I might have offended God. I also explored the emotions that emanated from the gentleman that conducted the prayer and thought something was definitely out of place.
At a later point in the day after church I heard the gentleman speaking about his praying prowess. He was absolutely delighted by his ability to speak at such length fluently. Was this something to delight in I thought? What was the correct length of a prayer? I didn’t put more thought into it but rather filed it away.
When I started studying the book of Matthew the Holy Spirit opened that file and showed me the truth. He showed me the vanity in this gentleman. The Holy Spirit showed me that rather than him earnestly praying to God he delighted in rambling on and on to impress the congregation; wasted words on a prayer that will not be heard. The scripted prayer full of excerpts from other prayers banded together in random orders doesn’t constitute a genuine communication with God but rather vain repetition.
Earnestly speaking with God is the only way. For fear that the word earnestly has been used so often it has become a cliche.
with sincere and intense conviction; seriously.- earnestly
Earnestly pray for me and I for you.