Psalm 102; Matthew 6:7–15; 1 John 5:12–15
Prayer is mysterious. Prayer is powerful. Prayer is…confusing.
The psalmist’s opening is the simplest and purest, hear and listen to me (yes, they are different). The psalmist is miserable. The psalmist wants things to stop being bad. People, food, places, health, well-being are all part of the psalmist’s plea.
First, that means these are worthwhile and valid to bring before God. However, the psalmist is not just about himself. He speaks about God. Depending on one how one reads it (it is Scripture and poetry), the psalmist is either buttering up God or faithfully describing God. It could be a combination of both.
However, even if it is buttering up God, the reality is the psalmist would seem to understand God well enough to know that God would see through to the heart. So, while the psalmist might be piling up a bid, the psalmist is trying to be honest, too.
Prayer begins with understanding who God is and who you are in relation with.
However, one of the biggest issues we have is our words. Not the words. The sheer amount of words. When Jesus talks about the Gentiles, he is comparing Jew to Gentile. The Jews, for example, had (and still do) set prayers said in a day. There once was a story about an auction where a number of Jewish artifacts were on the block. At noon, the auction paused and the Orthodox Jews went to a corner of the hall that (mostly) faced Jerusalem (this was on the US East Coast), and said the fastest prayer the commentator ever heard.
This was not shared to disparage them, but to provide some context for Jesus’ words. The Jews did it, and got it done. In comparison, Gentiles in their temples would go on and on and on, as if by the sheer amount of words poured out, their gods would listen or even do something.
How often are our own prayers like that? Poured out words like a flood. It is almost like a politician’s stump speech; all the words spoken will successfully convince the opponent.
There is nothing wrong with a simple prayer. It is actually to be encouraged. If we spend too much time trying to convince God, then we provide no time for God to convince us. Said another way, if we occupy prayer with talking to God, there is no space to hear from and listen to God. There is no room for relational growth.
One of the reasons we have developed bad behaviors in prayer is that we have no confidence that God hears, listens, or cares. John makes it quite clear that we should be confident if we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and is our savior. Another way to think of it is that Jesus spoke to Paul while Paul was persecuting the church! God listens to prayers of those who don’t yet believe, too! So, why not you?
God of all mercies, we give you praise, glory, and thanks that you hear the prayers of your creation. May all we ask be fulfilled to show the world who you are, what you have done, and what you will do. Amen.
1) What are some barriers/struggles you’ve had with praying?
2) What are some other reasons why people might speak too much during prayer? Have you experienced that?
3) Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer. It is the model that Jesus gave us. How often do you follow it or even say it? Does it mean more to you than just words? Why or why not?