|SCRIPTURE TEXT: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” – Matthew 6:7-8|
The content of prayer is one that has many Christians in a bind. Jesus warned us not to make ‘much ado about nothing.’ He said: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” – Matthew 6:7-8.
The use of “empty phrases” and “many words” is emphasized here. Neither of the two guarantees answers to prayers, otherwise stammers, those without eloquence and oratorical skills, and many of those without formal schooling in certain languages will have no hope. If Jesus died for all men, and has placed no restriction on whosoever believes in Him, why would He then restrict the prayers of those who pray to Him because of their inability to use words in a certain way? That is not at all the case, hence Jesus’ emphatic warning, “Do not be like them,” that is, those who rely on “empty phrases” and “many words.”
Solomon also lends his voice to the same caution: “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” – Ecclesiastes 5:2
But Christ did not end at just the use of “empty phrases” and “many words.” He reminds us that God, the Father, knows what we need even before we ask Him in our prayers, so there’s no need for words or phrases calculated to flatter, cajole, or confuse Him into granting what we need. After all, we are not presenting something unknown to Him. He not only knows our needs, but He knows when they should be provided and in what quantity.
Sometimes, people serve food on their plates based on how hungry they think they are. Then midway they get full and cannot finish what is still heaped on their plates. There is no room for that with God. He knows what, when, and how much we need. He will therefore not be stampeded into action by us. This is why the apostle Paul counselled later that we should be calm and not fuss about our requests: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” – Philippians 4:6.