Thursday, June 16, 2011

Do Not Babble

It seems a little funny to hear the Lord tell His followers not to babble. It makes me have an image of a group of people who are all talking at once, with none of them able to make sense. Hew was very directive about the way they should pray. The formula He gave (what we refer to as "The Lord's Prayer" is pretty succinct and to the point. It gives us not only words but also a model for all prayer. Beginning with an acknowledgement of God as the one to whom we are speaking (Father in heaven) we offer praise (hallowed be thy name) and acknowledge the primacy of what God wants over what we want (Thy kingdom come, thy will be done). After that, we are able to place our own needs before God, but He specifies only the "short-term" needs (our daily bread). This shows a keen understanding of us as humans, since the Lord knows that what we think we may want tomorrow may not be what we want when tomorrow comes.
The second half is focused on forgiveness and sin. We can only ask for what we are willing to give (forgiveness as we forgive). Finally we ask for God's strength in the face of temptation, acknowledging that without His help we are powerless.
This wonderful way of praying was certainly different from what they expected. But then, God had now experienced first-hand what being human is like and Christ was able to speak from that personal experience. He knew that, without this sort of direction, we might be praying for things that were either unimportant, unnecessary or might actually be bad for us. The purpose of teaching the disciples and us how to pray was to help us do it better than we could on our own.
Sadly, we often think of the Lord's Prayer as just words to be said rather than a model for all prayer. Some of the most powerful prayers are those we make when speaking from our heart. But it is always good to try and keep the model in mind, using the same steps. To whom are we speaking, and for what should we praise Him? What do we think God wants? What exactly do we need right  now, not in the future? And what should we ask for strength to do ourselves, since we cannot expect God to do all the work?
Following this model, our personal prayer life can flourish. And we just might be better able to appreciate the answer that always comes to us when we pray, even if it is not what we expect. Just remember - don't babble!

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