Our Lord cautions his hearers and I dare say us today to take heed how we pray…
In the 6th chapter of Matthew Jesus gives a warning to prayers. Jesus addresses the motive of the heart when one prays (Matthew 6:5-8).
He says that some use vain repetitions or empty phrases like those praying to heathen gods and that they think that they will be heard for their many words (Matthew 6:7). Jesus is not disapproving the use of the same words in prayer – He is condemning mindless mechanical repetitions, that is, praying without thinking about what one is saying. (Note: contextually the pagans would repeat the same words and phrases over and over again like a chant which were meaningless). Even Jesus prayed the same words in prayer (cf. Mark 14:39), but those words came from an earnest heart.
Jesus proceeds to give a model as to how we should pray – he says…
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. (God and His name should be set aside and revered as He is a Great King – Our Creator)
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (We should always seek the will of heaven rather than our own – knowing and understanding that God’s will is always best, cf James 4:13-15; Matthew 26:39)
Give us this day our daily bread. (We should learn to be content when our daily needs our met, namely food and clothing, cf. 1 Timothy 6:6-8)
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Our sins are compared here to debts owed…since God has forgiven us of our sins we should likewise seek to forgive those who ask our forgiveness, cf Luke 17:3,4).
…when we pray let us always remember to Whom we are praying and ensure that our words are coming from a pure and earnest heart.
Tavares D. Mathews