THE GOSPELS 41
PRAYER IS A TIME FOR MEDITATION
In preparation for our studies in the Lord’s Prayer, I want to make a few observations on the subject of prayer which I feel require serious consideration. Before He gives the disciples this model prayer, Jesus notes a few things practiced by the religious leaders of His day which are not the way prayer should be offered. One of the reasons the Jewish leaders opposed Jesus so strenuously was because He pointed out that many of their cherished rituals and practices were wrong. The same is true today. If a certain idea or practice has been in vogue for many years, even if it is wrong, one dares not expose it, for we come to assume that what we have practiced or believed is the same as the will of God. Few give enough thought to their religious activities and concepts to check whether they are what God wants or not. We assume the correctness of our practices because those we worship with do the same things. Our standard, then, is not the Word of God, but the practice and belief of our peers.
Often Jesus went apart from the crowds to spend time in prayer. It is quite evident that in those times Jesus was not so much talking to the Father, but meditating on the Father’s will, which is listening to God. The example we will see in the prayer Jesus
gave the disciples is very brief. He does not go into endless detail for He knows that God already knows, and His prayer is simply a submission to the Father’s will and a petition for guidance and help. Too often one who is appointed to pray feels that they have to cover all the needs of the whole church, and specify for God how they feel they should be handled. I have even heard prayers in which the prayer said something like, “We need to do as Peter said in chapter XX and verse XX of his letter”. Thus telling God how to find the quotation referred to. Prayer should not be an oration for the crowd to hear but a humble plea for God to be near and help us to grow into children worthy of His name.
Our prayers for the sick do not need to name them all, for He knows who they are. We should simply ask Him to bless those who are in our heart because of their ills.
We get into habits and, with all good intentions, find ourselves falling into habits that are sometimes not unlike the Pharisees Jesus is correcting here in Matthew 6. One who is appointed to pray in public should be humbled by the task and pray a simple prayer to which everyone in the congregation could say, “Amen”.
The two things Jesus was most concerned with were that our prayers should be to God alone and not for the audience around us, and that they should not use an excessive amount of words, for God understands and knows better than we do what we need.
Finally, I am sure that Jesus used His time of prayer more for meditation than for speaking. The greatest asset for Christian growth is spending time in thought and meditation. If preachers and members also would spend more time thinking than they do reading, the whole church would benefit. It is more important to listen to God in our meditation on His Word, than it is to talk to the One who already knows our needs. The precious gift God has given us is a mind with which to think and evaluate life and make choices and have faith and hope. But it is of no use to us if we do not avail ourselves of the time to think. That is one of the major purposes of prayer.