The Gospel of Matthew: Empty Phrases.   

“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 ESV)

“When your heart has been warmed by such recitation to yourself [of the Ten Commandments, the words of Christ, etc.] and is intent upon the matter, kneel or stand with your hands folded and your eyes toward heaven and speak or think as briefly as you can.” –Martin Luther

“There is no subject of more solemn importance to human happiness than prayer. It is the only medium of intercourse with heaven. It is that language wherein a creature holds correspondence with his Creator; and wherein the soul of a saint gets near to God, is entertained with great delight, and, as it were, dwells with his heavenly Father.” – John Bunyan

“But after we have learned by faith to know that whatever is necessary for us or defective in us is supplied in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom it hath pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, that we may thence draw as from an inexhaustible fountain, it remains for us to seek and in prayer implore of him what we have learned to be in him. To know God as the sovereign disposer of all good, inviting us to present our requests, and yet not to approach or ask of him, were so far from availing us, that it were just as if one told of a treasure were to allow it to remain buried in the ground. A faith unaccompanied with prayer to God cannot be genuine.” –John Calvin

Servants of Christ in church history recognized the importance and privilege of prayer. Not only was prayer to be offered to God sincerely and secretly, but also intelligently. Prayer is never about the repetition of many words.

Jesus referred to such prayer as offering a heap of empty phrases. The phrase “heap up empty phrases” (βατταλογέω; battalogeo) means to babble repetitiously. It means to use many words or to speak for a long time. Jesus condemned such prayer. The reason being is that God already knows what we will ask of Him before we even ask.    

“In Matthew 6:7–8, He tells us to refrain from the “empty phrases” spoken by the Gentiles. Many in the Hellenistic (Greek-influenced) culture of the first century believed they could manipulate God and nature through various forms of magic. Oftentimes they would repeat the same syllables or phrases over and over in order to attain a desired effect. Fundamentally, all such attempts desired to control reality. Many still try to do the same today. Eastern religions, for example, may employ the rote, almost mindless repetition of phrases like “ohm” or “Hare Krishna, ” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

New age mysticism tells us to visualize specific outcomes in the hopes of generating enough positive psychic energy to attain them. The “name-it-and-claim-it” theology that characterizes the fringe of the charismatic movement is one example where those claiming to be Christians try to manipulate God by speaking the proper words. Prayer can also become meaningless if we pray without paying attention to our words.” .

Let us resolve to offer to God simply, secret and sincere prayers to the Lord. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

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