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Amplified: And when you pray, do not heap up phrases (multiply words, repeating the same ones over and over) as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
NLT: When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Philips: And when you pray don't rattle off long prayers like the pagans who think they will be heard because they use so many words. (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: Moreover, when praying, do not repeat the same thing over and over as the pagans do, for they think that they will be heard because of their multiplicity of words. (Wuest: Expanded Translation: Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: And -- praying -- ye may not use vain repetitions like the nations, for they think that in their much speaking they shall be heard
|AND WHEN YOU ARE PRAYING, DO NOT USE MEANINGLESS REPETITION AS THE GENTILES DO, FOR THEY SUPPOSE THAT THEY WILL BE HEARD FOR THEIR MANY WORDS: Proseuchomenoi (PMPMPN) de me battalogesete (2PAAS) hosper hoi ethnikoi, dokousin (3PPAI) gar hoti en te polulogia auton eisakousthesontai. (3PFPI) (1 Kings 18:26, 27, 28, 29; Ecclesiastes 5:2,3,7; Acts 19:34) (Mt 26:39,42,44; 1Kings 8:26-54; Daniel 9:18,19) (Mt 6:32; 18:17)
When - Not "if you pray" but "when you pray". Praying is an expected activity of a disciple.
C H Spurgeon's comments…
Praying (4336)(proseuchomai from pros = toward, facing, before [emphasizing the direct approach of the one who prays in seeking God’s face] + euchomai = originally to speak out, utter aloud, express a wish, then to pray or to vow. Greek technical term for invoking a deity) in the NT is always used of prayer addressed to God (to Him as the object of faith and the One who will answer one’s prayer) and means to speak consciously (with or without vocalization) to Him, with a definite aim (See study of noun proseuche).
Proseuchomai encompasses all the aspects of prayer -- submission, confession, petition, supplication (may concern one's own need), intercession (concerned with the needs of others), praise, and thanksgiving.
Vine says that proseuchomai carries with it a notion of worship (but see the Greek word for worship = proskuneo) which is not present in the other words for prayer (eg, aiteo, deomai, both of which involve spoken supplication)
Wuest adds that the prefixed preposition pros…
Meaningless repetition (945) (battologeo from báttos = a proverbial stammerer + lógos = word) means to speak foolishly, to babble (to talk enthusiastically or excessively, including utterance of meaningless or unintelligible sounds) or to chatter (to utter rapid short sounds suggestive of language but inarticulate and indistinct - squirrels chatter).
The idea is talking much but without content or repeating the same thing over and over again. The term describes useless speaking without distinct expression of purpose as contrasted to succinct, knowledgeable speech. It means to speak in a way that images the kind of speech pattern of one who stammers, to use the same words again and again or to speak without thinking. It is to utter meaningless and mechanically repeated phrases, as characterized the pagan modes of prayer to their idols.
Spurgeon writes that…
In short Jesus is saying a prayer's length or wordiness does not equate with it efficacy.
A sad truth is that although Jesus said not to use meaningless repetition in prayer, this is actually what the recitation of the so-called "Lord's Prayer" (Mt 6:9-13) has become to many people reciting it in churches on Sundays. It has become a rote, mechanical, heartless action. Now before you send me a email accusing me of being mean spirited and/or judgmental, in fairness, there are undoubtedly some who are reciting the "Lord's Prayer" from a sincere and pure heart, and from them this beautiful model prayer ascends to the throne as a "soothing aroma" to our Father. What we all must remember is that Jesus gave a strong warning for us to continually "beware" of the danger of falling into the subtle trap of heartless dead formalism and ritualism. None of us is immune to this trap beloved. Remember that prayer is relational not ritual!
Many words suggest the prayers of the hypocritical unbelieving scribes and Pharisees droned on and on, as if there excessive length made them ore acceptable or more likely to secure an affirmative reply to a petition. Lengthy prayer per se is not always wrong, for Scripture does have some beautiful lengthy prayers (e.g., 2 Chronicles 6:14-42, Nehemiah 9, Daniel 9, etc).
Robertson quoting Bruce writes that…
Jesus is not saying one can never repeat a phrase for He Himself repeated the same request in the garden
Certainly perseverance in prayer is encouraged…
Jesus' target is not prayer length (He prayed through the night Luke 6:12) but prayer motive. He is emphasizing that prayer is not a matter of repetition but of relationship. God is not manipulated by a petitioner's recitation of words in accordance with a set formula. Prayer is much about changing us, our character, our will, and our values, even while we seek for God’s response.
Remember the pagan prayers of Elijah's adversaries in 1Kings 18? They prayed (raved) on and on and even crying loudly and cutting themselves, thinking in their deceived state that they were increasing the chances of receiving the answer they desired from those who are really no gods at all…
In our modern world, the Tibetan Buddhists continue the ancient practice of a "prayer wheel", a revolving cylinder inscribed with written prayers. Some Christian religions have a set formula of prayers that are prayed by memory. or use beads to stimulate a ritual of prayer, which Jesus would describe as "meaningless repetition… many words"! The mindless chanting of the Hare Krishna devotees, or the repetitious prayers of the Muslim or Hindu are other modern examples of this ancient practice of meaningless repetition or “babbling”.
Hendriksen draws our attention to the fact that…
Amplified: Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
NLT: Don't be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! (NLT - Tyndale House)
Philips: Don't be like them. After all, God, who is your Father, knows your needs before you ask him. (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: Therefore, do not be like them, for your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him for them. (Wuest: Expanded Translation: Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: be ye not therefore like to them, for your Father doth know those things that ye have need of before your asking him
|SO DO NOT BE LIKE THEM; FOR YOUR FATHER KNOWS WHAT YOU NEED BEFORE YOU ASK HIM: me oun homoiothete (2PAPS) autois, oiden (3SRAI) gar o pater humon on chreian echete (2PPAI) pro tou humas aitesai (AAN) auton: (Mt 6:32; Psalms 38:9; 69:17, 18, 19; Luke 12:30; John 16:23, 24, 25, 26, 27; Philippians 4:6)
So (oun) means therefore a term of conclusion.
Jesus' point is that we don't have to repeat our requests in a meaningless way like the Gentiles do. However this verse does raise the question why pray at all if He knows? If God has ordained all things, won't He do whatever He's going to do, with or without my prayers? If God is sovereign why pray? Remember that when we pray, we are not informing God of anything He doesn't already know as David prayed…
What you need - Emphasize "need" not "want", although He knows our "wants" also.
Harry Ironside writes that…
Spurgeon comments that…
This world is ours, and worlds to come;
MY FATHER KNOWS
I know my heav’nly Father knows
Before you ask Him - He is omniscient. What a comforting thought this should be to those who by grace through faith in His Son have been brought by His Spirit into His family and have the privilege of calling Him "Father".
Clearly nothing we can say will surprise God and this includes your motives, your secret thoughts and even the next word out of your mouth. This means when you pray you don't have to try to explain to God to help Him understand your plight or your request. In fact He got the message before you ever even sent it!
With this liberating truth in mind as a background to answer the question "Why pray?", the next point is that we pray to express our total dependence upon our Heavenly Father. Prayer is not for God's good, but for ours. He doesn't "need" our prayers but we need to pray. Now, don't misunderstand, for absolutely while our Father desires our prayers, they do not "add" anything to who He is. In other words, God doesn't need the information we give Him, but He encourages us to give Him the information anyway.
Ray Pritchard illustrates it this way…
Phil Newton writes that
God is honored by persistent faith as Jesus explained in Luke 18:1-8 in His story of the unjust judge in which the woman returned again and again to plead her case to him. Finally, the judge gave in to her request. Jesus applies this to our Father in heaven asking…
Jesus is not saying God is like the unjust judge. His point is that if an unjust judge can be swayed by the persistence of a widow, God's heart will be moved by the persistent prayers of his people because persistent prayer expresses desperate dependence on Him. And so we see that when we pray, it reminds us that in the end everything depends on God and not on us. God isn't concerned about our words when we pray. What matters is that our hearts be focused on Him. Fervent prayers move God to action because they come from persistent faith in the face of desperate circumstances.
Why else should we pray? Because God commands us to pray. And because prayer changes things. The first thing it changes is us! In prayer we are reminded that He is God and we are not. And prayer can change the course of events in the lives of people and nations.
Ray Pritchard explains
Warren Wiersbe in answer to the often asked question "Why pray if He already know our needs?"…
Weight of Prayer - Shortly after World War II, a woman entered a grocery store and asked for enough food for a Christmas dinner for her children. When the owner inquired how much she could afford, she answered, “My husband was killed in the war. Truthfully, I have nothing to offer but a little prayer.” The man, an unbeliever, was unmoved by the woman’s need, and said sarcastically, “Write your prayer on a piece of paper and you can have its weight in groceries.”
To his surprise, she plucked a folded note out of her pocket and handed it to him. “I already did that during the night while I was watching over my sick child,” was her immediate reply.
Without even reading it, he put it on one side of his old-fashioned scales. “We’ll see how much food this is worth,” he muttered. To his dismay, nothing happened when he put a loaf of bread on the other side. But he was even more upset when he added other items and still nothing happened. Finally he blurted out, “Well, that’s all it will hold anyway. Here’s a bag. You’ll have to put these things in yourself. I’m busy!”
With a tearful “Thank you,” the lady went happily on her way.
The grocer later discovered that the scale was out of order.
As the years passed, he often wondered if that was just a coincidence. Why did the woman have the prayer already written before he asked for it? Why did she come at exactly the time the mechanism was broken? Whenever he looks at the slip of paper that bears her petition, he is amazed, for it reads, “Please, dear Lord, give us this day !” (Our Daily Bread: A Daily Devotional)
A group of scientists are directing their thoughts and needs into the heavens, but not to the God of the Bible. They have calculated that as many as fifty million civilizations may exist somewhere in space, and they believe that some of them may have found methods to improve our lives and control the time of death. In November, 1974, these scientists, using special technology, beamed a message to a cluster of stars on the outer edge of our galaxy. But even if that signal were picked up, they estimate that it would take forty-eight thousand years for an answer to come back.
When we bend our knees to pray,