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. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
I always think people get these two verses wrong. I hear a lot about how repetition in our prayer life is the wrong way to do it and the problem is I don’t think ‘repetition’ is the key word here; it is ‘meaningless’. It is the meaningless prayers that Jesus is trying to instruct against not repetitious prayer itself. The point is to make prayer have meaning; to make it have purpose.
Much of the time what makes prayer meaningless is our own attitude toward it. In large part we do not come to God with humility in prayer but we also don’t seem to understand its purpose. We enter the throne room of our Master and Lord but we somehow think prayer then is about telling our Lord and Master what to do. Humility in prayer calls for a different understanding of prayer as far as purpose. The purpose of prayer is petition but the first petition we should be concerned about it ask God for our marching orders. It is about his Kingdom and will first and then our own lives as it fits within that purpose and our needs.
I have watched as a pastor as many people are frustrated in prayer because they not understand the basic concept that the purpose of prayer is not about us. By understanding this simple concept the purpose changes radically and our purpose in it. It becomes something that is about something greater than our own small little world. Now it is about God’s purpose.
The last line says a lot more than just a statement about God’s knowledge, but it is also about what our priorities should be in prayer as it relates to purpose. If our Heavenly Father already knows what we need, why is it that what we need is what we always talk about in prayer? it seems if I trust my Father in heaven, then what I should be doing is asking his perspective on my life and what I need to do to change it and what he thinks I need not necessarily what I think I need. The priority should be God’s purpose, understanding and will and not our own so much. Oddly enough God, who created us as we are, seems to fit our desires with his own but that often requires us adjusting our purpose and priorities.
The choice is always clear. We can recognize that God’s purpose and the priorities that go with that purpose are more important than our own or we can come to God in meaningless repetition with prayers that we think will get God to work our will in his name if we just keep praying them over and over again. The choice is yours.