When You Pray :: Matthew 6:5-13
If you had to read any Charles Dickens in high school (think: A Tale of Two Cities), you’re familiar with Dickens’ trademark wordiness. Urban legends will lead you to believe that Dickens was paid by the word for his stories and that’s why they’re so wordy. That isn’t true—at least not entirely. He was paid by installment, which means his books were published originally in short serial pieces that appeared in monthly magazines, not entirely unlike comic books. The story carried over from issue to issue, eventually cumulating in a complete book. The more installments a book had, the more Dickens was paid.
Oftentimes, we approach prayer the same way, as if the longer we spend in prayer and the more words we pray, the more likely God is to bless us. If we’re praying in public, we feel like we must be extra eloquent and especially spiritual, either to impress or mimic the people around us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The prayer Jesus modeled in Matthew 6:9-13 is short, to the point, and honest. There were times when Jesus’ prayers lasted much longer (like His prayer in John 17), but the length doesn’t make one prayer better than the other. The motive behind our prayers should be connecting with God and recognizing His presence in the midst of our days. As the early church father Augustine put it, “The desire is your prayers; and if your desire is without ceasing, your prayer will also be without ceasing. The continuance of your longing is the continuance of your prayer.”**
**Marcia Ford, Traditions of the Ancients: Vintage Faith Practices for the 21st Century (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 127.