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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Monday, November 21, 2005

Vain Repetitions

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verses for the Day – Matthew 6:7-8
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

Daily Scripture ReadingPhilippians 4

Puritan Catechism
Question #7: What are the decrees of God?
Answer: The decrees of God are his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his own will, whereby for his own glory he has foreordained whatever comes to pass (Eph. 1:11-12).

Devotional Thoughts
Jesus is preparing to introduce us to the most famous lesson on prayer in the next few verses, but here He continues the thought on how to pray. We have already seen that He wants us to be different from the hypocrites. We must be separate from the world and the way it does things. We have to be genuine, and not play actors and pretenders when it comes to serving God and fellowshipping with Him. We have also seen that Jesus expects us to pray. He expects that we will spend time with Him alone.

Now He introduces another thought that hit the crowd on the mountainside right between the eyes. You see, in that day (just like today), there were those who thought that the more words they used the more likely God was to hear their prayer! As a result they would say the same thing over and over and over hoping their prayer would make it to God's ears at least once!! What a philosophy. What a theology of prayer. Can you imagine if we believed that way? I can see it now -- if it was me I would pray the same thing over and over and over and then stop -- and the next prayer in succession, the one I did not say, THAT would have been the one God heard!! :)

Jesus, beside making a point about the practice of saying the same thing over and over and over also means here that these are prayers that are offered that are relatively meaningless. They are vain. No thought is put into what is being said. As an example, finish this prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep..." If we grew up reciting this it may be all we know. Vain repetition stunts our spiritual growth because it may be the only way we know how to talk to God. We must concentrate (verse 6) and focus when we commune with Him. We must think about what we are saying. We wouldn't walk up to an important person and just babble a few words without any thought behind them, would we? NO! We would careful plan what we would or should say. Why should we treat God any differently? The only difference should be the much higher value we place on having the blood bought opportunity to speak with our Creator and Redeemer.

Jesus is teaching us that when we pray (remember, when, not if) we should give Him and our prayers the proper attention and thought. Don't think that the longer we pray the better we pray! Some prayers in Scripture are very short. Remember when Peter was walking on the water and took his eyes off of Jesus and was overwhelmed by the wind and waves? He cried out, "Lord, save me!" That is a short prayer!! On the other hand, when we pray at length we must understand that Jesus is teaching us that we need not repeat the same thing over and over. If we did that in a conversation with a friend the friend might think we were nuts! And yet many Christians talk to God in catch phrases and pray the same prayer every time they talk to God.

When you pray, do not pray like the hypocrites. Don't think a multitude of words means that God hears you. Don't constantly repeat the same thing over and over. Talk with God. Listen to God. And know that when we walk with Him as His children, He hears us when we pray - even if we briefly, yet earnestly, cry out "Lord, save me!"

Jesus is teaching us how to approach His Father, and we have already learned not to pray to be seen and heard by men (fear of men), and we are not to pray with vain, useless repetitions. The repetitions, remember, were offered in the hopes that God would eventually hear the prayer at least once and then answer. But Jesus refuted that and now He will take the lesson one step further. We do not have to repeat ourselves over and over in hopes that God will hear because God is all-knowing. He knows what we need before we ever think to ask!!

Some would follow that statement with a question, "Why should we ask then, if He already knows?" I'm glad you asked. Let me give you a few simple reasons we are to pray and let our requests come before God.

1. God commands us to pray! Mark 13:33; Luke 21:36; 1 Thess. 5:17

2. God expects us to pray! Luke 18:1

3. God wants us to pray! Luke 10:2

4. God is glorified when we pray! 1 Tim. 2:8; Rev. 5:8

5. God answers our prayers! Mark 11:24; 1 Peter 3:12

6. We benefit from time spent with God! Romans 8:26

7. Our prayers are an offering of worship to God! Rev. 8:3-4

8. Our relationship with God will grow when we pray! Acts 8:22-24, Phil. 4:6

9. Jesus is our example! Luke 6:12; 11:1

10. Our resistance to sin will be strengthened when we pray! Luke 22:46; 2 Cor. 13:7-9

Each one of these reasons alone is enough of a reason to pray and to pray in a manner that is pleasing to God. Remember we are talking with Him. Our Redeemer, Creator, Caretaker, Comforter, and Master! The question that remains now is what can we do to pray in a manner that is pleasing to God? I would give you an answer now but that will be tomorrow's devotion!!

In the meantime - pray! Not as the hypocrites. Follow Jesus' example and seek Him whenever you can. Always have the communication lines open (pray without ceasing)! And if prayer is a chore and a bore to you, STOP! You obviously are not spending time with God! Time with Him refreshes our spirit and renews our strength. Time with Him can never be a bore if we really know Him. As a matter of fact, if prayer is a chore and bore -- REPENT OF YOUR SIN AND BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST!!

John Stott said, "The purpose of our prayer is not to inform or persuade God, but to come before Him sincerely, purposely, consciously, and devotedly."


Puritan Voices
We are reading a small portion each day from Praying in the Name of Christ by Thomas Boston

Praying at His Command

Negatively. It is not a bare faithless mentioning of his name in our prayers, nor finishing our prayers with them, Matt. 7:21. The saints use the words, "through Jesus Christ our Lord," 1 Cor. 15:57, but often is that scabbard produced, while the sword of the Spirit is not in it. The words are said, but the faith is not exercised.

Positively. To pray in the name of Christ is to pray,

1. At his command, to go to God by his order, John 16:24, "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive." Christ as God commands all men to pray, to offer that piece of natural duty to God; but that is not the command meant. But Christ as Mediator sends his own to his Father to ask supply of their wants, and allows them to tell that he sent them, as one recommends a poor body to a friend, John 16:24, just cited. So to pray in the name of Christ is to go to God as sent by the poor man's friend. So it implies,

A. The soul's having come to Christ in the first place, John 15:7, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." He that would pray aright, must do as those who made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend first, and then made their plea to their king, Acts 12:20.

B. The soul's taking its encouragement to pray from Jesus Christ, Heb 4:14, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

The way to the throne in heaven is blocked up by our sins. And sinners have no confidence to seek the Lord. Jesus Christ came down from heaven, died for the criminals, and gathers them to himself by effectual calling. He, as having all interest with his Father, bids them go to his Father in his name, and ask what they need, assuring them of acceptance. And from thence they take their encouragement, viz. from his promises in the word. And he gives them his token with them, which the Father will own, and that is his own Spirit, Rom 8:26,27, "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Praying to God through Christ

2. It is to direct our prayers to God through Jesus Christ, Heb 7:25, "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them," and in chapter 13:15, "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." Praying Christ's name is depending wholly on Christ's merit and intercession for access, acceptance, and a gracious return:

A. Depending on Christ for access to God, Eph 3:12, "In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him." There is no access to God but through him, John 14:6 "No one comes to the Father except through Me." They that attempt otherwise to come to God, will get the door thrown in their face. But we must take hold of the Mediator, and come in at his side, who is the Secretary of heaven.

B. Depending on him for acceptance of our prayers, Eph 1:6 "He has made us accepted in the Beloved." Our Lord Christ is the only altar that can sanctify our gift. If one lay the stress of the acceptance of his prayers on his attitude, feelings, tenderness, and so on, the prayer will not be accepted. A crucified Christ only can bear the weight of the acceptance of either our persons or performances.

C. Depending on him for a gracious answer, 1 John 5:14, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." No prayers are heard and answered but for the Mediator's sake; and whatever petitions agreeable to God's will are put up to God, in this dependence, are heard.

Why Must We Pray in the Name of Christ?

3. The reason of this may be taken up in these two things

A. There is no access for a sinful creature to God without a Mediator, Isa 59:2, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear." John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Sin has set us at a distance from God, and has bolted the door of our access to him, that it is beyond our power, or that of any creature, to open it for us. His justice rejects the criminal, his holiness the unclean creature, unless there be an acceptable person to go between him and us. Our God is a consuming fire: and so there is no immediate access for a sinner to him.

B. And there is none appointed nor fit for that work but Christ, 1 Tim. 2:5. It is he alone who is our great High Priest. None but he has satisfied justice for our sins. And as he is the only Mediator of redemption, so he is the only Mediator of intercession, 1 John 2:1 "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The sweet savour of his merit alone is capable to procure acceptance to our prayers, in themselves unworthy, Rev. 8:3,4.


Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

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