Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
Matthew 6, 5-8. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.
Prayer is a matter of the heart; the heart alone is able to pray. The prayer which does not proceed from the heart is no prayer at all. Do you imagine that mere idle words can be a prayer to the Lord? In this Bible lesson Jesus teaches two things: 1) When you pray, present yourself before God, and deal with him only; keep close to him with all your thoughts and feelings. Let nothing else in the world be in your mind; whether it be the beams in the ceiling, or the stars in heaven; your daily business affairs, or your earthly joys and sorrows, — unless, indeed, you happen at the time to be speaking of them to the Lord. Neither shall you be thinking of the people who surround you, nor of the eyes that see you; but you shall be alone with your God, whether you are in your chamber or in the midst of a congregation. The Pharisees prayed in order that they might be regarded as pious men. You are guilty of the same hypocrisy when you want people to know how diligently you pray, and when you rejoice in being praised of men for the fervency and eloquence of your prayer.— How, then, do the saints never have any irrelevant thoughts in their mind during prayer? Yes, nearly always, alas; but it grieves and humbles them, and they earnestly beseech God to give them grace to pray with proper devotion. 2) Be not concerned about the words in which your prayer is couched; and do not think that you can move God, as you can move men, with eloquent phrases. Speak straight from the heart, whether your words be many or few. It is immaterial whether you often repeat a thought, because your heart is so full of it that you cannot do otherwise; as was the case with David and Hannah; or you but breathe a few words, as did the publican. I have heard long prayers which were so earnest from beginning to end that they seemed not to contain a superfluous word; and I have heard short prayers which laid the whole case before God in a few words. But I have also heard long and idle prayers, from persons with a glib tongue, and from persons who made up for their lack of words by a constant repetition of God’s name. The Lord does not prohibit the use of many words; but he prohibits “vain repetitions”; and he forbids us to think that God is to be moved by much speaking. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” What an abomination is that soulless, idle talk which people sometimes call prayer! But how excellent a thing is true prayer; how strong to force its way into the heart of God, and how sweet and blessed for the hearts out of which it issues! “The best of all the hours we spend While here on earth above the sod / Are those in which our way we wend In earnest prayer to meet our God.” The Lord will and shall teach us this lesson.
Give us, O God, the Spirit of grace and prayer! Forgive us all the sins committed while praying to thee. Let thy Spirit work in us groanings that can not be uttered. Our own condition strikes us with terror when we appear before thee, thou holy God. Have mercy on us; and let us never more come to thee with idle words, but let us always pray in spirit and in truth. Amen.
Come, my soul, thy suit prepare,
Jesus loves to answer prayer:
He himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.
With my burden I begin:
Lord, remove this load of sin!
Let thy blood, for sinners spilt,
Set my conscience free from guilt.