“In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)
In this season of Lent, we are called to deepen our prayer life, spend more time in prayer and grow in our understanding and appreciation of prayer. Prayer is like medicine; when properly used, it brings us healing but when not properly used, it fails to achieve desired results. If we must pray at all, we must pray well; that is, our prayers should draw God’s attention to us and not away from us.
In our Gospel passage today, Jesus teaches us how not to pray (using the prayer of the Gentiles as an illustration) and then proceeds to show us how to pray. As Jesus explains, the effectiveness of prayer does not depend on the multiplication of empty phrases but on the fact that God cares for his children.
In prayer, our faith carries more weight than our words. Whenever we approach God in prayer, we must first remind ourselves of what the prophet Isaiah says in today’s first reading: “As the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth making it bring forth fruit, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Do not rush in prayer. First, recollect yourself, then place yourself in the presence of God and remember that God is first your Father. This is why Jesus begins with the words: “Our Father who art in heaven.” Jesus teaches us to begin with praises before proceeding to ask for our needs.
Jesus also wants us to commit to God when we pray. In this way, Jesus presents an important principle of life: You cannot take without giving. Prayer is not just about asking, it also involves doing. Jesus makes clear the point: “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my faith in you. Amen.
Bible Study: Isaiah 55:10-11, Ps. 34:4-7,16-19, Matthew 6:7-15).