Recently, I have been hearing a lot of prayers meant for the ears of man, not the ears of God.
Have you ever had this experience? You are in a group praying and suddenly the words of the person praying become an explanation, filling in the rest of the group about what the prayer is for with an endless recitation of the problem. Or you're listening to the inauguration on the radio and the person praying actually has to stop for the applause because he's really preaching about unity and the crowd loves it.
What do you do at those points? What should you do? What does God think about this?
I found myself wondering about these prayers again this morning. I had been invited to a friend's Bible study group. As the group closed in prayer over the study leader who is dealing with some health issues, I was disturbed by the number of times the "prayers" seemed to be spoken purely for the benefit of those in that room.
Now, I'm sure God heard every word -- in each instance. That's not the problem.
I just don't understand why it was called prayer.
I have always thought of prayer as talking to God.
Praying aloud means other people can hear you, but you're still supposed to be talking to God. Right?
In Matthew Chapter 6, right before the Lord's Prayer, we are told several things about praying:
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matt. 6:5)
The passage continues, saying that we should pray alone, to our Father, to receive rewards from Him.
Then Jesus says:
"And when you pray, 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." (Matt 6:7-8)
So, prayers aren't the place to put the point of the sermon, and prayers aren't the time to compliment your friends or flatter those in power. Prayers are absolutely not the time to gossip about private problems, and prayers are not meant to be speeches sandwiched between "hello God" and "amen." Prayers are not the way to gain earthly influence, and prayer isn't about showing off how smart or how religious you are.
It is about God.
Intimate communication with the Holy Creator.
Prayer is the way we talk to the source of our existence.
That's crazy stuff -- good crazy -- why would anyone pass on that kind of prayer and settle for talking to people?