God is Near | Matthew 6:5-8
Matthew 6:5-8 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
At Dallas Seminary we were required to attend the graduation ceremony each year. For graduates, that’s fine. But for first, second, and third year students with finals the next day it was not appreciated. However, there was one tradition that we looked forward to—timing the “Prayer of Dedication.” It went on and on and on. People left for a relaxed dinner right after “Most Gracious Heavenly Father” and were back in time for “In the Matchless Name of our Lord and Savior we pray. Amen and Amen.” Don’t misunderstand me. I am not comparing the praying professors to Pharisees or babbling pagans. Not at all. The prayers were great; just long. And it was hard to pay attention while watching the clock.
Jesus’ point in this passage is that prayers don’t have to be long. There is not a minimal word requirement before the lines of heaven open. Our conversations with God need not be laced with Christian clichés. A person should not have to carry a “Christianese” dictionary to understand what in the world you are saying. You don’t have to pray down heaven; God is already near us.
John Bunyan said it well many years ago. “In prayer,” he said, “it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” Man sees and hears and is impressed by all the outward stuff; but God is impressed with the heart. Wouldn’t you rather impress God than man?