Note: On Tuesdays and some Sundays, you can find me at Your Daily Tripod, owned by my friend TonyD. A longer version of the post below appears there.
In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 6, Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer. But before He shows us how to pray, he tells us how not to pray. The New American Bible notes on the passage refer to the likelihood of pagans rattling off their names for the divine, apparently hoping that one of the names will do the trick and result in the desired action.
You don’t have to be a pagan to babble like one. How many times do we recite words-words-words and call them prayer? Now, I’m a big rosary fan, and the times I’ve done the Divine Mercy chaplet, I have found it profound. But the prayers we all know by heart carry little meaning or sense if we’re just rushing through them without our mind or soul focused on the Lord and His goodness.
Similarly, spontaneous, Spirit-filled prayer is a moving thing. But when we get caught up in attempting to impress people, not to mention God, with our words, they lose power. They become spectacle.
So why pray at all if we’re not to babble, if we actually are supposed to think about what we’re praying, if God knows what we want anyway? Because it focuses us on the total awesomeness of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, not the concept of God as favors dispenser. Because the practice of adoring the Lord, offering contrition for our wrongs and thanksgiving for His goodness, and sharing with Him our supplications helps us to remember just how great He has been, is, and ever will be. Because praying brings us closer to Him and is at once the easiest and hardest thing for us to do. Because He loves us… and being in conversation with Him through prayer helps us to love Him more fully.