Mindless Prayers

Journal Entry // June 7, 2023

“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. (ESV)

Matthew 6:7

Mindless prayer is the subject of the passage this morning. When Jesus contrasts the prayers of idolaters, he brings a warning to his followers to not heap up empty phrases. This is an interesting phrase that Jesus uses to describe these prayers as it focuses on the mindlessness that often captures the heart of man in relation to their object of worship. The idolaters believe that the only thing that matters in their prayers is the quantity and correctness of their words. Meaning that they believe they will be heard through the preferred phrases and rote memorization of acceptable mantras. They will repeat these acceptable phrases and mantras over and over again without any form of connection or engagement with what they are actually saying. Their prayers are a mindless and mechanical repetition of empty phrases void of any personal reflection and engagement.

We are not to be this way. We are not to come to Jesus with mindless prayers that are devoid of our heart desires. Jesus wants me to come to him in relational prayer. My relationship with Jesus is the central guiding motivation of my prayer life and this leads me to speak to my holy God with reverence and the knowledge that he is my loving Father. Mindless and mechanical prayers are the complete opposite of what Jesus is calling me to in my prayer life. An unengaged prayer is really no prayer at all. My prayer life is to be rich in the relational desires of a heart filled with the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit that resides within me and the Spirit is the one who will guide me. I don’t have to be perfect in my prayers to be heard. No, the Spirit prays for me when I am at a loss for words and don’t know what to say or where to start. Even a prayer of just weeping and groaning is beautifully being lifted up to the throne of God by the Spirit inside me. My prayer life is to model the trinity as I pray in the Spirit, through Christ, to the Father. There are no mindless, mechanical prayers in this. There is only a humble man seeking the presence of his loving Father through the grace and mercy of his perfect Son.

This is where I am in life now. I often feel as though my prayers are mindless and mechanical at times. Prayers that I perform but don’t always engage. I come to these times of prayer with a distracted mind that is thinking about a thousand different thoughts and I never really still my heart. It’s the “be still and know” that trips me up sometimes. Being still is what Jesus is talking about in this passage. When I have distracted or unengaged prayer, I am mindless toward God as I pray because I am being mindful of other things. I want to hurry and rush through my prayer time because that is how I see it. I see it as “my prayer time”. A moment of spiritual discipline that is necessary and good. I know it is necessary and good to pray and I want it to be part of my life but it becomes these times of rushed moments to tick a box on my spiritual checklist and move on. The meaning is lost. The sacred is sacrificed for convenience.

Prayer is not just something I have to do to be a good Christian and follower of Christ. Prayer is a privilege. It’s not a necessary endeavor to win favor from God. It is the essential element of my relationship to Christ. It is time to come and worship. It is a time to come and be refreshed. It is a time to come and remove burdens. It is a time to come and drink deeply of the living waters. Like a tree planted by streams of water, I will constantly be connected to the life-giving water of Jesus.  I need this deep within my heart and soul. I need this understanding of prayer to capture my heart and mind. I need to move away from childish thoughts of performing to please my Father when I only need to come to him in communion and fellowship. I only need to be still, to be patient, to be mindful, to engage my heart in the worship of Jesus, and come to him in humble prayer. I simply need to spend time with my loving Father as an adoring child who is continually looking for ways to be in His presence.

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