Like any avenue of communication, prayer has its Do’s and Don’ts. In our last blog we considered three Do’s Jesus gave in Matthew 6:5-8: Do pray; Do pray to be heard by God; Do pray with confidence. In this same portion of the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus also gives the following Don’t’s:
- Don’t pray to be seen of men. “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (v. 5). Clearly Jesus is not condemning all public prayers. In its context, First Corinthians 14:15 plainly demonstrates that praying with the spirit and with the understanding is a necessary component of public worship. What is severely condemned by our Lord is the practice of insincere prayer—like the Pharisee’s in Luke 18:11-12—which is self-congratulatory, boastful, and/or self-promoting. It is aimed at an audience other than God. Avoid this type of prayer at all costs.
- Don’t pray in vain. “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (v. 7). There is a huge difference between repetition in prayer (see Mark 14:39) and vain repetitions in prayer. The false gods of the heathen were believed to be calloused and unconcerned about humanity. Therefore, they had to be badgered through endless repetitions before they might hear and answer a petition (see 1 Kings 18:26-29). Such is completely unnecessary with the true God—”your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (v. 8).
The righteous don’t pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) because they desire to be seen of men or believe the efficacy of their prayers is determined by word count. They know that Jehovah—our Father in heaven, the only true and living God—is not inattentive or apathetic.
The prayers of the righteous reflect this fact.