“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that 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. “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Shut up! Ok, so maybe Lord Jesus didn’t actually say that. But when he told us not to heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do — another translation says “do not keep on babbling like the pagans” — when he told us not to do that when we prayed, “shut up” is what he was essentially saying. When we pray, we are to keep quiet. Why?
To answer that, let us look at what many of us do when we pray. For the most part, we are petitioning God, asking him for a job or a spouse or money (or more money) or a car or good health or whatever else we need. Isn’t that right? Doesn’t God know what we need? Please think about it for a moment, because we need to see the absurdity of asking our Heavenly Father for things he knows we need.
So, what are we to do when we pray, then? We need to find out what our Father needs. I am pretty sure most of us have never thought that God might need something, especially from us, but if he created us, isn’t it likely that he had some plan and purpose for our lives? How will we find this out unless we ask him to tell us? And how will we be able to listen if we are the ones constantly talking? Ergo, shut up!
But doesn’t our Lord tell us to “ask and receive” (see Matthew 7:7). Yes, but ask for what? A little before he told us to do that, Jesus said, “Why do you guys worry about what you are gonna eat and what you are gonna drink and keep asking God for your basic necessities? Don’t you think your heavenly Father knows what you need and will provide them? Worry instead about his kingdom and his righteousness and ask for that!” (Matthew 6:31-33 PAR).
We should be asking about the kingdom of heaven: What is it like? How do we possess it? How do we live in it? What are we required to do? And when God hears us asking about really important stuff, he answers. “But,” you say, “you can’t hear him!” How can we when we are the ones doing all the talking? So, if you wanna hear him, find a quiet place, open your Bibles and read the gospels, and ask our Lord to explain it to you.
It might take some time to fine tune our ears to his voice, but if we shut up and listen, he will.