Read: Matthew 6:1-13
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”
Matthew 6:7 NASB
I learned early on that political rallies are governed by certain unspoken rules of conduct which, if observed, serve as an adequate substitute for a gym membership. Among these, are the following:
- Applause is to be rendered for every speaker. This rule must be observed regardless of who he is, what he says (though it is considered good form to find something about which to applaud even if it is merely the grace with which he introduces the man who will be introducing the key-note speaker), or whether you have ever even heard his name. A ten minute ovation at the end of his introduction is customary.
- Regardless of your personal feelings towards a given speaker, any effort on his part to “share the vision” must be greeted with a standing ovation. The length of this sporadic applause varies based upon the rank or status of the speaker, however the conclusion of any speech is usually met with applause appropriate to the man who may be the next U.S. President (even if he is merely a City Councilman).
- It is vital to maintain a reasonable (but not excessive) interval between bouts of applause. If five minutes pass without the speaker having said anything of note, it is incumbent upon all listeners to find something vaguely worthy of recognition and lead off an ovation. (Everyone else in the room will usually follow, even if they have lost track of the speaker’s main point, since it is considered worse form to refrain from applause than to applaud for whatever irrelevant point has just been made.)
In practice, observance of these rules (and the accompanying aerobic program) looks something like this:
Climbing onto the stage, a relatively low ranking official (though higher ranking than most of the audience) calls the room to order. Since he is introducing the speaker who will introduce the key-note speaker, he only speaks for five minutes and shares a few brief remarks concerning the quality of family life observed by the speaker who will follow. After concluding his introduction, everyone in the room rises from their seats and offers the mandatory ten minutes of applause.
Next, the speaker introducing the key-note speaker ascends the podium and delivers a few “brief remarks”. These last for at least half an hour (partly due to the applause taking place at five minute intervals) and are concluded with the thunder of another ten minute ovation.
The keynote speaker then rises and speaks for an hour or more, during which the aerobics reach their glorious peak and older and weaker members of the audience sporadically pass out due to overexertion.
As you can see, this makes for a fine workout. Unfortunately, for most of the attendees these repeated standing ovations are meaningless. They are repeated simply to make the person offering the applause appear to be more truly “American”, not because individuals actually feel any connection to the points being made.
Sadly, many Christians fall into a similar habit with their prayer lives. While prayer is meant to connect us with God, all too often, we fall into the rut of simply repeating the same words over and over. Like those at a political rally, we must take care to pay attention to what is being said because, unlike politicians, God wants more from our conversation than endless repetitions. He is seeking a relationship… and that can only be developed when we take the time to truly connect with His message through our prayers.
Challenge: Do your prayers sound like dialogue or are they merely endless chatter? The next time you sit down to pray, do so intentionally – with plans to develop a relationship. You’ll gain far more than can ever be acquired through inattentive repetition!