Pray Like This: 2 Simple Guidelines for Prayer
Prayer isn’t meant to be a dull exercise or a frustrating endeavor. Instead, it offers an incredible opportunity for us to connect with God deeply. Today, I want to point out two simple guidelines for prayer that will transform the way you pray. Jesus introduces these two simple guidelines for prayer in Matthew 6:5-8.
Guideline 1: Know Your Audience
The first of our two simple guidelines for prayer focuses on the audience of your prayer. Jesus warned against a hypocritical approach to prayer. Specifically, Jesus had in mind those individuals who used prayer as a means to gain public recognition rather than a way to connect with God. These individuals–Jesus calls them hypocrites–engage in prayer solely to be seen and admired by people.
The term “hypocrite” originates from the Greek word meaning “actor” or “stage player.” In this case, these people Jesus labeled hypocrites did not pray with a sincere desire to connect with God. Instead, they prayed to showcase their supposed piety and admirable spirituality to those around them. As a result, they preferred to pray in public spaces like the synagogue or on the street corner where they could garner the most attention from people.
Consequently, their prayers were inauthentic. They we’re theatrical performances. These individuals worked hard to expertly craft monologues they called prayers in order to impress strangers and maximize their status in the eyes of the community. Their insatiable craving for the praise of men motivated them. Jesus, however, offers a stark warning about their intentions. In fact, he claims that their misguided motives proved their prayers to be no prayers at all.
Don’t Pray Like a Hypocrite
Jesus states people who pray like this receive their reward. They get exactly what they want: the admiration of others. It’s sobering to realize that their prayers, though eloquent and theologically accurate, were disingenuous. Nothing more than wasted breath.
The message is clear: true prayer isn’t about performance or seeking praise from people. It’s about establishing an authentic connection with God. And God rewards those who genuinely seek him in prayer.
So, our first simple guideline for prayer is this: Don’t pray to impress people; Pray to please God.
Guideline 2: Pray Simple Prayers
The second simple guideline for prayer has to do with the words we use when we pray. For one thing, Jesus dispels the notion that prayer should be adorned with grandiloquent words. (You might want to look that one up). Basically, this means you shouldn’t need a dictionary or a thesaurus to spend time in prayer. Surprisingly, Jesus emphasizes the simplicity of prayer.
Prayer is simply talking to God. Often, we tend to complicate prayer. We’ve all heard someone pray like they stepped straight out of the King James Bible. Yet, the truth is that we don’t need to impress God with our prayers. We can simply talk with God.
On the whole, the heart of prayer resides in the authenticity of our communication with God. Prayer isn’t about crafting perfect sentences or using complex theological terminology. In contrast, prayer is about engaging in a heartfelt dialogue with our God. Jesus advocates for a simple, yet genuine approach to prayer. In a word, we can pray to God using everyday language—just as we would in conversations with close friends or family.
The beauty of prayer lies in its simplicity. It’s the heartfelt expression of our thoughts, feelings, desires, and concerns to God.
In conclusion, Jesus’ two simple guidelines for prayer serve as a reminder that prayer isn’t about seeking applause or using grandiose words. It’s about cultivating a sincere connection with God, unconcerned with the opinions of others. Moreover, prayer isn’t about impressing God. Instead, it’s about engaging in a genuine connection with God through authentic conversation.