The Bible has instructions for everything — even something as simple as prayer. But is prayer really that simple? We are talking about a direct line of communication to the creator of the universe, the maker of all things, the Alpha and the Omega. With that line of thinking, it is no wonder that humans were mucking it all up and needed help.
What probably started out as a naïve idea, that a big God deserves a big prayer, soon snowballed into prayers filled with big words, big talk and a big show. And just like humans, stiff competition ensued. It was all about who had the biggest prayer, the best performance, the flashiest descriptors and so on. Eventually this gift of a personal communication line and personal connection to God, was turned into a ritual that was centered on the human praying and what all the other listening humans thought. The personal connection was traded in for church prestige and fame.
How could anyone not see why Jesus was so alarmed when witnessing these prayer shows? It was as if everyone was too busy showing off their new fancy expensive cell phones, but were all holding them upside down making them utterly useless. The connection was lost, and connection was at the forefront of Jesus’ message. He explained to his followers:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
“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. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
— Matthew 6:5–8
This isn’t an instruction to physically hide yourself every time you would like to say a prayer, it’s a physical picture of how your prayers are meant to be personal. It’s you in your loneliness, seeking help from a God who wants to help. Making yourself vulnerable to give him your needs and to hear his love. God doesn’t want to hear showy words. He already knows your needs, but he wants to hear your words. He wants a connection. He wants you.