When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray He taught them what we call the Lord’s Prayer. In the school of prayer we are all learners, so in the readings this week we shall look at some examples of prayer and perhaps pick up something that will help to shape our prayers in the days ahead.
v 40. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.
When we hear long and eloquent prayers there is a very natural inclination to feel that the person praying is a deeply spiritual person. We might feel that we could never measure up to that mark of spirituality. How could a person pray with such intensity without knowing God so much better than we do? But Jesus is making the point that that the equation “Long prayers = deep spirituality” simply is not true! Some of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day were renowned for their long and public prayers and yet behind that façade they were shameless in their behaviour towards needy widows in their society. Prayer does not have to be long and eloquent to be sincere and meaningful, but it does have to come from a heart that is inclined to seeking the will of God.
When we reflect on prayers in the Bible we certainly do find some that are lengthy and full of sincere intention. Other prayers however are notable for their brevity and deep desire to experience the blessing of God. They convey a reality of experience and a conviction that unless God responds the future could be grim. It is some of these brief but heartfelt prayers that we are going to read this week. Each prayer contains one simple request and it springs from desperation.
Use the readings to think about how you pray. Not necessarily about how long you spend praying, nor about the eloquence of the words you use, but rather about the sincerity of the heart from which the prayer comes. Better to be brief, sincere, and honest with God about your feelings than to be vague and verbally impressive as you speak with Him.