Saturday, February 7, 2009

Resolved to Pray: KISS

My resolution for this month is taken from Matthew 6:5-13, where Jesus teaches how to pray. I will take a look at the Lord's Prayer later this month, but I want to start with a focus on verses 5-8. Those verses say:

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

There are two main concepts in these verses:

1) That prayer should be private;

2) That prayer should be focused.

The first concept is nearly identical to the counsel given regarding the giving of alms in the preceding verses - and I wrote about that aspect of private giving last month. ("Do Not Your Alms Before Men") Therefore, I will not repeat regarding prayer what I have written already regarding alms. Rather, I want to focus on the second concept, since I previously have not stopped and analyzed "vain repetitions" quite like I did in preparing to write this post.

Throughout our entire canon, the phrase "vain repetitions" is found only twice - in the Sermon on the Mount in the verses quotes above and in the repeat of the Sermon on the Mount given to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. That is fascinating in and of itself, since there is NO other scriptural commentary on the concept.

I have heard many explanations in my life about the phrase, "vain repetitions". I have heard it dissected in numerous ways, but I haven't taken a step back and analyzed it SOLELY based on what the actual words in these verses say - parsing those words and only those words. The result of doing so for this post surprised me, and I hope it helps those who read this. With that in mind, the exact words immediately following the admonition to "use not vain repetitions" are:

for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Those words are followed by the following explanation as to why "much speaking" is not required:

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

That is fascinating, and it recasts "vain repetitions" for me in an empowering and simplifying way. In fact, what I want to express most clearly here is that I believe I have over-analyzed and over-complicated this concept all my life.

The central concept in this passage is simple and straightforward, and I am going to re-order the words in order to make my point. For myself, the counsel became:

Heavenly Father knows what you need, so don't bother saying long, complicated, fancy or showy prayers. Don't speak much. Focus on what you really want to say, then say it.

The underlying message of the "keep it secret" request is that prayer is NOT for others; it's for you and God - and only for you and God. (There can be a collective "you" when praying as a representative of a group, but the concept is identical.) If it's not for others, prayer should be natural and straightforward and no longer than necessary. There's no need to repeat anything; there's no need to complicate anything; there is need ONLY to communicate your needs to your Father.

He won't "hear" words said in order to please or impress others; He will "hear" words said directly and personally to Him. So, KISS - "Keep it simple, stupid". Know what you want to say before you start ("Study it out in your mind."), then simply say it. He knows what you need anyway, so use prayer as a way to figure it out for yourself - then share that with Him, concisely and precisely, sincerely and privately.

He will hear and answer that - with either silent acceptance or with active input. That is up to Him.

1 comment:

Tasha said...

I love the Book of Ray :o)
I have thought about this a few times in my life, one most recently when Krysta needed something for school. She was rambling on and not getting to the point, and some how I drew this same analogy to my own prayers.I think the thought went something like "holy crap is this what i sound like when i say my prayers, cause that was 15 minutes of my life i won't get back just to ask if she could have 10 bucks for school. Father listens to how many children ramble?" Although I do believe like any good parent He hears the important parts, and would rather me ramble than not talk to Him at all. :o)
I love you, and I promise to just pray directly for you and your family, instead of constntly telling Him first how amazing you are. :o)oh yeah, the gratitude for you in my life that part stays IN the prayer.