Jesus says: Stop Praying Long Prayers

"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.  So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."  (Matthew 6:7-8; NASB)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us that prayer is not supposed to be a cardio vascular workout.

Yet in a great deal of irony, in some Christian circles, it is quite fashionable to connect one's spiritual strength and maturity to the amount of time one spends praying.  Lord knows I've been guilty of this.  And I've often guilt-tripped others for their lack of praying.  For in the Pentecostal tradition I come from, we have this tendency to think of prayer in terms of a long marathon, and liken it unto delivering a baby, whereas Jesus thought of prayer as something more like a short sprint or a power nap.

That of course is not to say that there aren't to be times in our lives that we engage in prayer for long periods of time.  The Bible talks about such things too.  After all, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying.  And the night when Jesus was betrayed, He "tarried" in prayer for over three hours.  And we read in the book of Acts that the apostles and church gathered together for long times of prayer.

But for the everydayness of life, prayer does not need to be this long drawn out thing.  While prayer is essential to the life of a Christian, you should't feel guilty if your prayer life doesn't measure up to the "giants" of the Christian faith.

God hears your prayers, whether you only spend 5 minutes in prayer a day or 5 hours!

If you were to study the Bible closely, you'll discover that the average time the great men of faith and power spent in prayer was actually pretty short.  Their prayers were marked by very few words. And when the Lord taught us to pray, His model prayer was marked by extreme brevity.  It was something you could say in well under a minute.

I think that your prayer life should be a lot like marriage.

My wife and I when we first got married, we spent two weeks together on our honeymoon.  And since then, we have times where we slip away for a few days just to be with each other.  But in the day-in-day-out of our relationship, we don't spend hours upon hours talking to one another.  We briefly acknowledge each other in our morning routine as we get ready for work.  We might send a text message or two back and forth throughout the day.  Then once we get off work and we settle in for the evening, we spend a little time chatting for the remainder of the night. And if we have something important to talk, we will spend a longer time conversing and hashing those things out.

But, the vast majority of the time my wife and I spend together, we don't spend in conversation, but we spend it simply just enjoying life together.  That is what we got married for after all!  And so it should be with us in the Lord.  In fact, I think if I spent hours upon hours talking to my wife every single day, it would probably hurt our relationship in the long run.

And so it is with God.  If you want to risk destroying your relationship with God, spending hours upon hours a day in prayer is a great way to do that!  Take that as a word of wisdom from somebody who used to spend a couple hours a day in prayer with God on a regular basis.  It did not make my relationship with the Lord any better, in fact, I would argue that it made things worse.  And such praying had a tendency to hurt my relationship with others as well.

Talk to the Lord.  Keep the lines of communication open.  Tell Him what you are thinking, and listen back.  Have some quiet time from time to time.  But above all, live your life in the mere enjoyment of the Lord.  And if you are in need of something or see somebody else in need of something, take a minute or two out of your day and simply let God know.  You don't have to work yourself into a psychotic frenzy to see God respond. You need not pray in tongues for hours upon hours to see God at work in your life, or the life of others.  Do all things by prayer, but don't spend forever and a day in your prayer closet.  Get out into the world.

For it's just as Jesus said.  God already knows what our need is.  He will respond simply by us entrusting all of our cares to Him, for we are in close relationship with Him.  He's walking along with us in the cool of the day, participating in our life.  We don't need to spend hours upon hours running our mouths and yapping God's head off.  We just need to point things out from time to time.

That's what prayer is really supposed to be like.