And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:7–8
Many people think their prayers won’t work if they don’t utter them clearly enough, or fail to explain to God exactly what they mean, or don’t speak loudly enough to him with sufficient earnestness. But when this happens, prayer becomes so exaggerated that our Savior even forbids it.
Obviously Jesus does not want to discourage us from praying. His point is that when we pray we must have a sense of proportion. Once we have prayed, we must be quiet. We need to be like the farmer who has sown his seed. Help will come only when you are quiet in faith. Also in your sickness or with other needs, learn to be still and look to the kingdom of God.
We can share our needs with the Father in a few words, without making a fuss, and rest assured that God already knows what we need and what he will do to help us. We don’t have to explain our requests in great detail to God, or try and make quite sure that he knows our needs. God knows about even the smallest matters and takes them straight into his heart. We can turn to him by glancing heavenward, with no words at all. We can do this even when we pray about something concrete and tangible, or about something that specifically troubles us. We may realize that what we thought we needed is actually not necessary and that we can find a way right in the midst of how things are now.
This doesn’t mean that we just let things happen – as if everything will come of its own accord without our longing for it. Nor should we just cast a brief and hurried request at God’s feet. When this happens, we too easily lose sight of God, assume that everything comes to us without his help, and we forget to thank him. Then we cease to have a believing heart and are consequently not true children of God.
Jesus said, “Before you ask him.” Therefore we do need to make our requests known to him, otherwise many things will not be given that could have been given. It never displeases God when we come to him with our heartfelt requests. A real child asks for everything, knowing God has an ear for him. We should bring all our burdens and needs to him, for at the very least this helps to make us ever more aware that in all things God is the giver.
God always has our interests in mind. He carries our various needs with fatherly concern, eagerly waiting for us to come to him. He has not forgotten us. And when we feel tempted to think so, then all the more we should remember that he knows it all and cares for us. In fact, he knows much more about us and our needs than we do. Simple, childlike prayer is enough to move his heart, give you something out of the fullness of his compassion, and save you from all sorts of fear and trouble.
Johann Christoph Blumhardt