Rote, Recitation, or Real?

“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. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.*” Matthew 6:5-13

*some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

Communion with God through Christ is a gift to all believers, made possible by the rent veil. When we settle into rote prayers comprised of list-checking, we lose the sweetness of thoughtful, genuine communion to sour ‘samey’ mantras of verbiage void of meaning. Repetition may come easily and give some obsessive sense of a task accomplished, but what it holds in memorized words or routine phrases it lacks in significance and substance. (Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 10:19-22)

Perhaps we’ve moved from benign rote repetitions to recitation, taking hold of Scripturally-based, well-honed prayers of others. While these are helpful in giving form and focus, especially as Jesus exemplified, they are models, and not meant to become meaningless. Taking deliberation to personalize them helps deepen our pleas before a God who knows our minds, hearts, and needs.

Real is patterning prayer after Jesus in breath-taking worship, heart-wrenching confession, agonizing intercession, blood-sweating dependence, and soul-captivating submission. Are these our prayer companions? Real is enthrallment with Him, so that every word whispered or voiced thereafter is heaven-inspired and infused with His hallowed majesty. Real is repentance emblazoned with holy light and fire. Real is seeking and surrendering to God’s high will over my lowly passions. Real is determined dependence on His daily provision for body and soul, for practical and emotional, for goods and grace. And real ties everything into Jesus, for He is the sole way to God and most worthy of our praise and trust.

Have we reverted from initial fire in prayer to fading embers? Does prayer even have a primary place in our spiritual disciplines? What saps our holy passion or attention to get in secret and lift ourselves to connect with the Almighty, and what can we do about it? How willing are we to take the steps necessary to deepen and persevere to the heights of communion with Christ?

Good Father, reignite my affections and mind for Thee. Keep me persevering in the work and worship of prayer, to the building of Your kingdom and praise of Your glory. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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