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Passage Insight: Jesus and Short Prayers

Watch a short, animated video that explains why Jesus told his disciples not to use vain repetitions in prayer in Matthew 6:7-8.

Insights Jan 1, 1970


Why is Jesus interested in short prayers?

Well, Jesus told his disciples, “Don’t use meaningless repetition like the nations, because they suppose that they will be heard on account of their many words.”1

In the time of Jesus, people from the cultures around Israel would commonly pray really long prayers. They might throw in the names of many different gods to increase their chances of being heard by at least one of them, or they might flatter the gods with compliments and fancy titles, hoping to persuade them to pay attention.

In 1 Kings chapter 18, the prophets of Baal pray all morning long to Baal, and they get no response.2

In Acts chapter 19, a mob in Ephesus shouts a prayer to the goddess Artemis for two hours before the city clerk tells them to give it a rest.3

For Jesus, prayer is not about winning an audience with God, or compelling God to do something he doesn't want to. Jesus portrayed God as a father who deeply cares about his children. As he says, “Your father knows what you need before you even ask him.”4

Jesus spent a lot of time praying. Yet he taught us a very short prayer that is not designed to be impressive or to persuade God. It is a beautiful and shortened simple prayer meant to align our hearts and desires with God's heart and desires.5

1. Matthew 6:7
2. 1 Kings 18:16-39
3. Acts 19:23-41
4. Matthew 6:8
5. See Matthew 6:9-13
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