Some Christians have asked questions like, “Are my prayers vain because I keep asking God the same thing?” and “When do I stop praying for a particular request as it seems I have not received an answer from God?”
These are no doubt very good questions. As Christians we want to be careful not to be guilty of vain repetition in our prayers. On the other hand God does desire for us to continue to seek Him in various areas; for example Jesus gives the parable of the Widow with the Unjust Judge. The Judge finally answered the widow’s request and said, “…because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” (Luke 18:5)
The thrust of the parable was”… that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;”
And what about the parable of “The Persistent Friend”? He was so determined that his neighbour finally got out of bed to meet his friend’s request. Notice what Jesus says, “I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.” (Luke 11:8)
It is important to know, even though God wants us to be persistent in our prayers, it does not mean He will answer them according to the way we would like. I will touch on this thought in the second part of this devotion.
It is important that we understand the type of prayer request a person is presenting to God and the attitude or motive behind each prayer. Let’s take a look at why Jesus addressed the issue of vain repetition with His disciples.
In Matthew 6:5 Jesus exposes those that pray just to be seen. They want to show others they have a close walk with God and talk with Him on a regular basis.
But Jesus calls them hypocrites because they do not have a private prayer life with God; it’s all just an act. Religious people look like they have a relationship with God, but they do not. Praying to be seen is completely vain.
Matthew 6:5 “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.”
It is also a challenge to Christians not to only pray at Church or prayer meetings, but to have a personal, private prayer life with God. Notice what Jesus mentions in verse six.
Matthew 6:6 “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.”
Having a closet prayer life is vital, because without a close walk with God, your public prayer life will not be effective. It is in the closet where you are able to have a deep, intimate and close talk with God.
Matthew 6:7 “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
Vain repetition is to repeat the same words over and over again thinking God will hear you because of your repetitiveness, but this only will result in an unfelt prayer, and unfelt prayers are vain. Vain prayers have no heart in them.