The Long and the Short of It
By Abi May
Prayers in the Bible range from lengthy supplications, such as Solomon’s 1,000-word prayer of dedication (1 Kings 8:23–53) and the 1,200-word prayer found in the book of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:5–38) (the longest prayer in the Bible), to the succinct “Lord, save me” prayer of Peter when he was at risk of drowning. (Matthew 14:30) The brevity of Peter’s plea was evidently no barrier to his receiving an answer, because Jesus did rescue Peter. Many prayers in the Bible, while not as short as Peter’s, are still quite brief. Even the Lord’s Prayer has only about 70 words, depending on the translation. (Matthew 6:9–13)
It’s quite clear from the Bible, as well as the experience of Christians through the ages, that the length of our prayers is not what matters most; rather, it’s the sincerity and resolve of the one praying that makes the difference. Jesus admonished, “When you pray, do not use vain repetitions.” (Matthew 6:7) It is when we are about to drown in troubles, as Peter was about to drown in the Sea of Galilee, that we spontaneously pray some of our most genuine and fervent prayers. Maintaining that zeal and heartfelt meaning in our everyday prayer life is more of a challenge. If you feel your prayers have become mechanical, this spiritual exercise should help.
Over the coming days, when you come to times when you usually pray, such as at the start of the day or before falling asleep at night, think about your typical prayers in those moments and consider varying the way you pray.
Do you usually start your day with a lengthy list of prayer requests? Try reading a prayer of thanksgiving from the Psalms instead.
Do you usually end your day with a silent prayer? Tonight try lighting a candle and praying out loud.
Remember, the manner and length of our prayers do not matter as much as the fervor with which we pray them. Having a conversation with the God of the universe isn’t something to be done by rote.
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[Prayer] should be free, spontaneous, vital fellowship between the created person and the personal Creator, in which life should touch life. The more that prayer becomes the untrammelled, free, and natural expression of the desires of our hearts, the more real it becomes.
A Moment with Him
We mutter and sputter,
We fume and we spurt;
We mumble and grumble,
Our feelings get hurt.
We can’t understand things;
Our vision grows dim;
When all that we need is
A moment with Him.
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