The Lord taught us not only to shut ourselves up in secret when we pray; He also taught us not to “babble empty words as the Gentiles do; for they suppose that in their multiplicity of words they will be heard.” The expression “multiplicity of words” in Greek is used to describe the monotonous and repetitious sound that a stammering person makes. Some people repeat the same words monotonously in their prayers. This kind of prayer has sound only; it has no meaning whatsoever. When you stand beside such a person and listen to his prayer, it is as if you are standing by a stream listening to the repetitious and monotonous sound of water tumbling against the rocks. It is like standing on a pebbled street and listening to the repetitious and monotonous sound of wheels rolling across pebbles. They repeat the same words over and over again. They suppose that their prayers will be heard through much repetition. But this kind of prayer is useless; it is not at all effective, and we should not pray in that kind of way.
Brothers and sisters, your prayers should not be sound only, which do not have meaning. The prayers of many people in the prayer meeting are meaningless. If you do not say Amen when they pray, they condemn you for not being one with them. But if you say Amen to their prayer, they will repeat the same words over and over again. They do not pray to fulfill some goals but to generate some commotion. Their prayers are not for the purpose of releasing the burden but for finishing up their speech. Many prayers are offered as a result of man’s influence, and many words are uttered which are beyond one’s desires. These prayers are like the sound of a stream tumbling against the rocks; they are also like the sound of wheels rolling over pebbles. This kind of prayer has sound only, and it is meaningless. We should not be like those who pray this way.
“Therefore do not be like them, for your Father knows the things that you have need of before you ask Him.” This shows us that whether or not our prayers will be answered depends on our attitude before God; it also depends on our need. Whether or not prayers are answered depends not on the multiplicity of our words. If we pray for what we do not need, we will not be heard even if we have more words. If our asking is not out of necessity, it is greed and vain asking. God is happy to give us what we need. But He does not want to satisfy the desires that our self craves. Some have said that since God knows what we need, we do not have to ask anymore. This is a foolish word. The purpose of our prayer is not to inform God of something but to show Him our trust, our faith, our dependence, and our wish. Therefore, it is right that we pray. But when we pray, our desire should exceed our words, and our faith should exceed our words.
Now let us consider the prayer that the Lord taught. This prayer is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, but this is wrong. This prayer is not the Lord’s own prayer; it is a prayer that the Lord was teaching us. Luke 11 points this out clearly (vv. 1-4). We should learn carefully from this prayer.
The Lord said, “You then pray in this way.” He did not say to pray with these words. If He had, all we would have to do is repeat these words every time we prayed. No, this is not what the Lord meant. The Lord meant that we should pray in this way. In other words, the Lord was teaching us how to pray; He was not teaching us to imitate His words, but to pray in His way.
Since the beginning of the world, God has been listening to man’s prayers. Generation after generation and age after age, men have been praying to God. But it is hard to find some whose prayers are to the point. Many people pay attention to their needs; they do not pay attention to God’s needs. This is why the Lord opened His mouth and told us to “pray in this way.” To “pray in this way” is something very significant, great, and profound. Brothers and sisters, if we want to learn to pray at all, we have to learn to “pray in this way.” This was the first time since God came down to earth to become a man that He told us how to pray and how to pray in a concise way.
The Lord told us that we have to pray to “our Father who is in the heavens.” “Father” is a title, a new name by which man addresses God. Prior to this, man called God “the Almighty,” “the Most High,” “the living God,” or “Jehovah.” No one dared to call God the “Father.” This was the first time the word “Father” was used. This shows us clearly that this prayer is for saved ones, those who have eternal life already. When a man is saved, he can call God the Father. Only those who are begotten of God are the children of God, and only they can call God the Father. This prayer is directed toward “our Father who is in the heavens.” How sweet this is and what a great comfort it is. Originally, only our Lord Jesus could call God the Father. But in these verses, He instructed us to call God our Father. This is a great revelation. If God had not loved us and given us His only begotten Son, how could we call God our Father? Thank God that His Son has died and risen for us so that we can become God’s children and receive a new position. From now on we can pray to our Father who is in the heavens. How intimate, free, and uplifting this is. May the Spirit of the Lord teach us more and more to know that God is our Father and to believe that the Father is loving and patient. Not only does He want to hear our prayer; He also wants us to share the joy of prayer.
This prayer can be divided into three sections. The first section has to do with the things of God. It is a prayer with three desires concerning God (Matt. 6:9-10). This is the foundation. The second section has to do with us; it is our request for God’s protection (vv. 11-13a). The third section is our declaration; it is our praise to God (v. 13b). Let us consider the prayer section by section.
(The Prayer Ministry of the Church, Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)