I’m in a new series on prayer as we look at what has been traditionally called “The Lord’s Prayer” or “The Model Prayer.” When we start looking at what Christ said prayer is and isn’t, we quickly realize that much of what we do really isn’t prayer at all…at least not the kind that Jesus said is acceptable to the Father.
In Matthew 6, he said that hypocritical prayer is the kind that uses empty phrases and lots of words we don’t mean, or at least haven’t really thought about when we said them. Prayers like those we teach our kids to say at night or at the dinner table. You know, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the kids won’t make a peep…” or something like that. Though some would argue that it is a good thing that we teach our kids the habit or lifestyle of prayer, I would contend that our good intentions are being sabotaged by bad technique and principles.
When we have them memorize rote prayers, are we not teaching them to pray the very kind of prayer that Jesus spoke against? It’s like saying the Lord’s Prayer every day and that constituting your time in prayer, which, according to verse 7, would never have been Christ’s intention. No meaningful conversation is being had. There is no revealing of your heart in thoughts towards God. In the same way, our children are not learning to converse with God, either.
Would we not be much better off teaching our kids to actually talk to God about what they are thinking and feeling? Teach them to pray daily, but make it real. Talk to them about actually being thankful for the food they have and, in simple words, tell Him. Are they concerned about someone, thankful that God brought them through the day, or happy about a certain outcome, then teach them to tell God that before they go to bed.
I think Satan is no happier than when we reinforce the empty, hypocritical prayers in the next generation that have kept God’s people from engaging in meaningful dialoague for decades.