A few nights ago, the eighteen year old son of one of my officemates prayed for me. He said something I’ve been mulling over ever since.
“God said He’ll provide for everything. Just pray to him. Always pray. Use small sentences.”
The statement caught my attention. Was God really giving me writing tips? Did God think I would find large sentences too challenging? Are short sentences more spiritual?
But the more I reflected on it, the more it made sense to me. It wasn’t a command to keep the sentences short. It was an encouragement to keep praying the right way:
- Pray unceasingly
God commands us to pray unceasingly. Does mean we don’t do anything else, but pray? Obviously not. What it means, I think, is that we are supposed to pray while doing everything else we’re doing. How do we do that? With short sentences.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing
- Pray at every occasion
Having a fixed time to pray everyday is irreplaceable. But that doesn’t mean we can only pray on those times. We can pray all throughout the day, like bursts of divine connections. My favorite example of this is how Nehemiah prayed to God while in the middle of a high-risk conversation. That had to be a super short prayer.
Nehemiah 2:4-5 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”
- Pray sincerely
There are two times that Jesus actually condemns the use of long prayers. He’s not saying that praying long prayers is wrong. He was against hypocrisy. Pray the way you really talk. God hears us all the time. It’s not a shock to Him.
Luke 20:46-47 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
- Pray to a God who’s nearby
Imagine you’re about to ask two people for a favor on Facebook.
The first person is someone you haven’t spoken to in five years. How long will your message be? If it were me, I’d have to build up to the request: Hey… How you doing… Your pics are so nice… Kalbo ka na pala… Oh, I’m messaging to ask you a favor…. I’d have to do it this way because we’re not that close.
The second person is your really close friend. How long will the message be? Or how short? Borrow the car. Or may USB ka? Or can you pick me up? Why is it short? It’s short because you know they’ve got your back. Their willingness to help isn’t in question. You can get straight to the point.
In the same way, the way we pray shows how we think God is. In another verse, Jesus told His disciples not to pray like Gentiles who “heap up empty phrases… they think they will be heard for their many words.” Instead Jesus said, pray to your Father in heaven. God hears, He listens, He acts on our behalf. You aren’t praying to a stranger. You’re praying to a God who’s right beside you.
Matthew 6:7-8 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.