How does someone connect with God? Although God is everywhere at once, we can’t outwardly see, hear, or physically touch Him. How then are people supposed to interact with God? After all, it can be difficult enough to get in touch with those whom we can see- how can we make a connection with a God that we can’t physically see?
Well, the answer to this question is through prayer. The most basic definition of prayer is “communication with God” and it involves those words or thoughts that are specifically directed towards our Creator.
The act of prayer can take many forms. For example, the Bible reports that people prayed while standing (1 Samuel 1:26) and while sitting down (1 Kings 19:4). They prayed silently (1 Samuel 1:13) and loudly (Psalms 55:17). People also prayed privately (Matthew 6:6) and publicly too (Ezra 10:1).
So assuming that we are coming to God through Jesus (John 16:26-27), there are many ways that someone might approach God in prayer. But that being said, what’s the best way to communicate with God in prayer? How can we pray in a way that God accepts? Well, to help answer that question let’s drop in on one of Jesus’ teachings as He provides us with some tips on communicating with God in prayer…
“But when you pray, do not use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them: for your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask him” (Mark 6:7-8 NIV).
So what exactly is a “vain repetition”? Well, a vain repetition would be a habitual prayer spoken without much thought. It’s a shallow prayer made without any real emotional, spiritual, or intellectual involvement. Today we might say that a vain repetition involves paying “lip service” to God.
You see, in Jesus day it was common for those who worshiped many gods to pray according to some set rule or formula. Those seeking help from the “gods” would mechanically recite the supposed greatness of that god while continually reminding their god of their devotion and all the good things they had done.
It was believed that the more words someone prayed, then the more deserving that person would be in the eyes of their god. It was then hoped that their god would hear and act on their prayers. Of course, such prayers weren’t very genuine- they simply served as a vehicle to get what the “pray-er” wanted from their god.
But as we see in the verses quoted above, Jesus taught that things should be very different among those who follow the one true God. Rather than mindlessly repeating some routine words, we should approach God in sincerity, bringing our needs before Him in a real and personal way. This means that there’s no need to try and flatter God or give Him mindless compliments- that’s phony and God knows it!
The right approach is to come to God in humility, recognizing that He is worthy of respect, honor, and worship along with the knowledge that He alone is the only one who can handle any and every need that you may have.
Now does this mean that we shouldn’t pray long prayers or pray for the same thing more than once? Of course not. It’s always OK to bring your needs before God in prayer. If you have the same need today as you did yesterday, it’s OK to bring that need before God again and ask for His wisdom regarding it. It’s only when those prayers turn into thoughtless, mindless, habitual requests that they become vain repetitions.
In fact, Jesus addressed this very subject in a parable that He once told…
“One day Jesus told his disciples a story to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show them that they must keep praying until the answer comes. ‘There was a city judge,’ he said, ‘a very godless man who had great contempt for everyone. A widow of that city came to him frequently to appeal for justice against a man who had harmed her. The judge ignored her for a while, but eventually she got on his nerves.
I fear neither God nor man,’ he said to himself, `but this woman bothers me. I’m going to see that she gets justice, for she is wearing me out with her constant coming!’ Then the Lord said, ‘If even an evil judge can be worn down like that, don’t you think that God will surely give justice to his people who plead with him day and night? Yes! He will answer them quickly! But the question is: When I, the Messiah, return, how many will I find who have faith [and are praying]?'”(Luke 18:1-8)
Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (NIV). The word “knock” here refers to “knocking” or “rapping” on a door. Now think about this: no one knocks once at a door- especially if they know someone is home. People generally knock three or more times and usually continue until somebody answers the door, right? Well, Jesus promises to open His door to you if you will knock upon it in genuine, heartfelt prayer.
God is always home and He desires to answer your prayers. If you have an ongoing need, then keep knocking in prayer until the answer comes- and then don’t forget to thank God for that answer when it arrives. Make your requests real and genuine and not vain repetitions and see how God will answer them.