And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
We can thank Grammy for today's title. During her visit yesterday, we munched on bagels and muffins from Dunkin Donuts while she filled me in on the latest family news. I can't remember the details of her story now, but she filled in the gaps in her reenacted dialogue with the seemingly harmless phrase, "Blah blah blah." I am amazed at how many phrases are perfectly acceptable for adults to say, but just don't sound right out of the mouths of babes. (A recent example was Donny exclaiming, "Oh man! You've gotta be kidding me!" as he unpacked groceries.) So not surprisingly, my observant three year old instantly picked up on the new word, asking what it meant. Soon Hayden joined in the conversation, and the two boys spent much of snack time chanting, "Blah blah blah!" and giggling. As funny as it was, I was thankful and a bit relieved that the new catchphrase was apparently forgotten for the rest of the day.
Or so I thought. As part of our bedtime routine, each family member gets to choose a song for us to sing together. Last night, I chose "Oh, How I Love Jesus" for my song, but when I drew a blank on the words of the second verse, I filled in with lyrics of, "I can't re-me-e-em-ber the words; I'll ha-ave to look them up." Donny interrupted my chorus to inform me, "If you don't know the words, say, 'Blah blah blah' - that's what Grammy always does."
I laughed, but somehow I don't think that singing, "Blah blah blah" to the Creator of the Universe is a good idea. In fact, I hope that there is nothing "blah" about my communication with the Lord. Donny's bedtime prayer started off being sweetly thankful for our visit with Grammy, but then he began to repeat the same jumbled phrase over and over and over (and over) until I wondered if the prayer would ever end. When he finished telling God how proud he was that Grammy got to stay and play Legos with us (and I corrected him to say glad instead of proud), I attempted a quick lesson in Prayer 102. I explained that although God always wants us to talk to Him, we don't have to keep repeating the same words within the same prayer. Surely the Lord never tires of our communication with Him, even though He knows our needs before we ask. But if we get stuck in one phrase or repetitive prayer, are we really communicating? Or are we just following the motions - singing a song, reciting a poem, chanting a prayer - without thinking of the One we are talking to?
Donny has a standard Grace, too. Before meals, he always likes to say,
"Dear God, thank you for the food and thank you for EVERYthing and thank you for the wonderful animals you made. Jesus' name, Amen."
For a three year old, I think his prayer is perfect. But for me, an adult who has been claiming the name of Christ for many years, I cannot be content with rote prayers. My Heavenly Father gives me the privilege of talking to Him through His Son. He knows my every need and desire, yet He affords me the opportunity to present my requests, rejoice in His answers, seek forgiveness, and sing His praises. I may not drone on endlessly like a pagan seeking attention, but I am afraid there are times when I throw up a few words to Heaven and miss out on the chance for the real fellowship that comes from heartfelt communication. My prayers may have the basic effect of, "Dear Lord, please help me and please bless everyone I know...blah blah blah."
My husband sometimes accuses me of not paying attention when we are talking on the phone. I am striving to be more attentive during our phone calls, and more so, I hope my God can never bring the same charge against my prayer life. Many words are not necessary, but a properly submitted spirit is required. So I pray, dear Father, may I sing Your praises even when I cannot remember the words to a song. May I pray in the Spirit on all occasions and with all kinds of requests. And may my prayers be free of babbling and blahs, and full of reverence for You, my Sovereign Lord.