I remember the commercials for Energizer batteries about 10 years or so ago. The commercial would start out as a parody of another product and right before the commercial would end, the Energizer Bunny would come across the screen with his bass drum and the narrator would interrupt to tell us that the Energizer kept going and going and going. The joke wore thin after a while but the first 4 or 5 of those commercials were really funny. However, when we pray our goal is not to see how long we can keep our mouths moving or how much we can say. Our goal should always be to communicate to our Father in heaven.
In, fact, Jesus commands us “do not use meaningless repetitions”. Now, this doesn’t mean that we should never repeat ourselves in a prayer. In fact, Jesus Himself prayed 3 times in the garden “Not as I will, but as You will” when asking God the Father to let the cup of God’s wrath pass. The idea is not that we should never repeat ourselves but rather that the repetition should not be “meaningless”. The Greek word translated “meaningless repetition” is “battoloego” (945) and it basically mean to babble or prattle senselessly. In other words, we’re not to just say things to God as a prayer with no rhyme or reason.
In fact, Jesus further qualifies this command by saying we’re not to babble “as the Gentiles”. As noted in Robertson’s Word Pictures, pagan’s would repeat themselves often to see if they could annoy the gods they worshipped and get the gods to give them what they wanted to the worshippers would hush. As a parent with two small children, I can see why someone might think that would work. I’ve given in to my little tricycle motors on more than one occasion trying to buy myself some peace and quiet.
However, God is not a human father who has imperfections such as impatience but is a perfect heavenly Father who desires the highest and best good for us in His perfect time. In contrast to having the attitude that the Gentiles had that “they will be heard for their many words” we can have the confidence of David as expressed in Psalm 23. We can say “The Lord is my Shepherd” and trust Him to respond to our prayers not based on their wordiness but based on our relationship with Him. God knows that we depend on Him. In fact, as Jesus observes, the Father ‘knows what you need before you ask Him”.
We can praise Him and thank Him for being so loving and gracious. We can pray to Him with an attitude of humbleness and trust because we know that He cares for us.