The Father Knows

Matthew 6:7-8, “And when you pray, do not keep up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

Christians lacking in understanding hear this and say, “See? Rote prayer [pre-written prayers and collects by the saints] are unbiblical!” But Christ is not prohibiting rote prayer here. He prohibits prayer like the Gentiles. How did they pray to their pagan gods? It was a repetition of syllables via words of magic to manipulate the will of the gods. Thus, Jesus’ prohibition in prayer is twofold: the use of magic (i.e. the occult) and attempting to manipulate God’s will.

This is surprisingly common among Christians today, such as Jerry Savelle’s Prayer of Petition. In this book, he says we approach God as if in a courtroom and present (petition) before Him evidence from Scripture why He should acquiesce to your prayer. This prayer he contends for is magical in the sense that petitioning such evidence manipulates God’s will, that is, equating His will with your will.

This is erroneous and sinful not only because Jesus here prohibits such prayer, but also because (a) God will do whatever He desires regardless of any “evidence” you petition before Him, and (b) Jesus taught prayer with “Our Father,” not “Our Judge,” hence verses 9-13.

Thus, in prayer, we do not approach God the Judge in a courtroom but God the Father in His holy sanctuary. God the Father does not need to be convinced of what your needs are, for He already knows them, which Jesus lays out in the prayer He has taught us in the following verses we call the Lord’s Prayer.

In this prayer, we find God’s will that He promises to answer with the affirmative. “He hears you in accord with His will; in accord with His time, not in accord with yours; in accord with His measure, not in accord with yours. Cast all of these things upon His will, and do not measure by your own feelings” (Annotations on Matthew, Luther’s Works 67:37-38).

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