Matthew 6:7 - (Jesus said) "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."
Elizabeth is 91 years old and has been queen of England for six and a half decades.
When you've been around that long, are that respected and that famous, writers start writing about you, and producers begin to air all kinds of TV specials concerning the high and low points of your life.
Recently, the BBC aired a documentary called The Coronation. Apparently, a great many people watched the special and found it interesting. One of those who tuned in was none other than Elizabeth, herself.
Now if you're wondering why she would do such a thing because, after all, she was there and had a front row seat for the festivities, the answer is twofold:
1. She never knew everything which was going on around her.
2. She forgot some stuff.
Here's an example of each. Something she hadn't known: she hadn't known where her father hid the crown jewels during WW II. The answer: in a tin of Bath Oliver cookies, which he then had buried under a Windsor Castle escape tunnel.
Something she had forgotten: her father, King George VI, had told her to write a report about his coronation. She did so, and the producers of The Coronation, having found the child's document, shared a quote or two. Many years before, her majesty had written, "At the end the service got rather boring as it was all prayers. Grannie and I were looking to see how many more pages to the end, and we turned one more and then I pointed to the word at the bottom of the page and it said 'Finis.' We both smiled at each other and turned back to the service."
I can identify with the ten-year-old Elizabeth and her senior grandmother. Most people can. Over the years, I've stood for prayers which were far longer than the sermon preached that Sunday. I tried to stay with those prayers, but I sometimes ended up wandering. During one of those wanderings, I developed a theory which says "The heart will pray only as long as the feet allow."
There is a reason the Lord's Prayer, which we use on Sunday, is only 290 words. In no small part, Jesus was taking His own advice when He said, "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."
Yes, I know we are to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but that encouragement also is speaking to an individual's private prayers, too. The truth is we have been redeemed and rescued by the Savior who is "good news of great joy" (see Luke 2:10). Our hymns, our sermons, our prayers -- ought to reflect that joy as we praise "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (see John 1:29). Saying prayers should never seem to be a form of penance.
Now there are times when we have a lot to say to the Lord, and the prayers may go on a bit. That is right and proper. But it is also right and proper to use one word when one word will do.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, You are always more ready to listen than we are to pray, grant us the wisdom to come to You in joyful prayers of praise and thanksgiving. This we ask in the Name of our crucified and ever-living Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by John Johnson for Newser on January 15, 2018. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written: click here.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
Today's Bible Readings: Genesis 27-28 Matthew 18:21-35
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