Skip to comments.Arguing About Words but Missing the Message: A Meditation on Jesusí Admonition not to ...
Posted on 03/12/2014 2:14:53 AM PDT by markomalley
In todays Gospel (Tue. Week 1 Lent) is the Lords discourse on prayer. The Lord begins with the familiar admonition:
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. (Matt 6:7-8)
The underlying Greek word is βαττολογέω (battalogeo); from battos (a stammerer) + logos (word). Hence the word means to chatter, utter long-winded or empty words, to stammer or engage in vain repetition.
Of course when such a text is considered, critics of the Catholic practice of rosaries and other litanies go into rebuke mode, and Catholics go into defense mode. And while there are legitimate debates about what the Lord is actually referring to historically, there is the danger that we can miss the deeper summons of the Lords teaching here.
At the real heart of the Lords message here is not the concern for babbling, but the concern that we lay hold of the truth that your Father knows what you need. In fact, as I have argued elsewhere (e.g., HERE and HERE), the whole focus of Matthew 6 (the midpoint of the Sermon on the Mount) is for us to shift our focus from human praise and worldly preoccupations to our Heavenly Father. In fact, Jesus mentions the Father a dozen times in Matthew 6. Add to that the fact that the Lords Prayer is given here by Jesus.
Thus, to focus the debate on babbling and how many words are too many is to lose our way; it is to focus on words rather than to focus on the Father. And focusing on the Father is the real goal of Jesus in this midpoint of the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus insists, Your Father knows what you need. In teaching this he invites us to a deep and trusting relationship with his Father.
Consider the following analogy: if I am going to make a request of some powerful person I dont really know who has something I need, I will approach the moment of request nervously. I will likely rehearse my speech and even ask others for advice in order to carefully craft it. I will also likely multiply words and try to say a lot quickly, attempting various entreaties that appeal to several motives he might have. I do this since I do not really know the person or what words might work to produce the desired result. Thus anxiety and a lack of a personal relationship will tend to make me nervously multiply words to try to cover all the bases.
But how differently I will approach the moment if I go to ask a beloved and well-known friend or caring family member. I will speak plainly and unassumingly. I will not nervously prattle on, and would find little need to rehearse a speech or get others to craft my message. I would simply and plainly, and confidently state my request.
And this is what Jesus is teaching. He is summoning us to a deep and trusting relationship with his Father, a tender, affectionate relationship wherein we experience that we are sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. And in this experience of our Father we do not feel anxious about asking him anything. Neither do we feel the need to carefully craft our words, or multiply our words to coax an unwilling potentate. We are not praying merely to the Deity or the Godhead. Our Father is not a stranger, or at least should not be experienced by us this way. We are praying to our Father who loves us and whom we love. We speak naturally, affectionately, confidently, plainly, and unassumingly. And if we do multiply words, it is only out of an extravagance of love, not because we think that such a tactic is necessary to spring the result.
It is true that Jesus tells us elsewhere to persevere in prayer, and persist in asking. But this is different than nervously or superstitiously multiplying words, or thinking we need to use certain catch-phrases, etc.
Here then is the heart of Jesus message: your Father knows what you need. That is, your Father loves you. Speak to him in this confidence; come to realize that you are his beloved children in me and approach him reverently, but naturally, lovingly, and without pretension.
To focus merely on words (how many and what kind), is to miss the message.
My comment: anybody who criticizes the Rosary has no clue what the Rosary is actually about.
Msgr Pope ping
It’s a great point that you ought to know to whom you are praying, and why, before you do. Like the old antifreeze commercial went, never “pick up a stranger.”
And Christian education of many denominations too often focuses on the activity before it focuses on the participants.
Evangelicals in sincere prayer address prayers to God because God is whom they know they have met. But method of any kind is no guard against insincere prayer.
Reading the Bible can be like reading any other book for some people. For others it is like reading a book in a language they do not understand.
The key to understanding the Bible is to allow the Holy Spirit act as the interpreter within us. That is why prayer and meditation on the meaning of the scriptures is so important. Without the interpreter, our individual logic will prohibit us from having ears and hearing His word.
When I read the Bible, I feel Jesus in my heart. It is more addicting than potato chips. Its wisdom is beyond the words. Just as a stop sign has no power over you, but merely directs your thoughts to perform an action that guides you safely along your journey, the Bible does the same.
The Bible has many meanings at many levels. While all are the truth, the meanings are different based upon our limited level of understanding. That is why we read and study the comments of those who have grown closer to God in their lives. Follow success. Jesus was the most successful, .. and thus His words are the best for me to follow for guidance. He blazed the trail for me to follow.
The best way to describe the experience one encounters when the Holy Spirit moves in and you connect experientially to our Father is that it is like connecting to the internet.
Suddenly all knowledge is available to you. However, you must know enough to ask the questions before you can get an answers. If you have unlimited knowledge at your fingertips, there are no better questions to ask than Why did Jesus say......?
Ask and you shall receive..
After nearly two millennia, it’s easy to miss how radical addressing God as “our Father” truly is.
Rather, the Rosary is scripture/Gospel in prayer form.