Martin B. Copenhaver
"In praying, do not heap up empty phrases… for God knows what you need before you ask." - Matthew 6:7-8
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that God knows our prayers before we utter them. That assertion invites an obvious question: If God knows our prayers already, why do we have to offer prayers? If God knows our prayers before we even articulate them, can't we just save our breath?
That approach might work if we thought of prayers as conveying information. But prayer is so much more than that. Prayer is the language of relationship.
Vermonters, who are known for being people of few words, tell the story of a couple who had been married for several decades. One morning over breakfast, the wife says, "I've noticed that you never tell me that you love me anymore." The husband replies, "Well, I told you I love you the day we got married. If anything changes, I'll let you know."
Even a taciturn Vermonter would recognize the inadequacy of that response. Words of love are never redundant, never unnecessary, and neither are words of prayer. Such words are not meant to convey new information. Rather, they are the language of relationship. Words of love and words of prayer not only reflect relationship, they also help create the tender ties of relationship.
So pray the prayers that God knows already. God doesn't need to be informed, but God does desire to be in relationship with you.
God, you know my prayers—including this one—before I offer them, but I want to be in ongoing conversation with you about all that resides in my heart and mind, so that I might be drawn closer to you.
Martin B. Copenhaver is the President of Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Massachusetts. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered.