There is a lot in this chapter but for now it is sufficient to view Jesus’ complete words on Prayer….
Mat 6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Mat 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Mat 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Mat 6:8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Mat 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Mat 6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Mat 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.
Mat 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Mat 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Matthew 6:6 Gill
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,…. Or “chamber”, a secret place, fit for private retirement, meditation, and prayer.
And when thou hast shut thy door; see some such like phrases in Isa 26:20 where they are used to express security, here secrecy. Our Lord does not mean to exclude and condemn public prayer, in joining with few, or more persons, in such service; for he himself directs to it, and approves of it, Mat 18:19 but his view is to instruct persons that they should not only pray in public, but in private also; and especially the latter, which is more suitable and fitting for their particular cases, and less liable to pride, hypocrisy, and vanity.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions,…. Saying the same things over and over again,
as the Heathens do, as the worshippers of Baal, from morning till noon, 1Ki 18:26. This our Lord observes, to dissuade from such practices, because the Gentiles, who were odious to the Jews, used them, and the Jews were guilty of the same; had they not, there would not have been any need of such advice:
for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking; as did the Jews, who, under pretence of “long prayers”, devoured widows’ houses; and with whom it is an axiom, that “everyone המרבה בתפילה נענה, that multiplies prayer is heard” (h); and whoever prolongs his prayer, his prayer does not return empty; and he that is long in prayer, his days are prolonged (i): and, according to their canons, every day a man ought to pray eighteen prayers. Moreover, their prayer books abound in tautologies, and in expressing the same things in different words, and by a multiplicity of them.
(h) T. Hieros. Taaniot, fol. 67. 3. (i) Zohar in Exod. fol. 104. 4.
M. Henry makes further comment…..
II. We must not use vain repetitions in prayer, Mat 6:7, Mat 6:8. Though the life of prayer lies in lifting up the soul and pouring out the heart, yet there is some interest which words have in prayer, especially in joint prayer; for in that, words are necessary, and it should seem that our Saviour speaks here especially of that; for before he said, when thou prayest, he here, when ye pray; and the Lord’s prayer which follows is a joint prayer, and in that, he that is the mouth of others is most tempted to an ostentation of language and expression, against which we are here warned; use not vain repetitions, either alone or with others: the Pharisees affected this, they made long prayers (Mat 23:14), all their care was to make them long. Now observe,
1. What the fault is that is here reproved and condemned; it is making a mere lip-labour of the duty of prayer, the service of the tongue, when it is not the service of the soul. This is expressed here by two words, Battologia, polulogia. (1.) Vain repetitions – tautology, battology, idle babbling over the same words again and again to no purpose, like Battus, Sub illis montibus erant, erant sub montibus illis; like that imitation of the wordiness of a fool, Ecc 10:14, A man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him who can tell? which is indecent and nauseous in any discourse, much more in speaking to God. It is not all repetition in prayer that is here condemned, but vain repetitions. Christ himself prayed, saying the same words (Mat 26:44), out of more than ordinary fervour and zeal, Luk 22:44. So Daniel, Dan 9:18, Dan 9:19. And there is a very elegant repetition of the same words, Ps. 136. It may be of use both to express our own affections, and to excite the affections of others. But the superstitious rehearsing of a tale of words, without regard to the sense of them, as the papists saying by their beads so many Ave-Marys and Paternosters; or the barren and dry going over of the same things again and again, merely to drill out the prayer to such a length, and to make a show of affection when really there is none; these are the vain repetitions here condemned. When we would fain say much, but cannot say much to the purpose; this is displeasing to God and all wise men. (2.) Much speaking, an affectation of prolixity in prayer, either out of pride or superstition, or an opinion that God needs either to be informed or argued with by us, or out of mere folly and impertinence, because men love to hear themselves talk. Not that all long prayers are forbidden; Christ prayed all night, Luk 6:12. Solomon’s was a long prayer. There is sometimes need of long prayers when our errands and our affections are extraordinary; but merely to prolong the prayer, as if it would make it more pleasing or more prevailing with God, is that which is here condemned; it is not much prayingthat is condemned; no, we are bid to pray always, but much speaking; the danger of this error is when we only say our prayers, and not when we pray them. This caution is explained by that of Solomon (Ecc 5:2), Let thy words be few, considerate and well weighed; take with you words (Hos 14:2), choose out words (Job 9:14), and do not say every thing that comes uppermost.
2. What reasons are given against this.
(1.) This is the way of the heathen, as the heathen do; and it ill becomes Christians to worship their God as the Gentiles worship theirs. The heathen were taught by the light of nature to worship God; but becoming vain in their imaginations concerning the object of their worship, no wonder they became so concerning the manner of it, and particularly in this instance; thinking God altogether such a one as themselves, they thought he needed many words to make him understand what was said to him, or to bring him to comply with their requests; as if he were weak and ignorant, and hard to be entreated. Thus Baal’s priests were hard at it from morning till almost night with their vain repetitions; O Baal, hear us; O Baal, hear us;and vain petitions they were; but Elijah, in a grave, composed frame, with a very concise prayer, prevailed for fire from heaven first, and then water, 1Ki 18:26, 1Ki 18:36. Lip-labour in prayer, though ever so well laboured, if that be all, is but lost labour.
One question remains, where does contemplative prayer fit in this, where does the modern ecumenical teaching of this overlap, with Catholic mysticism tradition, and eastern mediation methods? Something to pray about!