The seduction of prayer results in prayer without the mind. The ultimate evidence of the seduction of prayer is apparent when prayer becomes thoughtless and mechanical.
If we don’t engage our minds in our praying, then we certainly won’t engage our wills or our hearts in prayer. Jesus was concerned about mindless praying. He said, “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” (Matthew 6:7, 8).
Other translations of these verses indicate that Jesus warned against the use of “vain repetitions” (KJV), “empty phrases” (RSV) or “meaningless words” (TEV).
It is not so much long prayers or repetitious prayers that Jesus warned against. Jesus Himself spent long periods of time in prayer (see Mark 1:35) and once prayed the same prayer three times in succession. (See Matthew 26:36-44.) Rather, Jesus is concerned about the danger of thinking that prayer is effective because of its repetition and does not, therefore, need to engage the mind at all.
Jesus attributed mindless praying to pagans or Gentiles. (See Matthew 6:6.) In Jesus’ day, the non-Jewish world often treated prayer as a form of magical incantation in which the sheer number of repetitions of certain words or phrases produced the desired effect. Since the words themselves were believed to contain such power, it was not deemed important to think about the prayer. It was only necessary to say the prayer. This was mindless praying in its ultimate form.
How might we fall into the trap of mindless praying? We can fall into this trap by saying our prayers rather than praying our prayers. Dr. Robert Cook says, “All of us have one routine prayer in our system; and once we get rid of it, then we can really start to pray!”
Routine prayer can easily become mindless praying. One humorous example makes the point. On one memorable occasion, my mother said the blessing at dinner time. A minute or so later, she asked, “Who would like to say the blessing?” It took my dad, my brother and me to convince her that she had already had. Because grace is a routine prayer, it is easy to say it thoughtlessly. We must be careful not to pray without the mind.
The seduction of prayer may manifest itself in prayer without the heart, prayer without the will, or even prayer without the mind. Jesus warned us to guard against each of these pitfalls of prayer. Having told us how not to pray, Jesus then instructed us how to pray.
-After this manner, pray