“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 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.
There's a few things to note from this passage. The first (and most obvious) one: We need to pray. If we are Christians, we believe in a God who cares about us, who loves us and who is personally involved in our loves and the world we live in. Not because we deserve any of that, but because he is gracious. God commands us to pray (1 Timothy 2:1-2, James 5:13-14, etc). We are called to pray, and it shows reliance and trust in God. He isn't just a personal genie, who will fulfill all our wishes - we need to pray for his will to be done - even Jesus did that (Luke 22:42). We need to praise God, to thank him for all he has done. We need to confess our sins to him, to repent and to ask for his help to live for him, and we need to be praying for others - Christians and non-christians, for God to work in them and help them.
The second main lesson: When you pray (or when doing anything for God) do it for God's glory and not for your own. It's easy to do good works, or to be a 'christian' when people are watching who will praise you for it - but make an effort to not only be a Christian when no ones looking, but to do God's will out of the sight of others. Sure, we need to encourage other Christians, and to act like Christians when people are looking, but we don't do it for man's praise - we do it for God. I always struggle with pride and with trying to make people think of me better, but heres one verse that always hits home:
Proverbs 29:25 "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe."
Fear God, and work to obey him. Don't fear people, don't seek their praise. People will like you one minute and hate you the next - don't do things so that they will like you, it means nothing. Do things for God, who does not change and whose reward to us is eternal and can't be lost.
The final point is from v7-8: "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."
God listens to us, he knows our needs, and while he calls us to pray and to be persistant in prayer it isn't because he won't listen unless we pray a certain amount of times - it's because he wants us to depend on him. Don't waste words when you pray. Instead pray genuinely and deeply and thoughtfully - persistently, yes, but not just for the sake of making God listen through a tsunami of words. We should be different from those who are not Christians. God knows our needs and he can grant them - he does his will which is good, pleasing and perfect. Trust him, he knows what is best, and we know from Romans 8:28 - "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Grace and Peace,