by Kathleen Petersen

When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7 CSB

If you’ve played Bingo, you know multiple cards increase your chances of winning. The picture Jesus frames with the phrase, “babble like the Gentiles”,
brings to mind that same idea — covering as many bases as possible will get you what you want. 

Although “babble like the Gentiles” might bring to mind the supremely entertaining encounter between the Prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal in
I Kings 18:16-46, I think it most likely reminded Jesus’ listeners of prayer habits they saw in their Roman occupiers as they worshiped in temples such as the ones located in nearby Caesarea Philippi.

The Roman worship system was complex. Roman rulers constructed temples for idols representing an array of gods they believed controlled various aspects of life. These edifices were considered vital to maintain the peace, protection, and prosperity of their empire. A multitude of temples for public prayer and sacrifices were scattered in every country they controlled. 

Prayers to an array of Roman gods have been preserved for posterity by historians such as what Marcus Cato (234-149 B.C.) recorded in his work
On Agriculture
.* These prayers and accompanying sacrifices were designed to bribe or obligate particular gods to protect pious persons and grant explicit wishes. The Gentiles’ prayers were very detailed and carefully phrased in order to cover every possible misfortune and outcome. Worshipers of these often capricious gods found themselves using many words to increase their chances of obtaining favor for themselves as well as bringing curses on enemies. 

* “…phrased like legal documents that could [?] obligate gods for particular action and protection.”

Will our Father in Heaven be swayed by lengthy harangues or shrewdly crafted petitions in our favor? In Matthew 6:7, Jesus warned that multiplying words
only feeds imagination, not reality. Multiple card “Prayer Bingo” is an unfruitful direction.

Enough about ineffectual prayer. Read the verses below. Then take a walk and meditate on the secure, caring relationship you have with your Heavenly Father.
His resources are yours.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent his Son as the world’s Savior. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. I John 4:13-18 CSB

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