8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. — Matthew 6:8 NASB
Jesus starts this discussion by telling us how we should not pray. We are not to pray just to be seen and heard by others. If that is our motivation then the only reward we will get is the praise of those who see and hear us. Whether our prayers are realistic or ritualistic is not determined by where we pray or the words that we say. It isn’t the length of the prayer but the strength of the faith behind the prayer. One of the most real and shortest prayers is the cry of Peter when he was sinking in the sea of Galilee. His cry was “Save me, Lord”. Jesus immediately reached out His hand and brought Peter to safety. After He tells us how not to pray, He tells how we should pray. It is a short, powerful, beautiful prayer that covers everything from God’s holiness to our dependence on God for our daily bread. It covers forgiveness and God’s desire that His will would be done on earth even as it is in heaven. It shows us that we need the leadership of the Holy Spirit so that we will not be led into temptation but that we will be delivered from evil. We could pray this prayer continually and whether it becomes ritualistic instead of real would be determined by our attitude. God has given many examples of prayer in the Psalms where David cries out with all of his heart and might. He has also given us prayers of thanksgiving for His many blessings and benefits. When we reach the point that we have no words to express our desires, He has given us the Holy Spirit to pray through us, with us and for us.
It isn’t our words or our bodily position that determines whether our prayers are real or rituals, it is the attitude of the heart toward God and toward our fellow man that makes the difference. It is our faith that God can and will do these things for us and that we are willing to do these things for those around us.