Is it better to pray with few words, or pray without ceasing?


Many times, scriptures may seem to contradict each other. Sceptics have pointed to scriptures that seem to say two opposite things. They claim that this is proof of their errancy and unreliability.

However, the scriptures that appear to be contradictions are actually not contradictions but presentations of complete messages. The Bible is a masterful and amazingly complete manual to knowing God and understanding how we are to grow in our relationship with Him. In its completeness, it gives us various angles, views, and perspectives that may seem opposing but are actually complementing each other.

One example is a scripture in Matthew 6:7-8 in which Jesus says, "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

This scripture on the outset may look like a contradiction to 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which urges us to "pray without ceasing."

So which is it? Should we really pray non-stop with many words? Or should we pray with little words? The problem here really lies on the wrong focus. God's point here is not the words that we speak but the attitude by which we approach God.

Prayer is relational, not transactional

Sometimes some Christians might think that prayer works only on the basis of the quality of our prayers. We think we need to hit certain keywords, say them in a certain volume, and pray with a certain fervour.

But Jesus went against this thinking and pointed out that it's not about our faithfulness to prayer, but God's faithfulness to us and His desire for us to grow in relationship with Him that matters.

Short silent prayers prayed meaningfully will always trump long formal and empty words any time of the day. And unceasing prayers filled with faith and love will also trump shortcut prayers done for the sake of convenience.

It's not the words, but where the words come from. Because God is relational and not transactional, He looks not to the words but the quality of the heart.

A relationship doesn't count words

My daughter sometimes come to me with an audacious request—a trip to this beach, this expensive toy or a box of candies. What's behind her confidence in asking: Her relationship with me? Or the value of the presentation and the words she uses?

We all know it's really on the basis of relationships. Because I am my daughter's father, I will respond to her request based on the relationship. Likewise God answers us not on the basis of the number of words per prayer but the relationship that upholds the prayer. A relationship doesn't count words. It looks to love, trust, and faithfulness as the basis. And what a wonderful assurance it is to know we serve a loving, trustworthy, and faithful Heavenly Father who hears our prayers both long and short.