“Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2)
God already knows our needs. Isn’t that a relief? He already knows what our requests are before we utter a single word.
Prayer is one of the most effective and beautiful gifts we have been given. It ushers us into the presence of the Lord as we worship, intercede for others and our world, and bring our own needs to Him as we soak up His Presence. Surely there is no greater privilege than to be invited to share in the company of the living God!
Yet how do we approach this place where heaven meets earth, where we enter the holy of holies? How often do we burst into this sacred space with minds overflowing and words spilling, feeling rushed and anxious? Or how often do we approach God’s throne with quiet reverence and respect, ready to listen rather than speak, seeking to hear his will, his thoughts, and his voice, rather than our own?
Solomon pondered this question, and offered the following wisdom.
“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5: 1-2)
Solomon suggests that we approach God’s presence with care and thoughtfulness, seeking to listen rather than offering the ‘sacrifice of fools,’ which appears to be the hasty speech he refers to in verse 2, uttered by those who speak without thinking or listening.
The scholar N.T Wright says of this verse, “When we come before God, our minds are full of our own business rather than with the worship of God. When we talk too much, we usually talk like fools. This can be especially bad in the house of God.”
It can be difficult to be quiet and listen when our hearts are bursting with emotion and need, but consider the words of Jesus, “…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)
God already knows our needs. Isn’t that a relief? He already knows what our requests are before we utter a single word. He knows our hearts. He knows our desires. He knows it all. I find this very reassuring as I am one who struggles with waiting on God and listening if I am praying for my own needs. It is easier to sit quietly and listen on behalf of others, but often more difficult for ourselves isn’t it? Somehow, we feel that if we do not present our requests to God in several different ways at many different times of the day, He may not hear or respond. The Divine ears are not deaf however. The Divine mind does not forget!
This encouragement to use few words and to listen more intently is, I think, for our own sake as much as it is for God’s! How wound up we can get with our prayerful repetitions as we revisit our needs and re-engage the inner turmoil, snatching our burdens back from the Lord moment by moment, repeating our prayer over and over! This is not good for our mental or spiritual health at all! Furthermore, it suggests that we do not trust God’s love and faithfulness. How he longs for us to know that we can safely leave our requests with Him, and trust Him with the outcome.
In the words of N.T Wright once again, we are not “calling across a void to a distant deity”, who may or may not be listening, and who may or may not be inclined or even able to do anything about us and our world even if he wanted to. We are not like marooned sailors, sending off a message, scribbling a note and putting it in a bottle on the off chance that someone out there might pick it up! That kind of prayer, says Wright, “takes a good deal of faith and hope. But it isn’t Christian prayer.”
When I first read that quote, I had to admit that it describes me on occasion, and I was horrified! It is a sobering revelation to realize that we can subconsciously feel like that and pray like that at times! That type of prayer suggests we have very much taken our eyes off the Lord and are in the same category as the babbling pagans!
Is there something that you are praying for right now? Know that God hears you my friend. He sees you. He has heard. Know that you can safely leave your burden in His care and trust His love for you. Enter His presence and stay awhile. Know that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Peter 3: 12) Have confidence that with the Psalmist you will be able to say, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)
Prayer: Father thank you for the precious gift of prayer. Thank you that you already know our needs before we bring them to you, and that our burdens are safe in your care. Guard our thoughts and our words as we come to you, and teach us to be still as we wait on you with listening ears and open hearts. May our eyes be open, our hearing attentive and our words be few as we live and work for your glory. In Jesus Name, Amen.