Obviously the title of this post is not comprehensively true—there are certainly times when long, extended prayers are appropriate and necessary. The Bible teaches that, at times, Jesus went out and prayed for hours on end (Luke 6.12; Luke 22.39-46), and if He felt it was necessary to do so on occasion, how much more should we?
At the same time, I think we sometimes feel that brief prayers are less meaningful or less useful, and this certainly is not what the Bible teaches. In Matthew 6.7, 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.” He then goes on to provide a prayer as model which is not lengthy at all.
I mentioned that I am studying Hebrew this semester, and in class, my teacher shared with us the words pictured above, which comprise a Hebrew Table Prayer (i.e., a prayer that would be said before a meal by an observant Jewish family).
Translated, the prayer goes something like this (words in [ ] convey additional meaning implied in the Hebrew):
Blessed are you, O LORD [God of covenant]
Our God, [God of creation]
King of the universe [eternal king]
Who brings forth bread [food]
From the earth.
As this illustrates, the briefest of prayers can convey great meaning, and simplicity can possess great power:
As the God of covenant, we are reminded that God desires relationship with his people, and that it is through our relationship with him that all spiritual blessings come. As the God of creation, we are reminded that everything which exists exists because God made it—we owe Him our very existence. As the eternal King of the universe, we are reminded that God’s dominion and authority extends over all things, and throughout (and beyond) all times. And as the One who brings forth food from the earth, we are reminded that we are dependent on God for our daily survival; He is our Sustainer as well as our Creator.
Some very important reminders in just a few simple words. Don’t sell short the power of a short prayer; it can convey the deep truths of life and faith!