Matthew 6:8
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
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(8) Your Father knoweth.—This truth is rightly made the ground of prayer in one of the noblest collects of the Prayer Book of the English Church—“Almighty God, the Fountain of all wisdom, who knowest our necessities before we ask, and our ignorance in asking.” Comp. St. Paul’s “We know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26). But why then, it may be asked, pray at all? Why “make our requests known unto God” (Philippians 4:6)? Logically, it may be, the question never has been, and never can be, answered. As in the parallel question of foreknowledge and free will, we are brought into a region in which convictions that seem, each of them, axiomatic, appear to contradict each other. All that can be done is to suggest partial solutions of the problem. We bring our wants and desires to God (1) that we may see them as He sees them, judge how far they are selfish or capricious, how far they are in harmony with His will; (2) that we may, in the thought of that Presence and its infinite holiness, feel that all other prayers—those which are but the expression of wishes for earthly good, or deliverance from earthly evil—are of infinitely little moment as compared with deliverance from the penalty and the power of the sin which we have made our own; (3) that, conscious of our weakness, we may gain strength for the work and the conflict of life in communion with the Eternal, who is in very deed a “Power that makes for righteousness.” These are, if we may so speak, the lines upon which the Lord’s Prayer has been constructed, and all other prayers are excellent in proportion as they approach that pattern. Partial deviations from it, as in prayers for fine weather, for plenty, and for victory, are yet legitimate (though they drift in a wrong direction), as the natural utterance of natural wants, which, if repressed, would find expression in superstition or despair. It is better that even these petitions, though not the highest form of prayer, should be purified by their association with the highest, than that they should remain unuttered as passionate cravings or, it may be, murmuring regrets.

6:5-8 It is taken for granted that all who are disciples of Christ pray. You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray. If prayerless, then graceless. The Scribes and Pharisees were guilty of two great faults in prayer, vain-glory and vain repetitions. Verily they have their reward; if in so great a matter as is between us and God, when we are at prayer, we can look to so poor a thing as the praise of men, it is just that it should be all our reward. Yet there is not a secret, sudden breathing after God, but he observes it. It is called a reward, but it is of grace, not of debt; what merit can there be in begging? If he does not give his people what they ask, it is because he knows they do not need it, and that it is not for their good. So far is God from being wrought upon by the length or words of our prayers, that the most powerful intercessions are those which are made with groanings that cannot be uttered. Let us well study what is shown of the frame of mind in which our prayers should be offered, and learn daily from Christ how to pray.Use not vain repetitions - The original word here is supposed to be derived from the name of a Greek poet, who made long and weary verses, declaring by many forms and endless repetitions the same sentiment. Hence, it means to repeat a thing often; to say the same thing in different words, or to repeat the same words, as though God did not hear at first. An example of this we have in 1 Kings 18:26; "They called on Baal from morning until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us!" It may serve to illustrate this passage, and to show how true is the description here of prevailing modes of prayer, to refer to the forms and modes of devotion still practiced in Palestine by the Muslims. Dr. Thomson ("The Land and the Book") gives the following description of what actually occurs: "See those men on that elevated terrace. One has spread his cloak, other their Persian rugs toward the south. They are Muslims, preparing to say prayers - rather perform them, in this most public place, and in the midst of all this noise and confusion.

"Let us stop and watch the ceremony as it goes on. That man next us raises his open hands until the thumbs touch the ears, exclaiming aloud, "Allah-hu-akbar" - 'God is great.' After uttering mentally a few short petitions, the hands are brought down and folded Together near the girdle, while he recites the first chapter of the Koran, and two or three other brief passages from the same book. And now he bends forward, rests his hands upon his knees, and repeats three times a formula of praise to 'God most great.' Then, standing erect, he cries "Allah-hu-akbar," as at the beginning. Then see him drop upon his knees, and bend forward until his nose and forehead touch the ground directly between his expanded hands. This he repeats three times, muttering all the while the same short formulas of prayer and praise. The next move will bring him to his knees, and then, settling back upon his heels, he will mumble over various small petitions, with sundry grunts and exclamations, according to taste and habit. He has now gone through one regular Rek'ah; and, standing up as at the first, and on exactly the same spot, he will perform a second, and even a third, if specially devout, with precisely the same genuflections.

"They are obliged to repeat some expressions thirty times, others many hundred times. Would that these remarks did not apply to nominal Christians in this land as well as to Muslims!"

The heathen do - The original word is that which is commonly translated "Gentile." The world was divided into two parts, the Jews and the Gentiles; that is, in the original, the "nations," the nations destitute of the true religion. Christ does not fix the length of our prayers. He says that we should not repeat the same thing, as though God did not hear; and it is not improbable that he intended to condemn the practice of long prayers. His own supplications were remarkably short.

8. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him—and so needs not to be informed of our wants, any more than to be roused to attend to them by our incessant speaking. What a view of God is here given, in sharp contrast with the gods of the heathen! But let it be carefully noted that it is not as the general Father of mankind that our Lord says, "Your Father" knoweth what ye need before ye ask it; for it is not men, as such, that He is addressing in this discourse, but His own disciples—the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, hungry and thirsty souls, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, who allow themselves to have all manner of evil said against them for the Son of man's sake—in short, the new-born children of God, who, making their Father's interests their own, are here assured that their Father, in return, makes their interests His, and needs neither to be told nor to be reminded of their wants. Yet He will have His children pray to Him, and links all His promised supplies to their petitions for them; thus encouraging us to draw near and keep near to Him, to talk and walk with Him, to open our every case to Him, and assure ourselves that thus asking we shall receive—thus seeking we shall find—thus knocking it shall be opened to us.Ver. 7,8. It appeareth from hence, and from what followeth also, that the praying here spoken of is vocal prayer; not the mere homage which the heart payeth to God, by a recognition of him as the fountain of all good, and our secret desires that God would supply our wants, but the expression of those desires by the words of our mouths, which is that duty which the Scripture generally calleth prayer, and is most certainly a duty incumbent on every person. Nor are repetitions of the same requests in prayer, or much speaking, ( that is, praying to some length of time), here absolutely forbidden: our Saviour before his passion prayed thrice for the same thing within a short compass of time, (though he did not use the same words), and, Luke 6:12, he continued all night in prayer to God. But that which is here forbidden, is an opinion of being heard for over long prayers, and using vain repetitions, as the priests of Baal continued from morning to night crying, O Baal, hear us! O Baal, hear us! as if their god had been asleep, or gone a journey, as the prophet mocketh them, 1 Kings 18:26,27. Repetitions are then vain, when they are affected, and flow from some irreverent thoughts we have of God; not when they are as it were forced from the heat and intention of our affections. The like is to be said of much speaking in prayer. Long prayers are not to be condemned, but the affectation of them is, and long prayers upon pretences and designs are: but when the mind is attent, and the affections fervent, length of prayer is no fault, especially upon solemn occasions, when we come not to ask a particular mercy at the hand of God, nor for a particular person or family. But repetitions after the manner of heathens are condemned, as proceeding from irreverent thoughts of God, as if he did not know what things we have need of, or were, like a man, to be prevailed upon by a multitude of words.

Be not ye therefore like unto them,..... Do not be imitators of them, and follow their ways, who have only the dim light of nature to guide them; it would be shameful in you to do as they do, when you have a divine revelation for your direction; and especially, because

your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him; and therefore have no need to make use of many words, or much speaking, or long prayers. The omniscience of God is a considerable argument, and a great encouragement to prayer; he knows our persons and our wants before hand; and as he is able to help us, we have reason to believe he will; especially since he stands in the relation of a Father to us.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Matthew 6:8. Οὖν] seeing that you are expected to shun heathen error.

οἶδε γὰρ, κ.τ.λ.] so that, this being the case, that βαττολογεῖν is superfluous.

Matthew 6:8, οὖν, infers that disciples must not imitate the practice described, because it is Pagan, and because it is absurd. Repetition is, moreover, wholly uncalled for.—οἶδεν γὰρ: the God whom Jesus proclaims—“your Father”—knows beforehand your needs. Why, then, pray at all? Because we cannot receive unless we desire, and if we desire, we will pray; also because things worth getting are worth asking. Only pray always as to a Being well informed and willing, in few words and in faith. With such thoughts in mind, Jesus proceeds to give a sample of suitable prayer.

8. for your Father knoweth … before ye ask him] Our Father knows our wants, still we are bound to express them. Why? because this is a proof of our faith and dependence upon God, which are the conditions of success in prayer.

Matthew 6:8. Πρὸ κ.τ.λ., before, etc.) We pray, therefore, not with the view of instructing, but of adoring, the Father.

Verse 8. - Be not ye therefore like. Revised Version omits "ye," as the emphatic personal pronoun is not expressed. The connexion of thought is - Seeing you are expected to shun heathen error (Meyer), do not allow yourselves to reproduce heathen practices. By observing these you would be taking a definite way of becoming like (passive, or rather middle, ὁμοιωθῆτε) those who ordinarily practise them. For; i.e. you stand on a different footing altogether from the heathen; you are intimately related to One above, who knows your wants, even before you express them to him. Your Father; Revised Version margin, "some ancient authorities read God your Father." So אָ, B, sah. (ὁ Θεός is bracketed by Westcott and Hort). The insertion is at first sight suspicious, but as there is no trace of such an addition in vers. 1, 4, 6, 14. 18 (in ver. 32 only אָ), it is hard to see why it should have been interpolated here. Its omission, on the other hand, is easily accounted for by its absence in those passages. The internal evidence, therefore, corroborates the strong external evidence of אָ, B. Our Lord here said "God" to emphasize the majesty and power of "your Father." Knoweth; i.e. intuitively (οϊδεν); el. ver. 32. Matthew 6:8
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