Vanity in Religion: 2. Rash Prayers
Ecclesiastes 5:2, 3
Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and you on earth…

From an admonition as to the spirit in which we should enter the house of God, our author proceeds to counsel us as to the religious exercises we engage in there. Our utterances in prayer are to be calm and deliberate. A multitude of wishes may fill our hearts, and, unless we take care, find expression in a volume of ill-considered words. But we are to remember that only some of our wishes can be lawfully turned into prayers, and that an appropriate expression of the requests we feel we can offer, is due from us. The counsel here given is twofold:

(1) it relates to our words, which often outrun our thoughts, and

(2) to our hearts or minds, which are often the homes of vain imaginations and desires. Over both we must exercise control if we are to offer acceptable prayers. One great safeguard against offending in this matter is brevity in our addresses to heaven's King. In a multitude of words even the wisest are in danger of giving indications of folly. Definite petitions, duly weighed, and expressed in simple, earnest language, become us who stand at such a distance from the throne of God. Our Lord reiterates the admonition in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:7, 8): "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." And in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14) he contrasts the voluble utterance of the self-righteous and complacent worshipper with the brief, sincere confession and supplication of the true penitent. The greatest of all safeguards against the evil here condemned consists in our having before our minds a true idea of what prayer is. It is our offering petitions to God. as creatures who are dependent upon his goodness, as children whom he loves. If we take as our example that offered by our Savior in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39), we learn that the aim of prayer is not to determine the will of God. Some one thing we may ask for, but we leave it to God to grant or to deny, and seek above all that our will may be changed into his will (see Robertson of Brighton, vol. 4. serm. 3, "Prayer"). - J.W.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

WEB: Don't be rash with your mouth, and don't let your heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and you on earth. Therefore let your words be few.

Reverence, Reticence, and Brevity in Devotion
Top of Page
Top of Page