ESV - 40 Who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.
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To me, the long prayers to which Jesus was referring in the question were public prayers that could be seen or heard by other people, in order that those saying the prayers might be exalted or praised for their "piety" by those who observed them. The wrongfulness of the self-motivated nature of such prayers was only further compounded (as Jesus noted) by the hypocritical actions of those who offered them. The parallel passage in Matthew (Matthew 23:1-7) -- although it does not mention the offering of long prayers -- specifically emphasizes the desire of the scribes and Pharisees for public notice, with Jesus saying, "They do all their deeds to be seen by men." Any prayer that a Christian offers to God in sincerity and humility (the quality that the prayers of the scribes and Pharisees lacked) is acceptable to Him, regardless of its length, or whether it is done publicly or privately. If the Christian feels moved to make a lengthy prayer for the purpose of fully pouring out his or her heart before God, I would say that this would not be an impediment to the efficacy of the prayer, or something that, just because of its length or its setting, God would not look upon with favor. However, at the same time, Jesus also made a point of saying (just before giving us the words of what we call the Lord's Prayer) that our heavenly Father knows what we need even before we pray (Matthew 6:8), so that it is not necessary, from the standpoint of the effectiveness of a petition to God for an answer to a need or concern, for the Christian to repeat the same request over and over (either in a single prayer, or in multiple prayers over a period of time), even if that repetition is sincere and heartfelt.
When we pray in private it doesn't matter how long we pray, or how we say what we say to God. When we pray with an audience we probably should do so with a specific theme and be done with it as quickly as we can. Almost everything we do in public causes us to be on our P's and Q's about how we are seen. We don't eat the same in a restaurant as we do at our own breakfast table (arms off the table). It's because we know we're being observed. The same is true for when we offer a prayer to God with an audience in tow. And after He had dismissed the crowd He (Jesus) went up on the mountain by himself to pray - Matt 14:23. But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray - Luke 5:16. In these days He went out to the mountain to pray, and ALL NIGHT He continued in prayer to God - Luke 6:12. (This answers the "length of prayer" question, I hope). About eight days after these sayings He took with Him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray - Luke 9:28. What is it about "a mountain" and Him (Jesus) going to pray? And why, this time, did He take three of His disciples with Him, when all the other times He went away to pray alone? A careful reading of the account will reveal that the three disciples had fallen asleep while He was praying. They awakened to see Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. Evidently He was praying silently alone and not "holding hands" in a circle like many prayer groups will do. I think He wanted them to see Him "transfigured," (His face was altered and His clothing became dazzling white) considering that they didn't join Him in prayer. Prayer is not a spectator sport. We tend to stick our chests out and try hard to look good whenever we do anything in front of a crowd. It's almost impossible not to. Even for the veteran performer who has learned to shut the audience out in their minds, it's still not the same as talking to God "one-on-One." For that reason alone, it's best to offer the abbreviated version of the appeal. As for why He made it a habit to go up on a mountain and pray, I think Luke 9:37 gives us a clue as to why. It states ' On the next day, when He had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met Him.' First, He and the three disciples stayed up on the mountain all night. Apparently the crowds were hesitant to climb a mountain to follow Him, they would just wait for Him to come down. So, He wasn't using the mountain as a "high place," (1Kings 14:23, Second Kings 12:3 and Amos 7:9) but as a means to have some privacy in prayer. Many "churches" try to teach their congregants to "go public" with their "religion" and represent the kingdom of God in the earth by letting your faith be known to all. So teenaged "christians" are encouraged to form prayer groups and pray where they can be seen doing so, as a countermeasure or an antidote to secularism. I don't think the focus is to get God to bring about a change as much as it is to simply advertise the christian religion. And the caption is: "If one person is saved then it will have been all worth it." I guess they have a point.... But how many are turned off by it, and see the effort as specious? One scripture speaks negatively of long repetitious prayers made for a pretense (Mark 12:40), and another says that Jesus prayed all night. Was He "heard for His many words?" It doesn't say He offered "many words," it says He was "in prayer."....
Prayer is a conversation with God, and in itself a long conversation is not bad. However, if the reason we pray for a long time is for the praise of men (to seem pious), we are not doing ourselves any good, for God sees into the hearts of men and judges our motives (Psa 139:2-32, Prov 21). There may be times that God withholds something from us, to see if we recognize that we truly need it or that we are not being selfish in asking for it. We are advised to not use meaningless words or empty repetition in our prayers (Matt 6:7), because pagans do so, thinking they will be heard for their many words. We are on the right track when we seek to honor God and give Him glory in our prayers and actions.
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