Matthew 14:30 “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”
It is surely no accident that the shortest prayer in Scripture is about the largest problem in human experience—that of life or death for both time and eternity. After all, people in a desperate situation do not have much time to pray.
Too often we get in ruts of adding fluff to our prayer because we feel internal as well as external pressure to add lengthy volume to our intercession. I would gently remind you that, according to Jesus, “when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Mt. 6:7).
Length and loftiness carry no weight with the Lord. In Matthew 14, we discover some impactful lessons to consolidate our otherwise verbose prayers in the face of crisis:
Pray with real need.
Peter admitted that “me,” the impulsive, vocal leader of the disciples, was “beginning to sink.” This is obviously why Jesus first indulged Peter’s desire to walk on water and then left him to sink a little. He meant to expose to Peter’s conscience something of his presumption and lack of faith. He meant for him to feel the consequences of his sin. He meant to bring him to “have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3), but rather put his trust in the Lord so as not to be “put to confusion” (Ps. 71:1). Long prayers tend to possess internal self-reliance and public presumption. Short prayers keeps us simple and childlike in our dependence upon the Lord.
Pray with real submission.
Peter calls Jesus “Lord.” This was a challenge to Peter’s willfulness brought on by the urgency of the situation. Peter sees Jesus’s miracle—his walking on the water—but his response is to “seek a sign” for himself, rather than worship Jesus as the Son of God (v. 28). Jesus gives him the sign, only for Peter to show by his fear and doubt that he missed the real point of who this moment is truly intended to feature. He had presumed to ask Jesus for a miracle out of self-indulgence and not out of any solid desire to exalt the Lord. We too easily pray for what we want God to do for us so as to make our lives easier and more enjoyable. We presume upon God when we should rather prostrate ourselves before his glory. We should not perpetually require a crisis to scrub out the superficial, willful attempts to manipulate God for our own agenda. Short prayers often keep our God-is-a-vending-machine mindset in check.
Pray with real faith.
Peter cries out “Save me!” Paul urges us to be particular in prayer: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Phil. 4:6). Yet, if we leave aside the detailed “prayer requests” that fill up most modern prayers even for a moment, we discover that many Christians don’t know what to pray! They cannot talk to God about His character, His gospel grace, their sin and need, or their salvation and sanctification! As on writer asserts, “We need a recovery both of the majesty of God and the language of Scripture in our thinking and in our prayers.” Above all, the great lesson is about our attitude of prayer. We need to take care to prepare our hearts and concentrate our minds to come to the throne of grace as humble petitioners seeking the help of a Father in heaven, through the beloved Son who is alone the Savior of all who will believe on him. Short prays keep our faith grounded upon the One being prayed to more than the posture, sincerity, and supposed worthiness/unworthiness of the one praying.
When Jesus asks, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Mt 14:31), He is calling you to act in prayerful confidence and to pray with active confidence, not in yourself, but in Him-the only One who can save you in a moment of crisis.
There are too many moments where lengthy prayers just won’t work. These pending moments of crisis force us to get real with Jesus…now. (By the way, the spiritual frauds referenced in the Bible were typically long-winded in their prayers-just saying.) Instead of focusing upon the length of your prayers, zero in upon your simple faith in such a sizable Lord who admonishes us, “Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Mt. 6:8). All you have to do is simply ask for the timely, gracious help of the God who rightly deserves to get all the walking-on-water glory of your next crisis anyway.