Be not therefore like them: for your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask him.
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Augustine of Hippo
As the hypocrites use to set themselves so as to be seen in their prayers, whose reward is to be acceptable to men; so the Ethnici (that is, the Gentiles)use to think that they shall be heard for their much speaking; therefore Headds, “When ye pray, do not ye use many words. "Cassian, Collat. ix. 36: We should indeed pray often, but in short form, lest if we be long in our prayers, the enemy that lies in wait for us, might suggest something for our thoughts.
Epist., 130, 10: Yet to continue long in prayer is not, as some think, what is here meant, by “using many words.” For much speaking is one thing, and an enduring fervency another. For of the Lord Himself it is written, that He continued a whole night in prayer, and prayed at great length, setting an example to us. The brethren in Egypt are said to use frequent prayers, but those very short, and as it were hasty ejaculations, lest that fervency of spirit, which is most behoveful for us in prayer, should by longer continuance be violently broken off. Herein themselves sufficiently shew, that this fervency of spirit, as it is not to be forced if it cannot last, so if it has lasted is not to be violently broken off. Let prayer then be without much speaking, but not without much entreaty, if this fervent spirit can be supported; for much speaking in prayer is to use in a necessary matter more words than necessary. But to entreat much, is to importune with enduring warmth the heart Him to whom our entreaty is made; for often is this business effected more by groans than words, by weeping more than speech.
And truly all superfluity of discourse has come from the Gentiles, who labour rather to practise their tongues than to cleanse their hearts, and introduce this art of rhetoric into that wherein they need to persuade God.
For we use many words then when we have to instruct one who is in ignorance, what need of them to Him who is Creator of all things; “Your heavenly Fatherknoweth what ye have need of before you ask Him”.
Nor ought we to use words in seeking to obtain of God what we would, but to seek with intense and fervent application of mind, with pure love, and suppliant spirit. Words therefore are needful for us that we should be moved by them, that we should understand clearly what it is we ask, not that we should think that by them the Lord is either instructed or persuaded.
Serm. in Mont., ii, 3: Still it may be asked, what is the use of prayer at all, whether made in words or in meditation of things, if God knows already what is necessary for us. The mental posture of prayer calms and purifies the soul, and makes it of more capacity to receive the divine gifts which are poured into it.For God does not hear us for the prevailing force of our pleadings; He is atall times ready to give us His light, but we are not ready to receive it, but prone to other things. There is then in prayer a turning of the body to God, and a purging of the inward eye, whilst those worldly things which we desired are shut out, that the eye of the mind made single might be able to bear the single light, and in it abide with that joy with which a happy life is perfected.