Ahhhh...Christmas. In the hustle and bustle of creating the perfect yuletide setting in our homes, holiday demands and expectations can be overwhelming. Are you fa-la-la’d out yet this holiday season? Although we enjoy the lights, trees, music, presents, food, get-togethers, and so on, if we’re honest, we need a bit more caffeine and energy to do it all. Prayer can really help if it is the right kind of prayer…
As I was humming Deck the Halls recently, I thought about the meaninglessness of the phrase, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la. Its only purpose as a sound sequence was to be a lyrical substitute for something that couldn’t be expressed in words. It’s a lyrical cop-out—nonsensical filler-syllables to brighten up the song, like ee-i-ee-i-o, in Old MacDonald Had a Farm—fun to sing, but senseless.
The Lord can teach us helpful truths from the most insignificant, meaningless things, like fa-la-la. Nonsensical filler-syllables. Sometimes our prayers might sound like that…you know, the ones that dribble off our chins and fall to the floor? Instead of being completely honest and candid with God, who sees right through us at all times, we might recite a long prayer full of empty, dispassionate, repetitious words that lack meaning and significance. Fa-la-la prayers.
We can’t fool the Lord though, and in His great love for us, Jesus taught about meaningful, intelligible prayer that works, “When you pray, there is no need to repeat empty phrases, praying like those who don’t know God, for they expect God to hear them because of their many words. There is no need to imitate them since your Father already knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8 TPT).
We’ve all been held captive in group settings like church services, banquets, or Bible studies where lengthy prayers and beefed-up, flowery petitions are offered. The Lord responds most quickly to our honesty, not an impressive vocabulary. That is usually done to impress people around us. Bob Mumford, a Bible teacher and author I esteem very highly, called such lengthy, wordy prayer “VRG”—Verbalized Religious Garbage. All the religious words that make us sound super-spiritual mean nothing to the Lord if our heart is insincere. So our fa-la-la prayers are unanswered.
The “empty phrases” referred to in the verse above are called “thoughtless (or vain) repetitions” in the New American Standard Bible. “Vain repetition” is a single word in the original Greek language. It means “to prate tediously.” To prate is to talk excessively and pointlessly or to babble.
The Lord is all about faith. It’s His love language—the thing that gets His attention. When we, in faith, pray to Him from a sincere heart, cutting away all the vain repetition and wordiness, He listens. That gets results! Fa-la-la prayers don’t. Fa-la-la prayers are like babbling—empty chatter at best. How well the New Living Translation expresses Matthew 6:7-8: "When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don't be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!”
All Jesus said to raise Lazarus from the dead was, “Lazarus, come forth!” Imagine how He could have embellished that! If some of us got the chance to pray that day, it might have gone like this, “O Lazarus of Bethany, dearest brother of Mary and Martha, who has descended into the bowels of the earth and even now cannot escape the stench of death, though swathed in grave cloth and fragrant spices, arise and come out of your hiding place of sepulchral darkness! Proceed with caution, dear brother, toward the daylight of your tomb’s open door, as your shroud of death falls to the ground and your body is restored to the fullness of a man!!”
That’s a lot of fa-la-la prayers. He’d probably need a nap by the time he walked out of the tomb, after listening to that. Jesus makes it easy for us: simple, honest, heartfelt, faith-filled prayer. Here's a simple, non-fa-la-la prayer: Lord, help me accomplish YOUR task list for me today and keep "Christ" in Christmas this whole season.
Let’s save the fa-la-las for that merry Christmas song, period. We’ll get the Lord’s attention in no time!
© 2022, Chris Werre