Jesus said that when we pray we should “not heap up empty phrases” (Matthew 6:7). Later he lamented a hypocritical form of worship by quoting the indictment that first came through Isaiah: “These people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew15:8).
We must be so careful when we bow our heads to pray, or lift our voices to sing. God is not impressed when we utter mere words such as “Praise the Lord!” or “Hallelujah!” He is looking for worshippers whose spirits (i.e., minds, hearts, and thoughts) are engaged in expressing the meaning of those words (cf. John 4:23). It is easy to melodically recite lyrics of Christian songs, but it takes concentration, sincerity and thoughtfulness to truly worship in song.
We should never hide behind fine sounding words while our minds wander through a set of thoughts about something else. This is a special challenge when someone else is leading us in prayer during a church service or at a Bible study. Those words coming from the one composing and vocalizing the prayer must be echoed in our own minds and then thoughtfully directed to God from our own hearts. When we are leading in prayer or praying privately, we must be careful to never “heap up empty phrases” which our minds never grasp or our hearts never direct to God.
Real prayer and real worship require our minds. Don’t switch them off. Don’t let them wander. God deserves our full attention and desires our attentive communication.