For a few days every spring (until the pandemic hit, at least), I surround myself with people who write, edit, illustrate, rearrange, print and sell words. Because I live alone and work at home, during this professional event, I speak—and hear—many more words than I normally do in a three-day period. But in 2018, five words in particular stuck with me after I returned home from the conference. Five words comprising seventeen letters and divided into two complete sentences, each spoken during a different conversation: "The Lord knows" and "Be you."
The people who said these words are seasoned writers with exceptional vocabularies, yet they used a few of the simplest, clearest words in the English language to say what I needed to hear and their messages, like a crisp seal pressing into melted wax, left a strong impression on me.
An economy of words—when those words are carefully chosen—is sometimes far more desirable than a long, elaborately crafted message. And this applies to prayer, too. King Solomon said: "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
God hears—and answers—short prayers just as much as He does long ones. The key is not the number or length of words uttered, but the sincerity and faith of the heart offering them up. Consider the following examples.
While attempting to walk on water, Peter called out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30) and Jesus immediately grabbed him and kept him from drowning. The disciples pleaded with Jesus: “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5), Bartimaeus asked Jesus to give him sight (Mark 10:51), the ten lepers begged for pity (Luke 17:13), and the tax collector—in contrast to the nearby Pharisee puffing himself up in a long prayer—simply acknowledged his sinfulness and pleaded for mercy (Luke 18:13). One of the most moving short prayers is that of the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus, who asked to be remembered when Jesus returned to His kingdom (Luke 23:42).
There is a time and place for long conversations with the Lord, but don’t discount the effectiveness of humble and succinct prayers, both private and in public.