For some reason–maybe because we always want to influence the outcome–Christians have absorbed practices that actually do nothing to help their prayer life. Here are eight of them:
Multiple Prayers Will Bend God’s Ears
If asking once didn’t do the trick, maybe praying the same prayer five times, or ten will get God’s attention. This probably is derived from Jesus teaching about the man who knocks on his neighbor’s door after hours and the neighbor will give him all he needs because of his constant pleading (Luke 11:8). But, that’s not about just anything. That passage refers to our desire for Spiritual needs (our daily bread). Jesus begins by talking about how we should pray to our Father–who is rich in all things–and then compares it to a neighbor who asks from us in our poverty and inconvenience. We, being human, will provide for our neighbor, not because he is our friend, but because of his insistent pleading. God, however, will provide our needs simply because we ask.
We’ll Be Heard For Our Many Voices!
The more the merrier! If we get more people praying, God will be sure to answer–and by answer, we mean answer yes. I’m sure this probably comes from the verse “where two or more are gathered in my name,” (Matt. 18:20) but it’s misinterpreting that passage to suggest that God doesn’t meet us unless we’re in a group (and that’s a whole ‘nother discussion!).
“In Jesus’ Name” Is The Magic Word
It’s common to end a prayer with “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Unfortunately, many think this is the please of prayer. This is probably from misinterpreting the passage that says “whatever you ask in my name” from John 14:13. Much to our dismay, we cannot add that catch phrase to any request as we might after rubbing a lamp. Imagine an ambassador who represents the U.S.A going to a store and demanding a large screen TV for free … and claiming he was doing so in the authority vested by the United States. I’m thinking his government will not honor that request because he’s not acting within the authority of America. He’s asking for something for selfish reasons. In the same way, when we request things of God, they need to be in the nature of Christ, not our self-centered nature. Jesus, for instance, says he did nothing except what the Father willed Him to do. So, if we pray, we must ask for what God wants … and it will be given.
Location, Location, Location
Prayer walking is all the rage. People walk through a neighborhood praying for each house as they pass by. Or they ride a train and pray for all the people on the train. Now, it’s fine if you pray for people who come to mind as you walk through a neighborhood. Or, if you see someone who is in pain on the bus or train, by all means, pray for that person. But this seems to be an entirely different thing. It’s announced in church and arranged and advertised. WE’RE PRAYER WALKING, EVERYONE! At best, it’s a bit Pharisee (look at me!), at worst it’s like baal worship, where prayers were heard if they were on a holy mountain or in a temple or next to a sacred pillar.
Time Is Of The Essence
“Suzie is going into surgery at 10am, so be sure to set your watches and pray…” We’ve all heard that. We’ve seen it in prayer requests. And it’s wrong. It suggests that God’s busy and we need to ensure we catch His attention at the right time.
Human Titles Matter
People seem to think that if Pastor Bob comes to pray for them, then all will be well. They get this, no doubt, from James 5:14, which says “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” So, we assume that the clergy has some hotline to God. Under ordinary circumstances, we’d just get 10-20 people praying in a set location at a set time … but now we better pull out the stops and call the Pastor and have him pray! That’s not what the passage means. It’s referring to the need for believing prayer! It also suggests that the person is suffering due to sin and needs spiritual guidance from a mature Christian so that they can receive the Holy Spirit (symbolized by the anointing oil). This is why I scoff at the Pray for Paris and Pray for Orlando hashtags. Why do we want a bunch of pagans praying? What good will it do? I even saw Christians re-posting a picture of a group of Muslims praying for Orlando and remarking how wonderful it was! Now, this strikes me as a bit weird. As a Christian, I believe that only the prayer of a righteous man has great power (James 5:16). The only ones who are righteous are those who are saved by faith in the Lord Jesus and His work on their behalf. So … why are we glad Muslims are praying? And why do we encourage non-believers to pray for Orlando or Paris? Or are we just happy people are sending “good vibrations” and “thoughts” to some place of sorrow?
Putting Bible Verses to Good Use
Pray Scripture back to God and, BAM! you’ll get your answer in the affirmative! Or, string together a bunch of Bible-sounding words and use the King James English with ‘Thou’ and ‘Thy,” and you’ll be set. Where this is right is that if we pray for the will of God, it will be granted us. So, if we claim an actual promise of God, such as for wisdom (James 1:5) then we’ll receive it. But, if we pray back the prayer offered by Jabez in the OT (1 Chron. 4:10) we will not be given money, wealth and have our borders enlarged, etc.
Facing the Right Direction
Some believe that we need to have our faces down, or up. We should be kneeling, or hands raised … Facing Jerusalem? In a closet? On a porch? Maybe walking around a neighborhood, or on a train? We might get this from Daniel, who prayed toward Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10). Or the raising hands from 1 Timothy. The fact is, the prayer of a righteous man has great power. Jesus prayed for the Father’s will. Elijah prayed and it didn’t rain for 3 years. He prayed (one time) and fire fell from heaven. He prayed again, and it rained. It’s not about the direction or body position. It’s about the heart and relationship to God, the Father.