Prayer is a daily, sometimes minute-by-minute, connection between Jesus and us. Prayer is the way we talk, plead, praise, and give thanks to Jesus.
Like an ongoing conversation between close friends, prayer can be intimate or seemingly superficial — jumping in minutes from a lighthearted account of everyday blessings and frustrations to an in-depth commentary on our deepest fears and needs.
At other times, prayer is silent. When we don’t have the words to explain our emotions, we can trust the Holy Spirit to communicate what words can’t (Romans 8:26). The same way a good friend will hold our hand and embrace the silence, or lend us a shoulder to cry on, we can sit in God’s presence and say all we need to say without speaking a word.
If this kind of prayer feels foreign, you’re not alone. Perhaps the reason prayer seems intimidating or unnatural for so many of us is because we’ve never known anyone who treated prayer like the most natural thing since breathing. Or maybe, we’ve been burned by prayer circles in the past. For as open as the Bible’s instruction is on prayer, it’s clear that misusing prayer has been happening for about as long as prayer has existed.
3 Times Prayer Is Not Pleasing To God
1. Praying to avoid doing
When we pray asking God’s will, He will give us His answer. When we receive it, we are to act on that answer, not try to change His mind with our prayers. To continue praying is not just stalling – it’s disobedience.
Paul asked God to remove what he referred to as a thorn. After praying three times for God to take away what was hurting him, God finally said, “No. My grace is sufficient.” Paul never prayed about his thorn again (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
2. Praying to make us feel better about gossiping
When we ask God to intervene in someone else’s life, it’s called intercessory prayer. Telling our friends pure gossip while heads are bowed and eyes are closed is “gone-to-meddling,” not prayer.
We should pray to intercede with good, not impede with evil.
James 3 says our tongues wagging in gossip are “a world of evil among the parts of the body.” We should pray to intercede with good, not impede with evil. Gossip disguised as prayer is harmful. God knows the names and events; others don’t need to hear them. Simply ask for healing.
3. Praying to show off
The simplest prayers are the most effective and easiest to offer. Fancy words will not impress God; He made us and already knows who we are! And more words won’t make better prayers. God wants to hear our heart not our entire vocabulary (Matthew 6:5-8).
When I hear others pray, I sometimes feel mine might not measure up. Jesus’ followers may have felt that way, too. When the disciples could have asked for anything from Jesus, they recognized the power of maintaining direct connection with God and asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Just like it takes time to develop a rapport in a friendship, it can take time to find that rhythm with God. One way to remember the example Jesus set for the disciples (and for us) is the acronym, ACTS.
- Acknowledge God’s sovereignty over us and all our circumstances.
Because our Lord is the Creator of the earth, everything in it and each of us, He has the right to do with His Creation as He pleases (Daniel 4:35)
- Confess our sin so we can be healed.
We can’t hide from Jesus. Confession tells Him we are aware of our sin but want to turn from it and repent (James 5:16).
- Thank God for what He’s already done.
God knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). But He likes hearing from us, especially when we praise and thank Him for the blessings He has already given. Thanksgiving draws us closer to Him.
- Submit our requests.
There is no prayer request too small or too big for God. We can boldly share the concerns and desires of our heart and ask Him to supply our every need (Philippians 4:6).
Dalton Blankenship is volunteer at NewSpring Church Anderson Campus