(NOTE: This sermon series and devotional series is based on a book by Randy Frazee entitled, “BELIEVE.”
You may choose to download or purchase the book as a supplement to your worship and devotional emails.)
Is there a wrong way to pray?
I have to say, I have never had someone interrupt a prayer and say, “You’re doing it all wrong!” There have been times when the group with whom we are praying gets a chuckle because a someone prays for something in a unique or funny way. But can you pray in a wrong way?
Jesus said you could.
In Matthew 6:5 and following here’s what he says.
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
The wrong way to pray is to be seen by people so they praise you for what a great pray’er you are. Prayer is not for show. Prayer is to communicate what is on your heart to the heart of God.
Recently the Supreme Court took up the case of Joseph A. Kennedy. He was a football coach in Bremerton, WA. After every game he would go to the 50 yard-line and pray after the team’s game. Eventually players would join him. He was offered the press box to pray in, but refused and when he continued to pray on the 50-yard line, was fired from his job.
The court will determine whether this is a free speech/free exercise of religion violation, but what was interesting was a caller on a local radio show that said, “This is a violation of Jesus’ teaching on prayer” and quoted this passage as a reason. He surmised the place of his prayer was more important than the content of his prayer.
I don’t know the heart and reasons of Joseph Kennedy, but it leads us to consider what is our motivation for prayer. If our motivation is to show others how good we are at praying or to receive their accolades for what a great prayer we offered, Jesus says, “Enjoy their compliments, because that is all you are getting because the Father won’t hear and certainly won’t commend you for that!”
Second, Jesus says, “Don’t keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
Endless praying for the sake of trying to get God’s attention and to show you are really serious devalues the reality God knows your need before you ask him. When I think that because of how I pray, how much I pray, or the words I say in praying God will hear my prayer again shifts the focus off the Father who invites us to pray to me as the one praying. It leads me to think that HOW I pray is the reason why God answers my prayers.
This is the wrong way to pray.
We don’t pray for show. And we don’t pray in any way that makes us think the way we pray is the reason God hears and answers.
When you pray, stay focused on the one to whom you pray and trust that no matter what words you use, what place you are he will hear and respond because he knows you, loves you and cares for you as his dear child.
Apply: Ask for forgiveness for the times you have made prayer more about you than about God. Enjoy the gift of prayer that you can use any time, any where, with any words.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for reminding me and convicting me of times I have made prayer more about me than about you. Thank you for your forgiving grace and the reminder that I don’t need an outward show in prayer because you already know what I need before I ask. AMEN.