So thankful for the time our church focused on prayer in yesterday’s services. I was thinking this morning of why people are often fearful to pray.
One of the main reasons people are intimidated to pray in public is due to a misunderstanding of prayer rhetoric. While we claim to believe that all prayers are equal, we tend to establish a hierarchy of prayers due to the level of impressive, spiritual vocabulary utilized.
Statements like these prove the point:
- “Man, that person sure knows how to pray.”
- “That prayer was really Spirit-filled.”
- “There’s no way I could pray like that!”
While there can be some truths to those statements, there also can be some deception within those words. If we equate powerful praying based upon vocabulary, rhythm, and inflection, than lost people could “pray” better than certain saved people.
For many people, the dreaded invitation for someone to pray causes us to speak differently than how we speak at any other time. It causes us to repeat trite phrases, offer generic statements, and appear more lofty than what we may actually be.
There is a seriousness and reverence that should be associated with prayer, but it never should be labeled as that when it actually could be a disguised attempt at receiving attention and garnering approval. Jesus warned of practicing our righteousness before men to be noticed by them (Matt. 6:1). If we pray in a way to gain man’s approval, we might receive it, but we will not also receive God’s approval.
Look at the warning that Jesus provides:
When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him. -Matthew 6:7-8
Have you ever thought your prayers sounded like you were babbling? Are there common phrases that you are prone to repeat?
Have you ever wondered why Jesus would ask us to refrain from saying the same thing over and over again?
Some of us simply pray too long. It’s not that Jesus is against long prayers. He prayed all night before making a decision (Luke 6:12). Jesus isn’t against long prayers – he’s against long prayers that don’t go anywhere. Repeating the same things over and over, time after time.
King Solomon offered advice concerning the volume of our words when it comes to prayer:
Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. -Ecc. 5:2
This scriptural warning should not cause us to pray less, but it should cause us to repeat less. God’s ears are not dull – he can hear just fine (Is. 59:1). When we approach him, we should not bring up the same phrases each mealtime, quiet time, and nighttime.
Progress in your prayers. Expand in your prayers. Learn to pray in private before you pray in public. And when those public times come, your private prayer times spillover.
Don’t pray less – repeat less.
Don’t try to impress others with your prayers and don’t bore God with the same prayers.
In your prayer time today, attempt to grow in your communication level with God.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.