My Problem With Prayer

Ok. I have this problem with prayer.

prayer.gifI’m not sure it’s a problem with prayer as much as it’s a problem with prayer as it’s practiced in the revivalistic tradition that dominates much of my side of evangelicalism.

How can I describe that tradition? It’s a tradition of lengthy, eloquent prayers. Prayers using long-held recognizable code words about prayer. Spontaneous prayer. Pentecostal-Christmatic-Baptist prayer. Prayers of intercession that go on and on. Detailed prayers for missionaries. Wrestling in prayer. Being a prayer warrior. Spiritual warfare prayer. Prayer meetings that go on for an hour or more. Spiritual giants in prayer. Prayer athletes. Praying till revival comes. Praying till God breaks through and saves the lost.

This isn’t me and never has been. I’m such a loser at this kind of prayer that it’s comic. I respect this tradition, but it intimidates me. It leaves me behind. It often frustrates me into anger. I don’t feel this way when I’m praying with monks, and I don’t even agree with a bunch of their theology.

I used to feel bad about this disconnect from evangelical praying. When I was a young Christian, someone gave me a book called The Kneeling Christian, a call to intense prayer in the Christian life, and it about drove me nuts. I’ve listened to tape series on Prayerlessness that I couldn’t finish out of guilt and hopelessness. When I am around “prayer warriors” and “intercessors,” I want to leave the room, and I often do.

I feel badly for some of my co-workers who are very oriented towards this approach to prayer. They are a lot more like Jesus than I am if this is the way Jesus wants his disciples to pray. They come to the worship and Bible studies I lead and they want to hear more about prayer than they hear. They want to pray more and differently than I do.

In other words, I’m the guy who is really glad the Lord’s Prayer is short.

Frankly, if it weren’t for the liturgy of the church, I’d have serious trouble in this area. Extended, spontaneous conversations with God aren’t my forte. I love the words of the Psalms translated into the prayers of the church. I can deal with prayers of silence better than listening to Christians make up spontaneous prayers. And if you want to torture me, put me in the standard revival prayer meeting or concert of prayer..

Is there something wrong with me? I am unspiritual, that’s for sure. A regular Luther who hangs out in the Boar’s Head when he should be in a prayer closet.

Am I a bad person? A bad Christian? A proof that American Christians are notably modernistic and rational, despising prayer because, in my heart, I doubt spiritual reality entirely?

Actually, I’m probably extremely normal. I’m convicted of my need to grow in prayer as a Jesus-follower, but I’m just through feeling bad about not being what evangelicals say I should be. I’m not in the prayer Olympics. I don’t have anything to prove by how many hours a week I log in prayer. I’m not seeking the applause of the prayer lobby or anyone else with a spiritual measuring stick handy. If someone wants to say that love for Christ and love for people is measured in prayer, then I may be a loser, but Jesus is for losers.

My prayers reflect my temperament. I need structure and regularity. Spontaneity needs to be minimal. The words of scripture need to be my guide. If I start trying to be someone I’m not or to “work up” a temperament thats “prayerful,” I’m going to be a phony, no matter how impressive my prayers sound.

My prayers will be greatly helped by using daily Psalms and guides for daily prayer. I’ll do better if I write down the things I most want to pray for and if I pray for them RIGHT THEN. In fact, all prayer requests will do much better with me if I pray as soon as I hear them, and then say “I have prayed for this” rather than “I will pray for this.”

I need to be careful with the contemporary models of Olympic prayer that are everywhere in evangelicalism. Much of it is faux spirituality. Some of it buys deeply into errant movements of spiritual warfare and prosperity. Prayer isn’t the wielding of a magical force. While God gives some people temperaments and gifts for prayer, he doesn’t give those to everyone any more than he gives the gifts and temperaments of preaching and leadership to every Christian. The prayers of the people of God are an expression of God’s faithfulness and our dependence on him, not a demonstration of our ability to make things “happen” through prayer.

Those who are convinced that the answer to the needs of the church lie in prayer are partially right, but not entirely right. Prayer stirred by the Holy Spirit need not resemble the latest prayer gathering outline sent from denominational headquarters. Being able to boast in the length and intensity of a prayer meeting is like any other kind of religious boasting: it’s the opposite of the “pray in your closet” approach of Jesus. It sounds a lot more like Jesus’ many critiques of lengthy prayer and showy prayer. But prayer must be real, a true expression of a living faith. It can’t be neglected and it can’t be devalued.

Every church needs to be prayerful, but every praying Christian doesn’t need to be measured by the athletes of prayer any more than the average person’s exercise program needs to be measured against a marathon runner. We need to be taught the simple ways of Jesus’ own model prayers and the reality of the prayers modeled by Paul.

All of us need to grow in prayer, but that growth needs to be in Christlikeness, not in Christianlikeness. Jesus laid out a model for prayer in his teachings and example that will occupy us for a lifetime. Those teachings create in us a need for radical dependence on the Holy Spirit, and never take us into the games and postures of the religious actor. Jesus teaches a way of prayer, but it is the way of reality; a way that takes root in an honest and vulnerable human personality.

I’m not satisfied with who I am in prayer. I am thirsty for more of the Spirit and of true spiritual experience. But I’ve lost my appetite for the pretended spirituality of much evangelical prayer gaming.

The truths that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us with groanings to deep to utter are precious and important to me as I move into the second half of life. My prayer is that the spirit of “Abba! Father!” will consistently take the form of true prayer, praise and intercession.

45 thoughts on “My Problem With Prayer

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  2. Just come upon this post, and found it most interesting – thanks iMonk. It’s a pity some folks gave ‘David’ such a hard time – he brought a challenge that the respondents did not really answer!
    I can recommend Richard Foster’s book called “Prayer”, which is a broad-reaching and sensitive approach to the topic. He has strong monastic tendencies, so should go down well with this blog’s readership.

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  3. Thank you for this. I always thought I must be a “bad” Christian because long-winded prayers and all-night prayer sessions put me to sleep. Thanks for saying my thoughts out loud!

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  4. To share a personal take – Prayer is just talking to God. I talk to God when I’m doing dishes and changing diapers and so forth. I’m not a ‘prayer warrior’, I just talk a lot. ^^ I know it’s not the ‘right’ way to pray, but it’s my way and the best way I know how.

    This is what some of it looks like:

    “It’s so beautiful out! And it smells like watermelon! I LOVE watermelon!”
    “I’m freaking pissed! Did you just see that?!”
    “God I am so SICK of myself! I just yelled at the kids… again.”
    “…. … … ……. ………………………”

    Anyway, God’s like my captive audience, though sometimes we just hang out in silence.

    Your post reminded me of a book I just finished reading. You may have heard of it. It’s called “Messy Spirituality” by Michael Yaconelli — to everyone who has felt ashamed or saddened by their ‘lack’ of prayer life, I recommend it. Yeah, maybe it’s not the most Intellectual Read available, but it’s got heart.

    Also, I think prayer isn’t always words; sometimes we live prayer just getting through the day and we don’t even know it.

    And it’s not about guilt! – though I’ve been down the Trying Harder Track. I talk to Jesus because I’m lonely without him. And when I wonder if he even hears me, I keep talking.

    Frankly, I don’t care what anyone else thinks about that, but I do care that people are feeling bad or somehow inadequate. God made each of us different because the diversity pleases Him. You please him when you talk to him, however you do it, when you do it with sincerity and truth.

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  5. Wow, the Monk has admitted he likes short prayers! Wowee! 😉 I’m glad cos I’m like that too. I’m driven nuts by long prayer meetings too. I pray short, informal prayers … I like just talking to God. For a long time, I thought that doesn’t count as prayer. After all, prayer is where you kneel and act all solemn, not something you’d say to God when you’re out walking the dog. But people have convinced me otherwise, even when I’m not totally convinced it is at times!

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  6. Dunno about the rest of you, but in my own personal prayer life, I find that lengthy prayer time is mostly Silence.

    I can’t simply go on and on and on being eloquent. Why? Because that’s me talking AT God, not talking to God. And in a large group setting, I’m not even doing it as much for God’s benefit as for the groups.

    It’s ignoring the other Person in the conversation.

    Which is not to say there’s something wrong with long, lengthy prayers .. although there can be, as Jesus had something to say about ones in the wrong spirit (Mark 12:40) … it’s just not something I, personally can do.

    Any prayer time of mine that lasts longer than three minutes has to be characterized by silence, first and foremost. ‘Cause I run out of things to say after three minutes.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.

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  7. I think a lot of the styles of prayer evident in public probably are motivated out of peer-pressure or a desire to seem eloquent. I have no doubt you’re right about that, but don’t paint everyone who prays long prayers with the same brush.

    My personality is such that I feel that I am really seeking God with a heart of faith and devotion is in long stretches of prayer. I do have many instant prayers throughout the day, but I don’t really fully focus on something until I’ve been doing it for 10 minutes. It takes me that long to get rid of all the busy thoughts of the week and focus on speaking with God.

    Long or short prayers are no different in God’s sight – it’s the attitude behind them. I have no doubt that the prayers of people who recite a 1000 year old Celtic prayer and fully mean it are just as aromatic to God as those unscripted prayers offered which I fully mean.

    People can show off with elaborate, unscripted prayers which are nothing but clanging cymbals to God. People can blindly read and recite beautiful prayers written by the saints of old but still be a clanging cymbal to God’s ears.

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  8. Michael, as ever, your struggles echo my own. Your candor and humility in your essays are consistently an encouragement for me. Would that we could clone those qualities of yours into many of the other Xtian leaders.

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  9. How about giving Sacred Space a try?

    I remember a story about Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Reportedly, a journalist approached her and asked, “Mother Teresa, what do you say to God when you pray?”

    She replied, “Nothing. I just listen to Him.”

    The journalist asked, “And what does God say to you?”

    Her reply: “He just listens too.”

    The older I get, the more I learn, through God’s grace, to just listen.

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  10. First of all, thanks for an excellent post.

    In response to David’s comments above: There is a tremendous disconnect between what we are and what God is. In light of that, I think it is awfully arrogant of us to come before God with our own words, as if those are good enough for us. Why not relate to God in the language He has given us, i. e. the Psalms?

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  11. I started to dislike prayer meetings—horrible creatures!—and wondered why. I felt bored, and felt that everyone around me was praying out of pragmatism. I knew that I wasn’t “praying” anymore than playing with plastic food makes someone a chef. I cobbled together churchy phrases, and said them.

    Finally, out of sheer frustration, I threw them out the window, and recited the Lord’s prayer. And oh how I’ve been “guilted” by those prayer books! Written by lovely, earnest people, and I’m sure that they’re very sincere, and pray much better than I can, but nevertheless, I still don’t pray that way.

    I don’t pray for an hour, I usually don’t pray for half an hour, I write God more than I pray out loud to him, and I refuse to repeat ‘Lord’ dozens of times in a prayer, public or private. I’ve never wrestled with God in prayer, and don’t especially presume to.

    I’ve gotten on my knees and made groany, sobby prayers when I can’t say anything, and even those (which rate high on the scale of prayer scores) lasted for about 5 minutes on a grubby bathroom rug, and then it was over. ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) never worked for me, and I’m skeptical of the hideously repeated idea that God doesn’t hear you if you pray when you haven’t repented of sin. Presumably, he hears the repentant prayer.

    I don’t talk to Lord God, Oh, Lord God, I pray to Father, or God, and I feel ashamed when I lapse and use the latter. I know that other people pray to Jesus. I’ve never gotten into the habit.

    If I prayed at church the way that I pray at home, I’m certain that I’d raise eyebrows and ruffle feathers. I almost never end with amen, I leave it open. I rarely ask things in Jesus’s name.

    At meal times, I pray best when I’m enjoying my food, and then I do that “in my heart.” I have no qualms about praying in public places, but I simply dislike praying prayers that simply irritate me because I want to eat, and I’m duty bound to pray first.

    I’ve prayed for “things” but I generally avoid it. I dislike the hypocrisy of people rejoicing over an “answered” prayer request only when the answer is “Yes.” I wrestle over the fact that Billy Joe probably would have gotten over that cold anyway, without the earnest intercession of the church. I wrestle over the fact that I’m supposed to pray, and then God will answer me through Holy Spirit hilighted Bible verses when I read my Bible, and wanting something else is a sign that I want extra-Biblical revelation.

    And, in the end, I still have the Lord’s prayer. And I hold onto that, if nothing else.

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  12. I hope this helps: In Orthodox Christianity we utilize a simple prayer to Jesus “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” From here you can add on “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.” You could say these in a couple of reps each then add on our Lord’s greatest command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” In prayer you are doing your best to serve since you are praying for God’s mercy for yourself and all people. Link your prayer with your good works; for example, if I give blood I give thanks for the privelege to share what he has given me to share and remember that our saviour shed his blood for our eternal souls and the blessing I receive when partaking of the Holy Eucharist. If you can add on spontaneous prayers by all means do so but keep these basic parameters our Lord has given us to live by and remember the Gospel acounts of him knowing before we know what we ought and of the poor father who said, “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief.”

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  13. Wow,

    that was all amazing. The initial post, and the subsequent replies. I had a feeling a few months ago that it might be a good idea to write a book on acts of prayer. I know sometimes sitting quietly, or telling someone I love them, or doing any number of things can feel like praying.

    I often wonder, like so many people here, if I am spiritual enough, if I am not doing enough to be holy, etc. But when it comes down to it, this is just totally silly. Apart from the fact that there’s nothing I can do to make myself holy, I should be thinking about God for His sake, and I often begin to feel that I’m only praying for my own sake. For me, that’s where a lot of the dryness comes from. But if I take a bike ride in the morning and notice how beautiful everything is, I can feel that I’ve prayed very deeply, without words even, ‘thank you for being you.’

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  14. Wow, is this timely. I’ve been wrestling with this very issue for a while now. We recently started a new bible study group, and we have a couple people who are very eloquent with their prayers. When we have our prayer time, I never pray aloud, but instead listen to the other group members pray, and echo their petitions and praises in my head. I’ve always felt inadequate doing this. I’m always wishing I could pray aloud and as eloquently as they do. In my mind, I even visualize myself doing so. But I am coming to realize that it is my own vanity that is causing these desires. God doesn’t care how eloquent I am, the cadence of the words as they come from my mouth, or the emotion I pour into my prayer. He doesn’t even care whether I pray aloud or in my head. All He truly cares about is that I pray to Him, and that I am sincere with every prayerful thought I have…

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  15. I feel the same as you and as everyone else who responded, prayer is something I struggle with. Dennis Prager once said that he was not blessed to be the praying kind, that he has accepted this about himself, and that God has gifted him in other ways. Praying was not his gift. This has helped me a lot to accept my weakness, to me prayer is best said at the moment when I feel most in need or feel most grateful or know someone in need. Also the thing that has helped me is that prayer is communication and that involves listening, and maybe I can do that part of the conversation.

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  16. Amen, brother Michael! And thanks to Scott E. for your comments, too. I, too have been wrestling with prayer, or my perceptions about how I “should” pray, and feeling like something is lacking in me. Good to know I am not the only one! Thanks for being so open on this one.

    Jim

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  17. Rob: given my experience among certain Baptists (you didn’t say she was Baptist, I know), it may well be that this woman did believe the things she was saying. Those among whom I grew up were none too concerned about an orthodox Trinitarianism. It was enough that you believed in “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and insisting on orthodox definitions was looked down on as contrary to “the simplicity of the faith.” As a result, much Baptist language that I’ve encountered about the Trinity comes across as modelism. It’s not that they’re actively spouting heresy, though; they just don’t know better, and, like good Baptists, they maintain a suspicion of anything that seems to be placing too much importance on the words of dead people.

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  18. The more I seek the truth of Christ the more I discover the truth of the scripture. The heart is in fact desperately wicked. I am always suspicious of my motives because of that truth. The great prayer teachings have never been presented quite as a “gifting” for those who are warriors than as a shortcoming of those who are not… so I appreciate this point and am comforted by it.

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  19. I used to do those prayers for show. Now, if I opened my mouth in a mixed congregation, I would be gagged before I had spoken fifty words.

    My prayers begin: “Ok, God, let’s You and me talk a bit, eh?”

    Then, wherever they go from there, I don’t finish them off with an amen. I think I just keep tossing the random thoughts up there, knowing that my feeble passes are always caught.

    Works for me. And apparently for God, because I’ve gotten lots of answers. 😉

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  20. From the Desert Fathers:

    Abba Macarius (295-392 A.D) said, “It is enough to say, ‘Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.’ And if the conflict grows fiercer, say: “Lord, help!”

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  21. Vocalized prayer can be a blessing, but it can also do harm when we mis-speak. This is especialy true if we try to make our prayers long and make things up or say wrong things.

    I once heard a woman pray to the Father and thank Him for sacrificing Himself and in the same prayer she called Jesus a great Father. I don’t know if she was nervous or tyring to make a lengthy prayer and things came out wrong. I certainly hope she doesn’t believe the things she said!

    It disturbed me. Were there yonger believers having their theology shaped by this woman’s prayer? I always listen to vocalized prayer and see if it is something I can agree with or not.

    We need to be aware that when we vocalize prayer, we have some level of authority over the listeners. So if you need to, make your prayers short and theologically accurate. A biblically correct short prayer is far better than a long prayer which sends the wrong message to the listener.

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  22. Sometimes I have felt that people who are “Prayer Warriors” are nothing more than those who work out their control issues in the realm of prayer. “I’m binding this,” “I’m pulling down this stronghold,” “I’m bringing this before the Lord,”… oh yeah, in Jesus name.

    There has been times after someone has prayed for twenty minutes the best I could muster was, “Lord your will be done.”

    There is a story in Luke’s story of Jesus in chapter 18 that I will take a little out of context but that I have always enjoyed. It relates the simple prayer of the tax collector “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

    I like to believe that Jesus responds the same way to my honest, heartfelt, and simple prayers.

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  23. Jon: Michael beat me to the punch on that one. Celebrating Common Prayer is very good indeed, and the online version is here.

    Another excellent source for online liturgy is the Church of England’s daily prayer “feed”, for which links can be found here. I recommend the “Common Worship” orders for morning, evening and night prayer, which are all based on Celebrating Common Prayer.

    If you’re looking for a dead-tree version, I’d recommend Celebrating Daily Prayer. This is based on CCP but has improved texts (based on “Common Worship”) and is simpler to use than the main CCP volume.

    I’ve recently posted details of a number of daily office books, including CCP/CDP, on my blog.

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  24. I will echo many others in thanking you for this post. I’ve long been uncomfortable with some kinds of evangelical prayer (though not all). I do enjoy praying with others, but I enjoy it more when it’s got a specific intercessory agenda (like praying for our missionaries, which I used to do with a small group of friends in my old church).

    But as for personal prayer throughout the day, I’ve found that a sentence or two here and there when I think of something is about all I can manage on my own (let’s just say I’m really easily distracted)… and I think a structured liturgy would be very helpful for me. There’s a few decent prayer podcasts that help me to pray without stressing about the words I’m saying or what I should be praying for next.

    Anyway, that’s all, but again, thanks for this post and your candor in writing it.

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  25. Thank you, Michael, for saying what I have felt for decades in ministry and evangelical life, but was just too insecure to say out loud. What is it about evangelicals that we take one or two extreme examples from history of any spiritual discipline and raise them to the level of biblical mandate? It’s not just prayer–it’s also evangelism, Bible study, relationships, fasting, and on and on. We act as though God created only one kind of personality, and there is only one ideal expression of how to relate to him. Maybe it’s a kind of evangelical legalism. I’m still not entirely free of it, and beat myself up all the time for not being more “spiritual,” but your courage renews my hope that my personality (I’m an INTJ in the MBTI universe) is acceptable to God.

    Scott, your analogy in response to David was very encouraging and liberating. Thank you.

    Michael, I would suggest you give the “Abba” passages some more study. When I do the exegesis, the only one who can call God “Abba” is Jesus. God is our “Father,” but he is not our “Daddy” or “Papa.” For years I felt guilty that I could not bring my self to verbally address God as “Daddy” as other “real” pray-ers would do. No more.

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  26. ditto all of the upove brother! same struggle here

    here’s an EO perspective on prayer
    [audio src="http://audio.ancientfaithradio.com/gallatin/pilgrimspodcast001.mp3" /]

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  27. I’d like to respond to David above. This is just the type of thing that drives me nuts. A guy like Michael spills his guts about his struggle with prayer and how he uses prayers that have stood the test of time (not to mention inspired by God if you are praying the Psalms) and some supposed evangelical “prayer athlete” has to criticize rather than appreciate.

    Permit me an analogy. I have been married for 18 wonderful years to the same woman. We are deeply in love, very intimate and she is truly my best friend and greatest supporter. I have never written her a poem and I have never seranaded her with original music. But I have on many, many occasions purchased for her a “Hallmark” card that expressed my love to her in ways that I cannot. I have heard a song on the radio and have thought of her and asked her to listen to the song as an expression of my feelings.

    I talk with my wife everyday. Most days it is normal conversation about normal things. Nothing heady, nothing deep, nothing particularly romantic. Everyday as I wake in the morning, or walk out the door, or come home for lunch, or call in the afternoon, or come home in the evening, or lay down at night I say to her – “I love you.” Sometimes we talk late into the night about deep, challenging, interesting, and wonderful things. Occassionaly, usually after the kids are in bed, we put on some music and just gently dance in the darkness of our living room. Sometimes I take her into my arms, look into her eyes and say something spontaneously romantic.

    But most often not. Usually we just grab bits and pieces of conversation here and there. Sometimes we just sit in the same rooming reading a book or watching TV and saying almost nothing at all. And frankly, it is wonderful. Just being together. Knowing that we have each other is enough.

    And so I see my prayer life. It is like that. Most of the time I need a “spiritual Hallmark” to help me out. Everyday, somewhere in the day, I tell God I love him and thank him for loving me. Throughout the day we grab bits of conversation. Sometimes we say nothing at all. Just knowing that I have him and he has me is enough.

    So I am sorry David (and Michael) for the exceptionally long response, but you really hit my buttons. Your comment is the kind of “superspiritual” rhetoric I abhor. You write your original poems and songs (do you really do this, really?), and just let the rest of us use some “divine Hallmarks.”

    Michael, thank you for a wonderful post.

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  28. My prayers will be greatly helped by using daily Psalms and guides for daily prayer.

    Hi iMonk — do you have any recommendations for daily prayer guides?

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  29. I can’t do long prayers. I know that we’re supposed to pray regularly and I am happy for people who are gifted in prayer, but that’s not me. I think God is more happy with a short heartfelt prayer than showy eloquent one that has no soul. My pastor once said that the most powerful prayer in the world is this one…

    “OH, GOD PLEASE HELP!”

    I tend to agree…

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  30. I personally pray while cleaning my toilet every night. I came to the realization a few years ago that I needed to deal with my crap…

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  31. Spot on! Showy prayer is unfortunately all too common – I also like set liturgical prayers for that reason. In addition, I have sometimes tried the long, serious prayer route, but have found I cannot persist, because deep doen I realsie that God has understood even better than I could put it into words.

    I wonder why I have never heard an evangelical/baptist/pentecostal/etc etc sermon on the pharisees who pray loadly on the street corners?

    ‘Prayer-warriors” etc. are just another symptom of “enthusiasm” – my last blog post was on that.

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  32. Once again you have put into words what so many who are striving to walk in Christ’s path are struggling to express. I take comfort in the belief that keeping Christ first and foremost is actually “praying without ceasing”.

    I stumbled upon your site a couple of months ago and since that time I have become a regular reader/listener. I am taken back not only by the volume of your work, but more so by its timeliness and insightfulness.

    Thanks.

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  33. Thanks Mark. I do appreciate certain aspects of what you had to say about prayer – I agree that often “Spontaneous Pentecostal-Christmatic-Baptist prayer” tends to take on a curiously pharisaic quality in terms of its showiness. However I do not think that you do justice to the insurmountable value of prayer as a tool of communication. I am curious as to how a truly ‘post-evangelical’ prayer life would manifest itself in a culture of over-weening spiritual apathy. If prayer is, as I believe we both would agree, a path of communication to our Abba Father, and if communication is a vital component to any relationship, then perhaps a ritual recitation of the words and heartfelt groanings of historic saints may not suffice for a living and genuine relationship with God. If we were to think of our relationship with God in terms of the lover metaphore, how romantic it would be for the beloved to recite beautiful love songs and poems to their lover, but if the peotic and romantic strains of others’ love letters became the sole method of communication for the beloved, I wonder if the lover wouldn’t feel that his beloved has yet to speak a word from her own heart. Something so essentially personal as love cannot be sustained soley on the prayers of others. Indeed, then, the psalms are not soley prayers to be recited, but also a paradigm for how the people of God pray from their own hearts. Is not the “new Song” of Ps. 33:3 ; 40:3 ; 96:1 ; 98:1 … (need I go on..) evidence of the same living and genuine relationship with God as seen in the historic saints? All this to say that personal relationship is fueled by personal speech – not of the intention to flaunt one’s own piousness, but in desparation to speak words from our hearts to God’s.

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  34. In thinking about this, Jesus rarely prayed in public. When he did they were brief. There was times when He spent LONG hours in prayer, but they were also LONE hours in prayer.

    I have also noticed that in public prayer there is a lot of dishonesty. Perhaps not even intentional dishonesty, but dishonesty nonetheless. People try to pretend they are something they’re not while praying. I notice that I do this quite a bit. Who am I trying to impress? The bigger question is To whom am I praying? Perhaps this is part of the reason Jesus instructed his disciples to pray in private. We are more apt to realize that we can’t fool God. Hence we are more honest with our prayers.

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  35. Loved your post! You said it in a nutshell: “Prayer stirred by the Holy Spirit”. Sorry to use the subculture term, but a “prayer-life” itself is a work that God works into you, as you live by faith. As Dr. Gene Scott always said, God makes us righteous (including how we pray) as we walk by faith.

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  36. Thanks for your humility. I feel much the same way and I know that my husband does too. I wonder if God gifts some people with prayerfulness and others are left to work on their self-discipline. I’d love to see a book on prayer for the average person that struggles to actually pray. Any suggestions?

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  37. Michael, thank you so much for this post. My prayers are frequent, but they tend to be thoughts or incomplete sentences that run through my mind as I go through my day, praying for my husband, my children, my parents, a friend, or someone I feel to be in need of prayer. I’m not like those who are able to pray such eloquent and beautiful prayers…mine are simple. I am also not one to kneel beside my bed or run into my closet to pray, and I have long felt guilty about this. I guess guilt isn’t a good thing, huh?

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  38. The majority of Christians throughout history have prayed many short prayers throughout a day. And many of those prayers were composed buy someone else and then memorized. (Think especially about all those Celtic prayers.)

    You are in good company!!

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  39. I’d have been cast into outer darkness for uttering such words in my last church. I, like you, long to converse with my Father in prayer but want it to be meaningful and not for the purpose of appearances. Many thanks Michael.

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  40. This was extremely thought provoking and thanks for the humility to post it. I’m wrestling with the implications of the simplicity of prayer that Jesus’ modeled along with Paul’s words about praying without ceasing. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes of all this.

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  41. As a confessed poor-prayer, thank you for posting this. It’s incredibly helpful knowing I’m not spiritually bankrupt (something I often feel) for not being a good prayer leader or participant.

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