A family was having guests to dinner. At the table, the mother turned to her six-year-old daughter and says, “Dear, would you like to say the blessing?”
“I wouldn’t know what to say,” replies the little girl.
“Just say what you hear Mommy say, sweetie.” Her daughter takes a deep breath, bows her head, and solemnly says, “Dear Lord, why the hell did I invite all these people to dinner?”
We’ve all been there at some point in our lives when we felt like we really didn’t know how to pray. Some of us have perhaps never prayed out loud or at least tremble some when we do. Jesus of course was asked about how to pray and we now have the wonderful Lord’s Prayer as his response and guideline.
However, I still hear people saying things in prayer (and I’ve done them, too) that are frankly unnecessary and if you think about them, almost silly, and yet they can be heard in the petitions of even seasoned veterans of prayer and the Christian walk. Yes, I’m confident that God won’t punish us for our misguided or unhelpful words, but perhaps we can grow by dropping some of our unnecessary terms of habit and adding richer, deeper, more meaningful thoughts and comments.
Five things you might consider leaving out of your prayers:
1. God be with . . . . You’ve said it and so have I. “Lord, be with us as we travel,” “Be with the team as they head to Uganda,” “Be with John who is having surgery today.” If you think about it, God is going to be there wherever it is and no matter where our friends or loved ones are headed. God can and is everywhere. Wouldn’t it make more sense to pray specifically for what you want God to DO during that trip, surgery or ministry?
2. Telling God what he already knows. So often our prayers are a recap of the days events, the planning of the event we’re praying about or what happened in a certain situation. God, today, we faced a very serious trial, one that is bigger than we’ve ever experienced when our friends drove down that road and were hit by a driver not paying attention. But if we have an all-knowing God, then He doesn’t need our summary and we would be better off getting to the point of our prayer.
3. Habitual and repetitive uses of God’s name. Yes, God deserves our praise (see #4) but He doesn’t require hearing Father God, Lord, Abba or whatever twenty-five times for little good reason other than a break in our prayer. As a parent what if one of your kids repeatedly kept saying, Dad or Mommy or whatever when they talked to you? That would become more annoying than special.
4. Lists of requests devoid of praise, thanks and confession. Too many of our prayers, especially in groups, are merely us asking God for stuff. And thankfully, He is a God of provision but He also deserves our praise, appreciation for His many blessings and our saying we’re sorry for the times we’ve still messed up.
5. Flowery expressions that we’ve only heard but wouldn’t say otherwise. I know people who only use King James Version language when they pray. Others share expressions about God or Jesus that have come more from a favorite preacher’s vocabulary than their own heart or deep place. And now in the power of the unbreakable cables of Calvary love . . . .
Okay, so maybe this sounds picky and critical. But that is not my intent. If people are truly trying to connect in a meaningful way with God through prayer and still use some of these words, okay. But I just want to challenge us all to keep growing in our relationship with the Father through the use of more mature, intentional and powerful words that really represent expressions from the depths of our souls.
I think the results just might be revolutionary.