Five Things We Can Leave Out of Our Prayers


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.


5 Things To Remember About Prayer Today

ndp-slider-nationalprayerToday is the National Day of Prayer. Millions will be praying in churches, at courthouses, near schools, in their workplaces and wherever. Using some alliteration to summarize, they’ll be praying for their community, city, church, country and culture. I’ll be part of that effort today at a company where I chaplain near Indianapolis.

However, it seems important that we be reminded of some general principles about prayer, ones that often get ignored or distorted by well-meaning people fervent about change and grieved about the way things are.

Let me suggest a few:

  1.  Prayer is always to be accompanied by our wise actions of protection, seeking counsel and the like. Nehemiah 4:9 includes Nehemiah’s words when he was being threatened while rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem: So we prayed and set up a guard. They did both – asked God for His divine involvement but also took cover. We should pray with the same willingness and perspective.
  2. Prayer will not get us more of what we want or demand by using “magic” words, yelling louder or being in just the right place or position. In fact, prayer isn’t ultimately about what we want though we are free to ask and sometimes God responds affirmatively. Yes, we ought to speak respectfully, come humbly and be passionate but there’s no one thing that will assure the outcome we desire.
  3. Prayer is first and foremost a conversation with God.  That means it should involve both speaking and listening. Prayer invites a discussion with God. It is more than just our sharing a list of requests but rather time for glorification, thanksgiving and confession.
  4. Prayer is a form of commitment. It’s giving our circumstances, concerns and challenges over to God to do with them as He pleases. We will never know why He answers some prayers the way we want while others seem neglected. Nonetheless, we live by faith and must trust Him for the ultimate response.
  5. Prayer matters. We do need to remember that somehow, some way God does hear us, respond and still do amazing things. So he asks us to pray – for healing, for provision, for strength, for wisdom. How we get those things and how often we receive them are up to Him.

So pray today. Pray often. Pray in faith and with passion. It does make a difference and not just on the National Day of Prayer.

The Verse That Needs To Be Behind Every Prayer


I am pretty sure that anyone who has ever prayed has wondered one or more of several things: Does it matter if I pray? If I do pray will I get what I pray for? Why don’t I sometimes get what I ask?  Should I do anything beyond praying?

And frankly there has in my mind been at best much misguided thinking and teaching in quite opposite directions regarding those questions. In addition, there are many tough questions like these that the Bible does not seem to address.

But instead of suggesting that I have the final answers or some new concept never before seen on prayer, I want to merely suggest a verse that provides some important insight on at least how to pray and act at the same time.

It’s from the book of Nehemiah. Let me briefly set the scene. Nehemiah is passionate about and committed to rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem follow Israel’s seventy year captivity in Babylon. Unfortunately, he receives quite a bit of resistance from people with very long names (read Nehemiah for the details). And at one point Nehemiah literally fears for the safety of himself and those working with him.

So in chapter four, verse nine, we read his response, a part of Holy Scripture that every believer should add to their understanding of how to pray: But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. They prayed and did the smart thing.

I’m convinced that God still expects us to do the same today. Pray, of course, but find the very best doctor or surgeon. Pray and go after the best pastor you can find for your leadership opening. Pray and spend your money as wisely as you can. Pray and put locks on your doors.

Too often however we choose the extreme. We either pray, claim, demand or whatever that God do all the work and come through for us or think we can really handle things by ourselves. As a result we don’t do anything or can forget or dismiss the fact that God still does amazing things beyond our understanding.

Nehemiah 4:9 suggests that we do both. Pray like crazy and set up a guard whatever that might mean. God will still show up and do whatever needs to be done on his terms and in his ways, even if that includes using our part in the solution.