Most Christians will tell you that prayer is an important part of the Christian life and should be done on a regular basis. Some might even say that prayer is the key to deepening your walk with the Lord. But I’ve found sometimes the opposite can be true. In fact, I’ve found that prayer can be ineffective and actually a complete waste of time for two reasons…
Prayer is a Waste If You Aren’t Honest With God
Matthew 6:7 – “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He first told them what not to do. He pointed out the ineffective prayer life of the religious leaders and how they used lofty phrases and special words when they prayed. Although they were trying to sound spiritual, the opposite took place. Not only were they not spiritual, but God was not interested, and when God isn’t interested prayer is a waste of time.
Jesus emphasized that prayer needs to be a private personal time with God, without all the trappings of religiosity or spiritual piety.
Matthew 6:6 – But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
In other words, God is available for a heartfelt private conversation with you. Prayer is not to be comprised of religious platitudes or spiritual formulas. It’s about having an honest, transparent, and authentic discussion with God. Remember God loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with you and prayer is a great way to accomplish that. But if you’re not going to be honest or play religious games, don’t waste your time praying.
Prayer is a Waste If You Aren’t Listening to God
Matthew 6:9 – Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
During the same discussion about prayer, Jesus also gave His disciples an important truth about asking for God’s “will to be done”. Essentially, He was telling them to be open to God’s leading when they are praying. Don’t just pray for your agenda, but be willing to get on board with God’s agenda. This, of course, requires being quiet and listening to God during prayer, because if you’re talking you’re not listening. This is often overlooked when we pray because we typically use the “dump and run” approach and ask God for what we want and then we are done. As a result, prayer becomes a one-way conversation, rather than a back and forth time with the Lord, and we aren’t listening to what He wants to teach us.
When you stop and think about prayer, it is really for us and not God. Since God is sovereign, He already has a will, He already knows what you’re going through and He doesn’t need you to bring Him up to speed. But for us, we don’t know God’s will, we don’t know the next steps to take, we don’t know what he wants to teach us. Therefore, it’s critical we are listening when we pray in order to learn, grow, and gain wisdom. Some of the Apostle Paul’s most powerful growth moments took place when he was willing to let go of his agenda and hear from the Lord during prayer (c.f. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
So when you pray, don’t waste your time by doing all the talking and asking God to accomplish your will. Instead, ask for His wisdom, understanding, and will to be done and then allow some quiet time for Him to respond. You will be amazed by what He will show you when you are quiet and listen with an open heart (see my blog post, A 3 Step Test to Know God’s Will).
As we conclude, I would like to pray for you….
Lord, I thank you that you are available to every person reading this blog. I thank you that you know everyone who is reading it and what they are going through. Lord, I ask you to prompt them to spend more time in prayer and that it would be an honest time resulting in deeper devotion and intimacy with You. Lord, please help us all to be patient, quiet, and willing to listen to what you want to teach us in order to do your will. Lord, speak to us now and we wait upon you now…
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