The sermon yesterday morning dealt with mistakes we sometimes make in prayer. You can listen to it here.
Prayer is an important part of the Christian life. It is a discipline that can not only bring us closer TO God but one that brings us closer to being LIKE God. Still, being human, there are times that we may pray in a way that is not appropriate. Sometimes it happens in our own weakness, other times, in our zeal for good things to happen. In no particular order, here are four mistakes we should avoid in prayer.
First, praying for our own selfish motivated reasons. In James 4:1-6, James chastises those who fight because they don’t receive, says they don’t receive because they don’t ask and then even when they ask…they don’t receive because they ask with wrong motives to spend it on their own lusts. Why would a Christian pray that God let him win the lottery when there is no reason a Christian should be gambling in the first place? Yes, we can ask for things we want but we need to check our motives. God is not mocked.
Second, we may ask that God intervene in the free will of another. God, who wants all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4), is able to ‘force’ us to do His will but He created us in His image and gave us the opportunity to choose good or evil.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,
So, in our desire to have others become Christians, praying that God would make this child or friend a Christian is something God won’t do against that individual’s will. A better prayer would be that God would guide/lead us to be sure that we do not put a stumbling block in the life of any individual. Still, be careful, God won’t make YOU do good either!
Third, we sometimes put God into our own conception of what He needs to do or not do. It goes like this “God, if you don’t want me to do this, then stop me!” (see the point on free will above) or “God, if you will do….XYZ by tomorrow at 2pm then I will know that you want me to do this or that”
You might say that Gideon (Judges 6) did this so “Why can’t I?” While it is true that God did respond to Gideon’s request to verify the message given to him by an angel, I would suggest that we would do better if we stopped trying to be Gideons and simply asked God for wisdom in the choices we are going to make, something He promises to give us. (james 1:5) And if God does send an angel to tell you that you take on a particular task, then maybe at that time, you might ask for an appropriate sign for verification.
Fourth, we can use prayer as a substitute for other spiritual activities. There is a time for prayer and there is a time for action. Jesus says that those who hear his words and DO them will be blessed. (Matthew 7:24-25) There are times when we need to get off our knees and do what is set before us to do.
This is especially true when it comes to studying the Scriptures. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by God’s word, not by pray. (Rom 10:17) When the Bereans wanted to verify Paul’s message of Jesus being the Christ, they did not pray to God about it, they searched the Scriptures. (Acts 17:11)
I have made some of these mistakes in my prayer life and I imagine you may have too but if we can recognize these mistakes, we can avoid them.