THREE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT PRAYER
The term misconception can be defined as, “a view or opinion that is incorrect because based on faulty thinking or understanding.” (Oxford) Sometimes, a believer can be limited by false beliefs that stem from misunderstandings about spiritual things. Here are three misconceptions that can hold people back from stepping more fully into a rich and fulfilling prayer life.
Misconception One: Prayer Requires a Special Calling
One wrong belief that some Christians have about prayer is that it is reserved for people whom they would label as prayer warriors. This term was coined in the church as a way to describe people who have a strong passion for prayer and intercession. It is the label many use for those who seem to really connect with God and see things happen through prayer. While I do believe there are people who engage in prayer with an exceptional dedication and grace, you will not find the term prayer warrior in the Bible. Instead, Scripture provides us with the stories of people from all walks of life who prayed. In addition, the Bible allows us to see the answers that came as a result of their prayers. The Scriptures do not place the emphasis on a special class of people with an anointing to pray, but rather reveal the power of the God who answers the prayers of His people.The Scriptures do not place the emphasis on a special class of people with an anointing to pray, but rather reveal the power of the God who answers the prayers of His people. Click To Tweet
I am not suggesting that we need to do away with the term prayer warrior. But we need to be careful when using labels like these that we do not take the focus from God and put it onto people. I appreciate the people in my life who come to mind when I think about the characteristics of prayer warriors. If I really need people to pray, these are the first people I will specifically ask to intercede for me. But I am not asking them because I somehow believe their prayers are more potent than any other believer’s prayers, but due to the fact that I know they will stop everything, and actually take the time to pray.
Could it be that those we would deem as prayer warriors have simply learned how to persevere in prayer in a way that others have not? Could it be that we all have the same potential to tap into the power of prayer in a significant way? If prayer is a calling, then we would be right to assume that only the called ones should really expect to see results. But if it is an activity that every believer has the responsibility and privilege to take part in, then we have no excuse for an inconsistent, powerless prayer life.
Misconception Two: Prayer is a Formula
Another common misconception is that prayer is merely some kind of formula. The thinking goes like this: “If I repeat these specific words, in this certain way, God will hear me and will respond.” Some use recited prayers, such as the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6:9-13 and assume that they are connecting with God when they repeat the words. After all, Jesus taught us to pray that way, didn’t He? They reason that simply speaking the words of a prayer equates with praying.
Others consider a prayer of repentance (often referred to as the sinner’s prayer) to be an immediate entrance into Heaven, whether the person praying really means the words they are repeating or not. It is almost as if speaking the words out loud is some kind of a magic formula. Often, people are told in churches, “If you just repeated that prayer, you are now saved.” But is salvation not a much deeper work in a person’s life than simply repeating words from a preacher’s lips? Any time we treat prayer as a formula that guarantees results, we are missing the whole point.
Prayer—like the other spiritual disciplines—tends to become a lifeless ritual when taken out of the context of relationship with the Lord. Jesus references this in Matthew 6:7 when He talks about people who babble like pagans while they pray. He describes people who think that God is going to listen just because of the many words they speak. But simply reciting prayers without a true heart connection with the Lord is meaningless. It is like the man who gets into an argument with his wife and then apologizes, even though he has absolutely no remorse over his part of the dispute. He can say, “I’m sorry” all day long, but the words are empty if not expressed from his heart.
Prayer is meant to be a conversation. If my eight-year-old came home from school every day and simply repeated a script she had memorized about how her day went, I would be concerned. It would make me wonder how much she really cared about letting me into her life if she was not even going to share anything with me from her heart. It is the same in our prayer lives when we treat prayer as a formula. The Lord is not looking for good reciters or performers, but children who want to connect with their Father.The Lord is not looking for good reciters or performers, but children who want to connect with their Father. Click To Tweet
Misconception Three: Prayer Makes us Right with God
Some Christians fall into the trap of viewing prayer as something you do just to “check it off the list.” When this happens, prayer becomes rote exercise, rather than a time to be enjoyed with the Lord. All of us can fall into this trap. The issue is one of motive. When you begin to approach prayer outside of the context of pursuing relationship with God, it will only be a matter of time before you will begin to dread it.
Prayer is not a practice that makes us right with God. He does not demand that we pray in order to earn His love or favor. He already proved His unconditional love for us at the cross. He favors us because we are His children. Any attempt on our part to try to gain what has already been granted to us falls in the category of dead, legalistic religion. Legalism will suck the life out of our prayer times and drain our spiritual vitality.
However, there is a balance we need to strike in this discussion because it is obvious that we should pray and that prayer needs to be a priority in our lives. But if prayer does not make us right with God, what is the point? We do not pray to become something we are not, rather we pray because of what God has already done in our lives.
If we view prayer as some way to get leverage with the Lord or appease His anger, it is no wonder our prayer lives lack passion. But when we pray because we have been brought into a wonderful relationship with God, the equation changes drastically. From that perspective, prayer provides us a chance to seek the Lord’s face, grow in our knowledge of Him, and connect with His Spirit.Prayer provides us a chance to seek the Lord’s face, grow in our knowledge of Him, and connect with His Spirit. Click To Tweet
If someone claims to be saved, and yet has no prayer life, there is something wrong. Prayer is the natural outflow of a healthy relationship with God. But we need to approach it in the right way as He designed it to be.
The answer to all three of these misconceptions is a reminder that the primary purpose of prayer is to commune with the Lord. If prayer is all about getting to know our Father more, than it is not relegated to a certain class of people in the church, but to all of His children. When you approach prayer with a desire to build intimacy, you will realize it is so much more than reciting routine formulas. And when you see prayer as a chance to seek the Lord, rather than merely obedience to a demanding God, it will become a joy.
You can pray all day and all night until you are blue in the face, but if it is not from a place of connection and relationship with the Lord, you have accomplished nothing. However, when God’s children cry out to Him from sincere hearts connected to His, amazing things happen. Let us enter into our prayer closets with a fresh desire to know Him more fully!
DUSTIN RENZ is the President of Make Way Ministries, a non-profit organization that exists to see the world changed one Christian at a time. He has a passion to see the Body of Christ find rich intimacy in their relationship with Jesus and step out in faith to share the Gospel with the world around them. He is the author of Pile of Masks: Exposing Christian Hypocrisy and Something Better. He resides in Dayton, Ohio with his wife and three daughters.