How NOT to Pray


For those of us that grew up in a Christian home, we were taught to start our prayers with “Dear God” and finish them with “Amen,” sandwiching words of thanksgiving, concerns, and requests for guidance or help. Did you know Jesus made it clear that there are some ways we are NOT to pray?

God does not expect us to be perfect to come to him in prayer, but he does expect us to be honest. Prayer should be the place where we meet God honestly and openly. The Bible tells us that the prayers that God does not accept are the prayers of hypocrisy.

4 Traps That Are Killing Your Prayer Life

1. Prayers That Are Spoken to Pat Ourselves on the Back (Luke 18:9–14).

“Dear Lord, thank you that I was more gracious to my son’s teacher than the other parents…”

“God, thank you that I’m not like my coworker who’s constantly looking for approval…”

Or the example straight out of the Bible:

“God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”—Luke 18:11

2. Prayers That Are Prayed All the While Ignoring God’s Instructions (Psalm 66:18–20).

God cares about whether we are following him and how we are treating others, rather than if we are simply “going through the motions” of prayer. Those prayers end up being empty and hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable. —Proverbs 28:9

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.—Hosea 6:6

3. Prayers That Are For Selfish Reasons

God knows all desires and no secret is hidden from him. Real prayer is an attitude of the heart (1 Thess. 5:16–18).

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.—James 4:2–3

4. Prayers That Are Long and Loud to Get Attention and Admiration from Other People

‘Nuff said.

When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!—Matthew 6:5–8 NLT

Also see Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47.

This month we’re dedicated to studying and reflecting on prayer because of National Prayer Day! Don’t miss our other posts on:

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