It is possible to pray wrong. If you've ever heard someone pray over 3 minutes before a family dinner, you know this is true. Prayer may seem like a matter where any attempt is a good attempt, but the words of Jesus indicate differently. Since prayer is a vital component for a Christian's faith, it scares me that we might be praying wrong. Thankfully, Jesus gives clear direction on how we ought and ought not to pray.
1. Do not pray to be seen by others
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret." (Matthew 6:5)
An indicator of praying wrong like this is if your most intimate and passionate prayers are in front of others. If you are praying on stage, in groups or in front of people more than you pray in secret, you may have fallen into this trap--praying to look good in front of people. Staying faithful and intimate with the LORD in secrecy does not bring the accolades of praying in front of hundreds or thousands of people. Nobody will compliment you as the "Man of God" or be moved by your display of reverence.
Your balance between praying in public and praying in secret reveals your true motives. Resist the temptation to make your faith about what happens in public.
2. Do not heap up empty phrases
"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. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6)
I often see people praying out of fear. Cowering, muttering words under breath, and having little confidence their prayers are making any difference in the heart of God. Because of this, people attempt to find prayer loopholes or passwords (the right words or techniques) to unlock the heart of God. People may feel confidence in praying a certain way, rocking back and forth, raising a voice, or declaring certain Christian buzz words. Please consider that sounding and looking powerful in prayer does not guarantee you are praying powerfully.
1 John 5:14 says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us."
God isn't moved by our efforts. God is moved by His love. We aren't heard in prayer because we say impressive amounts of the right words, but because Jesus has connected us to the Father. His love us made the way for us to connect with Him boldly. An indicator you've fallen in this trap is if you perceive others to be less effective in prayer because they aren't using your certain technique. Display your heart to God, not your techniques.
Jesus is very clear on how we ought not to pray. Avoid these traps by making connecting with God your priority--not looking good in front of people, or impressing God with our efforts.
Next week, I will showcase the instructions Jesus gives us on how we ought to pray.
Question: Are you praying more in front of people or in secret?