Notions About Prayer


E HEAR A LOT about prayer, but not everything we hear is true. Let’s unmask some prayer fallacies.

A single prayer gets you into heaven. At a funeral I recently attended, the preacher said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person or a bad person. All that matters is if your name is on the roll.” In other words, as long as you’ve said a prayer asking Jesus into your heart somewhere along the way, you are eternally secure.

While salvation takes place when we confess Jesus’ lordship from a heart of faith (Rom. 10:9), this prayer should only be the beginning of our relationship with the Lord. Christians in the first church “devoted themselves . . . to prayer” (Acts 2:42 NLT), and so must we.

We must somehow convince God to be good to us. Because of our imperfections, we might think God is out to get us rather than bless us. While we are not deserving of His blessings, if we “have been adopted into the very family circle of God [we] can say with a full heart, ‘Father . . . my Father’” (Rom. 8:15 Phillips). And Jesus said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt. 7:11).

Prayer means talking. Do you know someone who will talk nonstop about his or her concerns . . . stop to take a breath when you say something . . . and then restart the monologue? If so, perhaps you have a clue about how God feels when someone offers only one-sided prayers to Him.

The priest Eli taught the boy Samuel to pray, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:9 NASB). The boy did listen . . . and the Lord did speak (vv. 10-14).

If you pray for something more than once, you are showing a lack of faith. That’s not Biblical. Jesus encouraged His children to persist in prayer, saying, “Don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke 18:6 NLT).

Don’t bother God with trivial issues; only take big concerns to Him. When we consider God “holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains” (Ps. 95:4 NLT), we realize even our grandest concerns are tiny to Him. Yet we are told, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

The most important aspect of prayer is developing an intimate relationship with God.

The same God who miraculously fed a multitude (Ex. 16:11-12) also supernaturally provided food for a widow and her son (1 Kings 17:13-16).

If God doesn’t grant my request, there must be something wrong with me. There are various reasons God might not answer the way we desire. After praying three times for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” Paul realized God would not take away this weakness. It’s not that something was wrong with Paul; instead, the thorn remained to keep him from wrongly relying on his own strength more than he relied on the Lord (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

Sometimes God says “no” because He realizes a “yes” would weaken us.

If I don’t feel anything when I pray, I’m wasting my time. The Bible is filled with “by faith” statements, but there is not a single “by feeling” promise. By faith we are “purified” (Acts 15:9), “sanctified” (26:18), and “justified” (Rom. 5:1); by faith we “stand” (11:20), “walk” (2 Cor. 5:7), “live” (Gal. 2:20), and are “kept” (1 Peter 1:5). When we approach God in prayer, we must “believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him,” no matter how we feel (Heb. 11:6 NKJV).

Since God knows everything, there’s no point in praying. While we can never tell God anything He does not already know, the most important aspect of prayer is developing an intimate relationship with Him. Through prayer, we worship Him, thank Him, confess our sins to Him, declare our dependence on Him, receive strength from Him, influence the world for Christ, and gain guidance for our lives.

Billy Graham said:

Pray because Christ died to give us access to the Father.

Pray because God is worthy of our praise.

Pray because we need His forgiveness, cleansing, guidance, and protection.

Pray because others need our prayers.