How Not to Pray


When the disciples asked Jesus “teach us how to pray,” their question revealed what was important to them. Prayer is vital our spiritual life. Prayer is the means of tearing down strongholds.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”  2 Corinthians 10:4

Your enemy, Satan, wants to keep you from praying because he knows that he is powerless against the prayers of God’s people. We learned last week that when we pray, we establish God’s kingdom over our needs, and where God’s kingdom is, He has full authority.

  • Pray when you get up in the morning.
  • Pray during your commute to work.
  • Pray when needs arise.
  • Pray on your commute home from work.
  • Pray!
  • No prayer is ever wasted.

The efficacy of prayer is not in how we pray but in whom we pray too. This is clearly illustrated when Elijah challenges 450 Prophets of Baal. The winner of this contest is defined by whose God responds to the prayer of calling down fire.

1 Kings 18 says that the prophets of Baal pray to their god, but he does not answer. Elijah suggests that they pray louder because maybe their god is asleep or on vacation or using the restroom (no joke). So they yell louder but still no answer.

There’s nothing wrong loud prayers. Passion in prayer is a good thing, but that’s not the reason God answers prayer. Your prayers are effective because you’ve been clothed with Jesus’ righteousness upon salvation and the prayers of a righteous man or woman are effective James 5:16.

In Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6, He gives us two things to avoid that could hinder or discourage prayer.

Three times Jesus says, “When you pray,” verses 5,6,7. What Jesus is saying is, “Christians pray.”

Prayer is communicating with God and communication is crucial to any relationship.

When communication ceases, there is going to be a breakdown in that relationship. The more you speak with someone the stronger that relationship becomes.

The first instruction about how not to prayer revolves around pride. The hypocrites, which is code for Pharisees, are called out for their public displays of piety. Prayer was an event for them to demonstrate how holy and better they were than everyone else.

Confidence and pride are not the same thing.

In context of prayer, confidence is approaching God because you’ve been given permission. Pride assumes that my self-importance is why I can approach God. Pride neutralizes faith.

This is why we address God in prayer as “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” That word “hallowed” means holy, and it carries the idea of honoring God. This reminds us that we are praying to a Holy God and that our prayers should honor God.

The Pharisees were praying to magnify their self-proclaimed awesomeness and Jesus said, “they have received their reward.” They exchanged divine provision for human approval.

The second instruction Jesus gives on how not to pray is using empty phrases.

The words translated as “empty phrases” comes from the Greek word “Battelogeo” which means babbling, wordiness, much talk without content, useless speaking without distinct expression of purpose.

God is not interested in liturgical repetition that can be said without any meaning or purpose. Prayer should be purposeful, focused and direct. If you find your mind wandering in prayer or reciting canned phrases, then enter prayer with a list and be direct.

Wordy prayers are not effective prayers.

God isn’t in heaven watching your word count, waiting for you to hit that magical number before He answers your prayers. Praying for extended periods of time is not a bad thing but if our extended periods of time is the result of repeating our prayers over and over, God heard you the first time.

In fact, Jesus goes on to say, “for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8 Let’s think about that statement for a moment. This statement gives us two profound truths about God and prayer.

#1 God is intimately involved in your life.

Our needs can deceive us into thinking that God has abandoned us. This couldn’t be further from the truth. He is fully aware of your circumstances and situations.

#2 Prayer is not informing God but involving God in our life.

When life, hard times and circumstances attempt to isolate and separate you from God, prayer brings you right back to God. It keeps God intimately involved in the matters of your life. This truth redeems every difficulty that causes you to pray by knowing that God is involved.

The context in this lesson in prayer is focus.

  • Focus on God, not others.
  • Focus on praying and not being wordy.

The efficacy of prayer is not in our style of prayer but by faith in and the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Pray confidently and most importantly, pray!

2 thoughts on “How Not to Pray

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