Many mistakenly believe that there is no wrong way to pray. Yet, while it is true that there are no strict rules about prayer, the Bible provides patterns of good prayers, but it also tells us about ways of praying that we must avoid at all costs. James 4:3 also tells us that it is possible to “pray badly”, which is why our prayers are not answered! Here then are 2 attitudes of prayer against which the Lord Jesus himself warns us!
One of the most important teachings that Christ offered us by coming to earth is his instructions as to how we should pray. Thanks to the model of the “Our Father” in Matthew 6, we know how to pray effectively. Interestingly, it was the disciples themselves who asked Jesus to teach them. Luke 11:1 tells us that these came to Him and asked Him to show them clearly how they should pray. Jesus answered them in the negative by explaining to them not how to pray, but how NOT to pray.
The first bad attitude of prayer is hypocritical prayer
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to pray standing in synagogues and on street corners, to be seen by men. (Matthew 6:5)
The first attitude of prayer that Jesus points out is the prayer of hypocrites. Jesus condemns all forms of hypocrisy, but here he is talking about a very specific public hypocrisy: the willingness to pray not for God but for men. Jesus explains the motive of these hypocrites: they like to stand and pray in synagogues and on street corners, in order to be seen by others.
Historically, Jesus was referring to the ostentatious prayers of the Pharisees, but this warning applies to us as well. You and we can easily succumb to the temptation to pray in a hypocritical way, to give the impression that our hearts are turned to Christ when what we really want is to attract the attention of men.
Jesus not only teaches what he does not want his disciples to do, but also what they are supposed to do: But when you pray, enter your room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is there in the secret place; and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:6). Having a prayer room or a specific place to pray is a great thing. But here, the teaching of Jesus does not target the place (the bedroom) but the need to be alone.
While it is important to pray in church, with brothers and sisters, in congregations or other communities, it is also very important to have moments of intimacy when we are alone with God. When we pray in isolation, we do so because we seek fellowship with the Father. If you look at the life of Jesus, you will find that he prayed for the crowds surrounded by people, but he also needed to retire to the tops of hills or in the desert to have moments of intimacy with God. , far from the eyes of men. The Father knows what is done in secret and will reward those who pray in secret.
The second bad attitude of prayer is prayer filled with useless talk
The second warning from Jesus concerns prayers filled with fine speeches but made to impress people!
“In praying, do not multiply vain words, like the pagans, who imagine that by dint of words they will be answered. (Matthew 6:7)
God is not impressed by the length of our prayers or the sustained language we use. Yet that is what the pagans believed. They prayed by lining up meaningless sentences and repeating the same meaningless formulas… But, in the same way that we do not like “talkers” and people who like to flaunt their science and knowledge, God does not like either vain demagogic speeches.
We find a similar teaching in 1 Kings 18. The pagan priests prayed repetitively in an effort to attract the attention of their god, to the point where they began to leap in front of the altar. Seeing that their divinity was unresponsive, the prophet Elijah mocked the priests of Baal saying,” Cry aloud, since he is god; he is thinking about something, or he is busy, or he is traveling; maybe he is sleeping, and he will wake up “.
Elijah later demonstrated that God was not impressed with our words. His prayer was simple: Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things by your word! Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that these people may know that it is you, Lord, who are God, and that it is you who turn their hearts back!”. With God, everything is a matter of the heart!
Matthew 6:8 tells us why our long talks are vain in the eyes of the Lord: “Do not be like them because your Father knows what you need, before you ask him”
God knows our needs even before we present them to Him. If we want to have our prayers answered, we must make sure that we never pray according to these two bad patterns! When we come before his throne of grace, we must adopt an attitude of reverence, be sincere, true and complete. We need to pour out our hearts and reveal our desires to Him, knowing that He is able to see deep within us!