Useless Prayers

Prayer. As Christians, it is something we practice, something we believe in, something that has great power. We pray because we know that God hears our prayers and wants to answer them. Prayer unlocks potential. Anyone who knows me, knows that I believe in and practice prayer. When someone asks me to pray for them it is my practice to lift up a prayer immediately.  Yet, all too frequently, our prayers become mindless incantations devoid of power and purpose.  I submit to you that there are at least four kinds of useless prayers. 

The first useless prayer is a prayer for God’s presence. In Hebrews 13:5 we read (NIV) “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Forsake means to renounce or give something up.  God has promised He will always be there for us, He will not give up on us. So it is useless to pray for God to be with us – he is already here.  

Instead of praying for His presence we should be praying for an awareness of His presence.  As someone once said, “If God seems far away, guess who moved.” God is always present. What is needed is an awareness in our lives that He is there. We are human. That means we are not perfect, so there will be times in our lives when God seems distant. But He is always there, always for us.

The second useless prayer is a prayer for mercy.  This prayer implies that God may or may not want to give mercy. But He has bestowed abundant mercy on us through Jesus Christ. What greater mercy than the laying down of a life for me? 

We should pray, instead for a removal of the barriers that keep us from fully experiencing God’s mercy. Michael W. Smith sings a song “Lord Have Mercy,” which would seem to negate my argument.  But as we examine the words, the song is a plea that God remove the barriers to us receiving God’s mercy:

 Jesus, I’ve forgotten the words that You have spoken

Promises that burned within my heart have now grown dim

With a doubting heart I follow the paths of earthly wisdom.

Forgive me for my unbelief

Renew the fire again

I have built an altar where I worship things of men

I have taken journeys that have drawn me far from You

Now I am returning to Your mercies ever flowing

Pardon my transgressions

Help me love You again.

Lord have mercy

Christ have mercy

Lord have mercy on me.

The third useless prayer is one petitioning God to give us peace. In John 14:27, Jesus is giving the disciples His “farewell” speech. He states (NIV) “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” God has granted us peace. Similar to not feeling God’s presence, we don’t feel His peace when obstacles get in our way of feeling God’s special, perfect peace. 

The fourth useless prayer is one that we have the means within us to answer that prayer. Prayer is not only a means of asking God to act, it is also a means of asking God to give us opportunities to act. Prayer is the first step, but it is not the final step. We pray as we move into action. It is somewhat like the parable of the rich young ruler. He came to Jesus seeking eternal life. You might say he was praying about it. Jesus told him what needed to be done. Verse 22 of Matthew 19 is probably one of the saddest verses in the Bible. (NIV) “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” He asked Jesus for eternal life but was unwilling to take the steps necessary to achieve it. 

© Can Stock Photo / secheltgirl

Published by John Stancil

John Stancil is a retired college professor and CPA living in Lakeland FL. John has always been active in his church, fulfilling a variety of roles. He has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, usually faith-based. He has remarried after being a widower for a number of years. He and Heather are blessed with numerous children, grandchildren, and a great granddaughter. Writing has always been a passion of his and he was widely published in professional accounting journals. He’s frequently written other types of articles primarily about his faith. John is a big sports fan, especially hockey, baseball, and soccer. He enjoys a wide variety of concerts and music as well as live theater. He is an avid reader. He holds a Doctor of Business Administration degree from the University of Memphis, an MBA from the University of Georgia, and a BS in Accounting from Mars Hill University. John also loves to travel, either exploring Florida, visiting parts of the USA, or taking a cruise. John grew up in Asheville, NC and has lived in Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, and now Florida. Several years ago he traveled to Ghana on a mission trip to distribute 4,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: