How not to pray

We sometimes wonder how we should pray. Jesus’ disciples had the same question. In teaching them how to pray, He also pointed out how they should not pray. So, clearly this is also important in developing our own prayer life. In the next few paragraphs we will explore some of these Biblical guidelines on prayer.


DO NOT PRAY to be seen by others
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Matthew 6:5.

Heavenly Father, when I come to your throne of grace, help me focus on You and my relationship with you alone.  Forgive me for times when I wanted to impress others by my praying. May my prayers be in the secret place of intimacy with You – my reward is from You. Pleasing You is my only desire.


DO NOT PRAY with spiritual pride
“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9 – 14.

Holy Spirit, show me any pride in my heart, even in my prayers. Forgive me Lord. Only by Your grace is it possible for me to do my Father’s will. I humble myself before You now. By Your grace You made me who I am (1 Corinthians 15:10a).


DO NOT PRAY with many empty words
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:7.

Thank you Father that you look into my heart when I pray, therefore I do not have to use many words. Holy Spirit, may the words of my mouth be acceptable in prayer, however simple they may be (Psalm 19:14).


DO NOT PRAY losing heart
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart. Luke 18:1.

Lord Jesus, Your example and parables encourage us to never lose heart, but persevere in prayer. Strengthen me in my prayer life to be strong, consistent and persevering.


DO NOT PRAY blessing God and cursing men

But no man can tame the tongue… With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. James 3:8a,9-10.

My God and Father, fill my heart with Your presence and Your Word so that praise and blessing to You will pour from my tongue. And let my love for others be as for myself, that I may bless them and never use my words as instruments of unrighteousness to curse others.


DO NOT PRAY with wrong motives

[Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures. James 4:3 – AMPC.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for expecting you to answer the prayers I pray with selfish desires. Scripture is clear that I am to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, and You will meet all my needs. Help me to be content with what I have (Hebrews 13:5).


DO NOT PRAY with doubt

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. James 1:6-7.

Lord Jesus, You said that we should not doubt when we pray, but ask in faith (Mark 11:22-23). Faith pleases You (Hebrews 11:6). Forgive me for the countless times I have prayed with doubt and unbelief, thus not receiving. Holy Spirit, fill my heart with faith to know that when I ask according to my Father’s will, I will receive what I ask in prayer (1 John 5:14).


Prepare your heart

The above pointers help us to pray in a way pleasing to the Lord – with faith, with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:4a), and according to His will (1 John 5:14). Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to quiet your heart and listen to His voice, to pray prayers that are pleasing to Him.

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