“One of the first necessities of prayer is to get rid of “prayerless praying”. Prayerless praying is often beautiful in words and in execution; it has the drapery of prayer in rich and costly form, but it lacks the soul of praying. It has been said that prayerless praying is a heartless performance, a senseless routine, a dead habit, a hasty, careless performance. It has no life, gives no life, is dead, and breathes out death... Prayerless praying is insincere. It has no honesty in heart. We name in words what we do not want in heart.” On Prayer, E.M. Bounds
Have you ever heard of prayerless praying? Sounds like a contradiction in terms – something that shouldn’t exist...like foodless eating, or waterless showering. PrayING requires prayER; so how can there be prayerLESS praying?
We may not know what it means, but I’ll bet when you read that opening paragraph, you knew exactly what I was talking about. That’s because we do it all the time. In fact, I’d venture to say that if we’re honest, more of our prayers are actually prayer-LESS than they are prayer-FUL.
Would you agree?
Prayerless praying means going through the motions and that’s it. It means standing up to pray because I know I’m supposed to, but not because I really want to or have anything meaningful to say. It means praying to be heard by others, not God. As Bounds wrote, it means “namingin words what we do not want in heart.”
For example, how often do we pray “thy will be done” without even thinking about what we’re saying? Do we really want God’s will? Or are we just saying “thy will be done” while thinking “this is what I want God and You better not take it away from me.”
That’s prayerless praying.
How often do we stand in prayer meetings and instead of praying to our Father in heaven, we spend the entire time wondering what we’re going to say when it’s our turn? “Oh! I got a great idea, I’ll say ____ when I pray and that will sound great and that’s really what everyone else in this room needs to hear.”
That’s prayerless praying.
How often do we say “Lord have mercy” or “forgive us our trespasses” or “lead us not into temptation” without any real desire or plan to leave our life of sin?
As Bounds wrote, that kind of prayer “has no life, gives no life, is dead and breathes out death.” Sound familiar? Unfortunately, for me, I have to say YES.
At STSA, we’ve declared the month of June to be our “month of prayer.” We’re dedicating the entire month to praying specifically for the mission of our church and the members of our church family. And we kicked off the month of prayer by having prayer groups meeting every night this week – in homes all over the DC/Arlington/NoVA area.
And so far they’ve been great! Just what the doctor ordered. I’ve attended three already this week and headed to another one tonight. There’s nothing that feels more “right” for a church to be doing than meeting in homes and PRAYING all throughout the week! That’s what being part of the church is all about.
And one of the reasons that we’ve had such great prayer meetings is because we’ve started each meeting with a short meditation/discussion on exactly this topic: PRAYERLESS PRAYING.
We remind ourselves that what we say doesn’t matter... that we aren’t getting a grade for our prayer and there are no judges scoring us on how well we said it. True prayer should be aimed at an audience of only One...that is GOD!
We remind ourselves that the criteria for God to accept our prayer isn’t the length or the eloquence or the amount of verses quoted in the prayer... it’s the SINCERITY of the prayer. The only prayer that is unacceptable before God is insincere one.
And finally, we remind ourselves that true prayer – sincere, heartfelt, prayerFUL prayer – does BIG THINGS! It’s how mountains get moved and seas get split. It’s how sick are healed and dead are raised. Its how God works in this world to accomplish His good and perfect will in the lives of His children.
In the same book, E.M. Bounds also wrote:
“Real prayer helps God and man. God’s kingdom is advanced by it. The greatest good comes to man by it. Prayer can do ANYTHING that God can do. The pity is that we do not believe this as we ought and we do not put it to the test.”
On Monday night, during the first prayer group meeting, someone said “Ten years from now, I think we’ll look back at June 2015 and see that the future of the church was changed during this month.”
Amen! I COULDN’T AGREE MORE! Now let’s get to praying!