This month on Live It Out with Jennifer Booth, we are talking about how to develop the discipline of prayer. In last week’s episode, we discussed four verses that helped us see what is required for prayer. I’ll link that episode below so you can check it out if you haven’t had a chance to listen yet.
Today, I want to bust some myths about prayers. If you’re like me, you probably hold certain beliefs regarding prayer. Those beliefs are often shaped by what we’ve been taught in church, by our parents, or by other believers. Sometimes, though, our beliefs are shaped by our assumptions of how things should be.
When it comes to learning how to develop the discipline of prayer, we’ve got to understand what prayer is all about and how we are to pray. And to do that, we will need to lay our presuppositions aside and turn to the Bible for an accurate picture of what prayer is and what it looks like in our daily lives.
One of the best places I know to study prayer is found in Matthew 6. In this episode, I will use verses 5-8 to bust three myths about prayer. In next week’s episode, we will use the Lord’s Prayer as our starting point for practical ways to pray. And you can find the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.
Busting Myths About Prayer
Myth #1 is we have to pray with fancy or flowery words aloud for God to hear us. That is not the case at all. This is what Matthew 6:5-6 say, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
These verses are part of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. He shows that those who pray in public to be showy are just doing it for their glory, not God’s. Most likely, the hypocrites he was referring to were the religious leaders or those prominent in local religious circles. That means they would know the language that was maybe more formal or flowery than the common person of that day. So when they prayed in front of everyone, they did it for show.
Jesus instructs us to come before God with humble hearts and not to impress others who may see or hear us praying. This doesn’t mean we can’t pray out loud. It’s more of a matter of the heart than the words we use or the volume of our voices.
Myth #2 is if we pray long enough, God will answer our prayers. Matthew 6:7-8 says, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
These empty phrases Jesus talks about amount to babbling. This doesn’t mean that God won’t hear our longer prayers. But it does mean that He will hear and answer any length of prayer. Sometimes we don’t even know what to pray for, so we have to rely on the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26 tells us, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Think about times when you needed to offer up a quick prayer for a situation. A couple of weeks ago, my city was hit by a tornado. While watching the live TV coverage and listening to tornado sirens blaring outside my house, I prayed fervently that the tornado would not impact my family nor cause a significant impact on my community. The tornado did a lot of damage but praise God, no one in my city died.
So take heart. If you are in a season where time is short for prayer, use the time you have. I’ve found that when I keep a list of prayer concerns, ways to praise God, and scriptures to pray back to God, I can stay more focused on prayer in the time I have available.
Myth #3 is you have to pray at a certain time of day. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.” Yes, it’s great to start your day with prayer. But I think communicating with God throughout our day in prayer is even more impactful in living out our faith. I think I mentioned this in last week’s episode, where I reminded you that this does not mean we go around with our heads bowed and eyes closed all day. It does mean acknowledging His presence in our lives and lifting up our concerns or questions to Him as they come about during the day.
I’m sharing these myths and their corresponding truths because I know you may be like me, where you’ve heard all your life that you should get up early in the morning to pray and start your day. And that you should spend at least 30 minutes to an hour for it to count. I hope no one has told you that. But as I said earlier, sometimes we can see examples of what other believers do regarding prayer and think that is what we should do.
Just like anything else in life, our prayer life will look different depending on our season of life. If you have small kids, you know that your time is limited. So I encourage you to find something that fits into your life right now. Even if it is just praying before you hop out of bed in the morning. You may be in a season where you have time to pray and study God’s Word. Take advantage of that time because you may enter another season of life sooner than expected, which may restrict your time.