The Problem with Prayer

Some may take issue with what I am about to say, I realize that, but as the saying, “The proof is in the pudding,” goes, the results bear it out.  Many say, “Prayer works,” but, sadly, many who say that have low “results” from their prayers.  Many make that statement, but the percentage of the time that what they pray actually comes to pass is very, very low.  I have often wondered if those who make that statement do so in an attempt to convince themselves.  There is a problem with prayer and that problem sits squarely in the common approach and view of prayer.

And, honestly, it is because of this big problem that when people on Facebook request immediate prayers for something or someone, I do not participate.  I will not use prayer to find out what God wants to do nor will I use it in a way that reveals the truly common attitude and approach to prayer, which is treating God like the genie in the lamp.  When prayer is done in the common attitude and approach, it is filled with the person’s desires and wants, not God’s will.  And it may sound harsh, but when, on Facebook, people ask for others to start praying for this person and/or situation, that’s typically exactly what that person wants – prayers filled with his/her desired outcome.

(The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of Graham Cooke’s “booklet” on prayer, titled “Crafted Prayer.”  You can find the e-book here.  It costs $5.)

“And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive,” Jesus preached in Matthew 21:22.  Why, then, do we seemingly receive so few answers to prayer today?  Was Jesus lying to us?  Of course not!  The issue, then, must be our own – we must not believe what we are praying.  Prayer, as it is taught today in most churches, doesn’t work.  Most of us have been brought up in a tradition that when something bad happens, prayer must begin immediately.  This seems reasonable and even righteous, but on a deeper level, it actually hinders the power of God to work on our behalf.  In my experience in churches and friendships, I have seen that when we pray too soon, we usually pray in unbelief.  We find ourselves praying out of the shock or trauma of the situation itself, and we pray out of our panic, our worry, our anxiety, and our concern.

For example, a church member is diagnosed with a serious illness.  Immediately, our compassion rises up and we burst into prayer.  We use a shotgun approach, spraying heaven with every imaginable request.  “Well, Father, I pray this,” we start.  Then another thought enters into our mind, so we switch tracks: “Oh, Father, I pray that.”  Doubt attacks us and our prayer shifts again.  “Well, Lord, if it by Your will, I pray this,” and “Father, I pray that you might want to think about doing this.”  Our love for the person prompts us to remind God of how valuable he or she is to Him: “Well, Lord, you know he is a faithful servant.”  God now has to sift through a blizzard of prayer thrown up within a few minutes, a storm further thickened if there is more than one intercessor.  You can forgive God for sitting there and thinking, “What is this?  Multiple choice?”

Sadly, our prayers have stopped being about the person in need, and have become our effort to try and find God.  We have forgotten to pray what God actually wants to do, and have begun our own search for Him.  We shouldn’t be using prayer to find God; that’s what thanksgiving is for.  The Bible is clear: it’s not with prayer that we enter His gates, it’s with thanksgiving.

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