No matter how many times we say “please”.
No matter how much faith we have.
No matter how hard we pray.
God doesn’t do stupid things.
But he never does stupid things.
I’ve come to believe that the main reason for my unanswered prayers is that I keep praying stupid prayers, asking God to do stupid things.
Yes, I can hear some of your objections already. “There are no stupid prayers!” Yes, there are. I know. I’ve prayed some.
In fact, Jesus introduced the Lord’s Prayer by telling the disciples not to pray stupid prayers like the hypocrites and pagans do.
People regularly ask God for stupid things.
- “Help me win the lottery”
- “Bring my cheating boyfriend back to me”
- “Help me lose weight while I eat whatever I want and never exercise”
- “Bless me now, even though I’ve been ignoring you for years”
- “Make me smart enough to pass the test I didn’t study for”
- “Give me a bigger ministry than the church down the street”
Then we get mad when God says “no” to our stupid prayers. Sincere, but stupid.
Start With Pre-Approved Prayers
The point of salvation is not just to give us a get-out-of-hell-free card. It’s so that we can enter into a real, ongoing, loving relationship with Jesus.
And the point of ministry is not to have a job that pays the bills and gets us pats on the back. It’s to lead others into an ongoing, loving relationship with Jesus. The best way to do that is by being a living example of how to have that relationship.
Relationships need regular communication. Prayer does that for our relationship with Jesus. But I’ve never met anyone who said they were completely happy with their prayer life. Including pastors.
Prayer may be the most overlooked aspect of Christian life and pastoral ministry. Even though we know it’s the most important.
We need to become better pray-ers. But how?
The best way to get better at something is to start with the easy parts. But are there easy parts to prayer? Yes, there are. Start with prayers God has already said he’ll answer.
Take a look at the Lord’s Prayer, for example. What if we practiced being better pray-ers by praying…
- That his kingdom would take greater hold in our hearts
- That his will would be done in me, like it is in heaven
- That he would supply our needs for today
- That he would forgive us as much as we’ve forgiven others
- That he would lead us away from the things that tempt us the most
- That he would keep evil away from our heart’s door
- That he would be honored and glorified above all
Those are prayers God will never say “no” to.
Plus, when those prayers are answered, they help us become better pray-ers about other things, too. Smart prayers have nothing to do with smooth words. They’re the ones that change our hearts to become more like Jesus.
Pastors Pray Stupid Prayers, Too
Pastors are not immune to praying stupid prayers. Starting with me. My story in The Grasshopper Myth is evidence of that.
What if, instead of praying for more, more, more, we prayed using these biblical prayers?
- That Jesus would build his church (even if it doesn’t put butts in my church seats)
- That God would bless every church in our community – not just ours
- That the body of Christ would be unified
- That we would be better examples by living what we preach
The Father Knows Best
We’re not alone in our struggles with stupid prayers.
Even late into his mature life and ministry, the Apostle Paul struggled with this problem. He prayed over and over that God would remove something he called a “thorn in the flesh”, but God said “no”. Why? To keep Paul “from becoming conceited.”
Paul had to learn what we all have to learn. God knows what we need, even when it isn’t what we want. Paul came to realize that God’s way of keeping him humble mattered more than his comfort.
Paul also advised the Christians in Rome on this matter. When “we do not know what we ought to pray,” he advised them to lean on the Holy Spirit. Because, in those situations, “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26)
But perhaps the best defense against stupid prayers may have come, not surprisingly, from the only person who never had a stupid thought or uttered a stupid word, let alone offered a stupid prayer.
When Jesus was pleading for his life in the Garden of Gethsemane, he ended with words we would all do well to remember.
Those aren’t just words to tack onto a prayer. They should be our lifestyle.
So what do you think? Have you ever caught yourself praying stupid prayers?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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