Sometimes that word can be a source of great hope. Like when you post something online about a tragedy in your life and you come back 15 minutes later to see 30 comments with one simple word.
It can make you feel good. But does it actually do any good? In a lot of cases, the answer is no. But that’s not because God doesn’t care or he doesn’t have the power to change something. It’s because sometimes the one true God who is in Sovereign control of the universe isn’t the one who is being prayed to.
Sometimes the god who exists only to meet our needs and to make us feel better about ourselves is being prayed to.
Dear friendly, nameless being,
Make my name great.
Do everything you can to promote my kingdom and to see that my will is done, both here and in eternity. My wish is your command.
Don’t just settle for giving me what I need today. Give me more than I need. Give me everything that I want.
Forgive me for whatever generic, harmless sins that other people may have caused me to commit. And forgive those people if you want but I’m not going to.
I can handle temptation on my own. I control my own destiny. Evil can’t touch me if I surround myself with enough positive and encouraging goodness. When it comes to evil, assuming that evil even exists, I’ve got this. Devote your energy to someone else because I’m good.
Sometimes it’s the fundamentalist god who only answers to lofty sounding religious lingo that is being prayed to.
Dearest father who dwelleth in the most high heavens,
I am praying this prayer now in hopes that people will see me making thou name sound great while at the same time adding a little popularity boost to mine.
May your kingdom advance against all of the other kingdoms of this world (except for my own) and may your will be done in my home as well as in Washington D.C. Who cares about the neighbors?
Givest thou me the daily portion that you see fit. I am your humble servant. Christian breath mints will suffice (not really but that’s what I want my prayer audience to think so feel free to give me a bunch of stuff).
Forgive us for our many sins of which I will not be naming mine here in front of everyone in fear that such specificity might not make my name sound as great as I would like for it to. Also, forgive those who have failed to live up to my standards for them. Thank you that I am not like them.
Thank you that temptation isn’t a problem for me. I haven’t committed a serious sin in well over 20 years. But others haven’t gotten to where I am. Deliver them from evil.
And sometimes people are just praying to their buddy, homeboy or boyfriend.
Dear Invisible Peer,
Fix stuff, give me stuff and take bad stuff away. Also, help me to get married before the rapture happens.
There is another way. The Jesus way. He took the time to teach his disciples how to pray, not so that we would follow that prayer word for word every time we pray but so that we would have a clear picture of what prayer is really all about. Here’s a hint. It’s not as much about us as we’d like to think. Instead, it’s about a holy God who likes to hear from his people. Prayer isn’t a tool that spiritual people use in an attempt to get God to change his mind. Prayer is a discipline of spiritually broken people who want God to change their heart. Here’s what Jesus’ example looks like.
“Pray then like this:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'”Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)
But Jesus didn’t leave us with just a guideline. He also gave us the Holy Spirit because, no matter how spiritual you are or how long you’ve been in church or how often you pray, you still really don’t know what you’re doing. Neither do I. But the Spirit is there to help.
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. Romans 8:26 (ESV)
What a picture. Our best efforts at prayer, just like our best efforts at most anything else, fall short. But the Spirit takes those broken prayers to the Father with passion and in a language too deep for us to understand. Prayer is far more powerful than you think.
It’s good to know that people care enough to do that for you.
It’s even better when you know that they are praying to their Father in heaven with the assistance of the Holy Spirit instead of to some fake deity just so they can sound more spiritual.
The good news doesn’t stop there.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:34 (ESV)
Jesus didn’t stop working on your behalf when he rose from the grave. He is still approaching the Father on your behalf. Christian, you are being prayed for and it is someone far more important than your parents or pastor who is doing the praying.
You may feel alone. It may seem as though no one cares. Perhaps God seems distant. But if you asked Jesus what he is doing for you right now, he would give you a one word answer.