Is the majority of prayer that you hear serious prayer or simply the repeating of well-worn prayer phrases and ideas? Are pray-ers giving serious thought to the wording of their prayers? For instance, if you are talking with me you don’t need to use my name at the beginning and end of every sentence. So why do pray-ers use God’s name in this fashion? Again, how much of modern prayer could be classified as “vain repetition” (Matthew 6:7) like that used by the heathen in Jesus’ day? “Asking God to “lead, guide, and direct” seems to be asking the same thing three times. “Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies” is a bit repetitious. If God blesses the food, it will in turn, nourish the body. Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today. . .” God has already requested that of you in His Word. Little need for repeating. It makes one wonder if those praying are actually talking with God or with their fellow worshippers. Theologian and author, Theodore Jennings wrote, “People learn to be atheists not from too much contact with the world, but from too much contact with the church. No number of closely reasoned proofs for the existence of God will ever overcome the impression gained Sunday after Sunday that our prayers are addressed to ourselves.” Peter encouraged the seriousness of our prayer by writing, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (I Peter 4:7). If we really believed, and lived as though the end was at hand, what difference would it make in our prayers?
Dr. Dan Crawford, Senior Professor at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, is the WestCoast Baptist Association’s Spiritual Life & Leadership Mentor. Follow Dan on Twitter @DrDanRC and Facebook www.facebook.com/dan.crawford.