Broken in Prayer

We are broken before God in the area of prayer. Sure, we often say, “I’ll pray for you” or “I need to pray about that,” but do we really do it? I’ve had times in life where I don’t intentionally make sure I pray for that other person or that situation. My guess is you’ve done that too.

Two passages relating to this are what we refer to as the Lord’s Prayer, in Matthew 6:9-15 and Luke 11:1-4. In the Luke passage, it starts with one of Jesus’s disciples asking Him to teach them how to pray. Does Jesus say, “I’ll pray about that for you” and leave? No! Right then and there He prays and teaches them this model. It’s a model for our own prayers too. We acknowledge who God is, we desire His will in our lives, we request His continued provision, and we ask for forgiveness and the strength to forgive others.

In John 11:38-44, we see the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus didn’t simply tell Mary and Martha He was sorry for their loss and leave, but He prayed right then and there and took action to raise Lazarus from the grave. While that capability of raising the dead may not apply to our lives, praying right then and there for a friend in need will have a powerful outcome.

I often have the opportunity to do pulpit supply at various churches (both CGGC and other denominations), and one thing that seems pretty consistent is that very few people are excited to pray aloud in front of others. (We had a joke in a small group I attended that when it was time for prayer, the ceiling and floor suddenly got interesting to look at!) Jesus does instruct us in Matthew 6:5-8, right before the Lord’s Prayer, that we not pray to be seen, but when our intentions are pure, communal prayer is a powerful thing. Praying in agreement with one another strengthens our prayers and our bond as a community of believers.

Often, we pray simply out of obligation. “Well, I told her I’d pray for her, so I’d better do it.” While the action is there, the posture of our heart isn’t right. Right before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He prayed, “I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:42).

We pray so that God may be glorified, whether that results in a miraculous healing or in a lack of healing that may lead another to faith in Christ.

Pray with me (yes, right now):

God, I pray that your Spirit would help me overcome any fears and hesitations I have regarding prayer. I thank you for being a gracious God who wants to hear from His children and that You will always listen to me. I pray that you would guide my heart to be excited to pray in accordance with Your will. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

9 thoughts on “Broken in Prayer

  1. Katie – Thank you for your post engaging us on this important subject. I’ll begin by agreeing with you that in many places and many times, we (including me) have not prayed readily, faithfully or passionately.

    On the subject of ‘broken in prayer,’ another aspect that we’ve probably all heard regularly and perhaps thought ourselves relates to what we spend the bulk of our time praying for. There is, of course, nothing wrong with praying for one another’s physical healing, but one is fair in questioning if this should be the primary thrust of our prayer ‘concerns.’ It wasn’t in the modeled ‘Lord’s Prayer’ that you refer to in your post.

    In the last year in particular, I’ve been struck by both the recorded prayers of Jesus and Paul. The majority of Paul’s Letters to churches have rich and deep examples of prayer.

    A single example among many:

    “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 4:17-19

    One of our priorities in prayer should be for spiritual growth, but it seems often lacking in the contexts I’ve been in.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful post!

    1. Dan, I agree that prayers for spiritual growth are often lacking in our supplications. I think the reason I pray often for things in my world is that my world is all I see. Part of my discipleship is growing to see what God sees and values. I find it interesting that there isn’t a record of Paul, who suffered much physically for the Gospel, calling for prayer for himself for healing. The prayers of others for him are certainly valid and I have no doubt the body prayed for Paul. You wrote, “There is, of course, nothing wrong with praying for one another’s physical healing, but one is fair in questioning if this should be the primary thrust of our prayer ‘concerns.’ ” and I agree that it is a valid question. I would dare say, most of our prayers in the West deal with physical things. Beyond “Spiritual Growth”, I would like to know from you and others, what should be included in our prayers that is likely missing, considering our current culture and context?

  2. Katie,
    Thanks for an excellent article on prayer. I, too, have spoken a commitment to pray for someone and somehow missed speaking the actual prayer. Repentance is certainly the correct category for this.

    In my view, prayer is one of our most potent resources in our spiritual battle, and yet it is often misunderstood and definitely underused. Your insight got me thinking about the difference between spoken and unspoken prayers. I often encounter believers who are reticent to speak prayers aloud. I think a part of that fear is the idea that others might be judging our prayer, like the judges at a sporting event, scoring the skill and eloquence of one’s prayer. In my view, whether we fear being judged, or if we indeed have been the judge of another’s prayer, we bear fault and need to repent. I would be interested to know what others see as hindrances to today’s believers praying out loud.

    I will say, I think it is important to pray out loud. You identified John 11:42, where Jesus specifically states he is praying out loud so his prayers are not just part of his knowledge, but they will be known to those around him as well.

    So I have questions; What do others see as hindrances to praying aloud? Is it even important to pray aloud and if so, why? If we have not been engaging in prayer in the right way – what do we need to do to move ahead? Surely repentance involves more than just being sorry, right?

    1. This might come across like an odd comment in the context of becoming more faithful in prayer: Maybe we should be much slower in verbalizing that we will pray for people when they express a challenging life circumstance.

      It’s not the direct application perhaps, but I think of Jesus’ admonition to ‘let your yes be yes.’ If we say that we’ll pray, perhaps as a matter of habit, but then we don’t, we are not true to our word.

      Maybe it would be better to either pray with someone then, which this original post points to, or only later tell a person that you’ve prayed for them if you already have.

      Even more, when we say, ‘I’ll be praying for you,’ we indicate a consistent prayer intention. Perhaps, I’ve been praying for you (if you have) would be preferable.

      Also, I’m fascinated that when Paul wrote letters, he not only told that churches that he had been regularly praying for them, he told them what he was praying for them.

      This has me thinking, perhaps we people should know not just that we have or will pray, but what we are praying. If we pray with them, that’s the best and they obviously know. If it doesn’t work out OR we aren’t comfortable in that situation (which is a good discussion itself) tell the person what we’ve been asking God as we pray.

      Just a thought. A thought that I’ve not considered as deeply before. AND I’m feeling personal conviction to back it up. So, thank you Katie and Mike for engaging on this!

      1. Dan,

        I was thinking about writing an article on this, but I think it will work better as a comment here. I was teaching recently about some of the gifts listed in Romans 12. The thought occurred to me, I cannot recall any place in scripture where prayer is listed as a gift. I asked why, and a seasoned believer said, “because it should be a natural part of BEING a believer”. In other words, it should just be a part of who we are in Jesus. All places and circumstances are appropriate for prayer, just as all places are appropriate for breathing and heartbeats.

        My prayer isn’t like that yet. I don’t have a prayer discipline that keeps me communicating and listening to my heavenly Father on a constant basis. But this concept does help me to understand Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing”.

        Someone in the group noted, “it takes work to pray”. I tend to agree, but now I would say, “it takes energy”, just like breathing and pumping blood. Prayer should come naturally. I am asking the Father to move me toward the state of prayer that is as natural as breathing.

    2. Mike, you ask what hinders us from praying out loud? That is an interesting question and I wonder if it is not somehow cultural. My mother was around 64 years old before she prayed out loud in a prayer meeting. A devout prayer warrior, she just was not comfortable with “out loud” praying. Surely, she lifted up her boys in her closet, or I would not be here. But she did not speak aloud in public. For mother, it was the not measuring up to “those eloquent prayers” and to a certain extent it was considered the clergy’s place. Moses, Exodus 4:10, and Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:6, two pillars of Scripture, thought they did not measure up either, so we are all in good company. “O” may we repent if our eloquent prayer holds just one back from expressing her heart to the Lord in praise or petition!
      I say what hinders is cultural because here on the Nation, when we pray, we all pray out loud. It sounds like the floor on the New York stock exchange, therefore one prayer is not distinguishable from another. We cannot tell if one is eloquent or not! It took some time to get accustomed to, but it is somehow more uplifting now, at least for me. Yes, I think it is cultural training and how each fellowship handles it. As a side note, several years ago, one of our people at Hooghan Nizhoni noted that the visiting ministry teams did not pray with the congregation out loud or go to the prayer rail. She said, “don’t bellagonnas (white people) pray”? I said, “Of course they do, they just pray differently than we do”.

    3. Mike,
      If I am going to repent of something, that means I am going to turn around on the path I am on. I will go the other way and that means a change! If I am no longer going to do “that”, do I stop on the path? NO! Hopefully, I will not be accused of sounding too Catholic by brushing alongside penance, but if I stop “that” then I must do “this”. In fact, I believe Jesus spoke to this in Matthew 12:43-45.
      Yes, Mike repentance is more than saying “I’m sorry”. We can’t just stop on the path, we must turn and move toward that which is right, good, and just!

  3. My heart weeps upon reading these two entries on prayer in this repentance series for they speak of my travels. I have many years as a Christian but few having that desire of prayer. We are called to prayer. (1st Thessalonians 5:17) We all know this, however, many of us don’t do it. Well said Katie! We must pray on the spot, in the market place, at the grocery, the state park, and in the closet.

    Likewise, why do we pray so fervently for temporal things; finances, healing, or safety and are so reserved about those things that are permanent like salvation, growing in our understanding of the Word, and, yes, repentance?

    I have learned the value of “anticipatory prayer”. How many times do we pray for our children when they are having trouble in their marriage or with the law? Let us pray for them before the trouble! We need to pray; for our children and grand-children in grade school to grow into a committed walk with the Messiah, about future spouses today, for a career that brings honor to the Father.

    I regret to convey that it took this long, but in the last decade I have come to appreciate prayer! The Navaho have taught me that; we pray in the supermarket, in the bank, on the street. Every service is a prayer service! Prayer is powerful here on the Nation.

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