What’s in a prayer?

I’m no expert in prayer. I’ve certainly tried to make it into something more complicated than it should be plenty of times. Lately I’m trying to really concentrate on allowing prayer to simply be a connecting time with God. No rules, no formulas . . . and no pretenses and no platitudes.

I joined a prayer meeting earlier this week, and as we prayed together, a sadness fell over me. The realization that we don’t know how to pray struck me. The act seems so simple, and yet to truly set aside ourselves in order to approach the throne and converse with him in relationship comes with such difficulty.

On top of that, corporate prayer offers us a unique opportunity to connect with each other as we, together, connect with God. But I think we miss out on that opportunity to connect, instead using that “air time” to do other things. Consider the last corporate prayer time you attended. Did anyone . . .

  • Gossip about what’s going on in someone else’s life under the guise of sharing prayer requests?
  • Give a lengthy report during prayer of what’s going on in his or her life and bookend it with Christiany prayer words?
  • Use a “confession” time as a time to share surface level issues passed off as deep struggles?
  • Praising and thanking God only for what he has done for him or her, not just for who he is?
  • Use a time of thanksgiving as a time to brag about all of his or her “blessings”?
  • Preach an entire sermon, complete with points of application?
  • Spent more time asking for things, rather than praising him and simply trying to connect with him?

I mean, imagine if you have the same conversation with a close friend who knows what’s going on in your life. What would it look like? Would it be filled with talking about yourself, what you want, and asking for stuff? As I’ve talked about my struggle with self-centeredness, I see it bleed over into this part of my life too. I want to set aside  myself so I can truly connect with him through prayer.

Are you sad, Lord, about the way we pray? Do you long for more from us? Do you see the missed opportunities to connect with us or for us to connect with each other? Help us to see prayer differently. Teach us how to pray.

If you were God listening to your prayers, would you be satisfied with the conversation?



  1. Excellent points! The ladies at my church are currently doing a study on prayer with the book “The Prayer of Jesus” by Ken Hemphill. This past week we discussed praying for others and the meaning of “Our Father…” To accomplish this, we each wrote a prayer request on a 3X5 card and then we took one home to pray on this week. I thought this was a good way for us to get in the habit of praying for others.

  2. Sadly, I have heard that this is common and it is heartbreaking. The last prayer group that I was part of was small, just me and two of my best friends. We prayed each morning at 5 am and it was truly an anointed time. We prayed for each other and so many others and we watched as God moved in mighty ways. Yet, as you mentioned in my own prayer time, I find that I am sometimes asking forgiveness for focusing on me, me, me. I am continually thankful that God does not require our perfection only our submitted hearts. Thank you for this wonderful post!

  3. Imagine my delight when I first attended my church’s midweek prayer meeting, and discovered that the regular pattern here was to spend 5 to 10 minutes talking with each other about how we were going to pray, and the rest of the hour was… just praying! No music time, no loooooong testimonies, no preaching… just praying.

  4. spaghettipie

    KT – I love those tangible take-aways. I’ll have to check out the book.
    KS – So glad you stopped by. I was a part of a similar prayer group to what you described. It was an amazing and refreshing time. We often prayed on our knees or prostrate on the floor (however you felt you needed to be), and the sense conveyed simply by my posture translated into my words and my attitude in prayer.
    C – Sounds like you guys have the right priority. I often marvel at how we spend 30 minutes “taking prayer requests” and then close out with a quick prayer because that’s all the time we have left.
    G – When I stop to think about my prayer time, I realize how many “rules” I’ve imposed upon myself. Ack!
    N – I’m so glad you stopped by, and it was fun to see you at the zoo today.

  5. Doubt it.
    Love that you wrote about this. I am sure I have been guilty of all of the above. I certainly recognize it in others because I see it in myself. I am enjoying Prayer by Yancey. He leaves no stone uncovered.

  6. spaghettipie

    K – I’ll have to check out the Yancey book; I haven’t read it. I’m guilty of it all the time, but I’m trying to improve!

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