Prayer is a significant part of the Christian life. Yesterday I wrote about three myths we often hold regarding prayer. Today I would like to share three more myths that seem to be common in the church.
Myth #4: God knows everything anyway so there is no reason to pray.
Yes, God knows everything, but he still invites us to pray. Matthew 6:8 reminds us that our Father "knows what you need before you ask him." But the very next words out of Jesus’ mouth are, "Pray then like this..." Prayer reminds us of our dependency on God. It enhances our intimacy with God. When we are honest with God in prayer it brings us to a place where we are better able to hear from God. The fact that God knows everything should motivate us to pray, knowing that God already knows our needs and is anxious to answer. Sometimes God is simply waiting for us to ask.
Myth # 5: God is obligated to answer my prayer, especially if it is formulated correctly (e.g. we get someone to "agree" with us in prayer, or we close our prayer saying, "In Jesus name...").
Prayer is not an incantation that God is obligated to answer if we get the formula right. Prayer is heart communication with our Father. Praying in Jesus name has nothing to do with tacking on the words, "In Jesus name, Amen" at the end of our prayers. Getting someone to "agree with us in prayer" is not what Matthew 18:19 is talking about. That passage needs to be understood in the context of the Old Testament principle of two or three witnesses. You don't walk up to someone who knows nothing about a case and say, "I'm going to testify in court today. Will you come and agree with me that what I'm saying is true?" Neither should we ask someone to "agree" with us in prayer. Rather, when two or three people independently sense that God is moving them to pray about something, that is evidence that this is truly from God. They are in agreement and can pray in agreement. If we were somehow able to obligate God to answer in a particular way because we have formulated our prayers correctly then God is no longer sovereign. We become the ones in charge. In that case, God must do what we tell him. He is no longer God, but god.
Myth 6: If prayer is not "answered" it is because you didn’t have enough faith.
Jesus said that faith like a grain of mustard can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). Obviously then the key to answered prayer is not the quantity of faith. A mustard seed is pretty small. The object of our faith is more important than the quantity of our faith. When we are focused on the quantity of our faith, we have faith in our faith. God calls us to have faith in him. Like a good father God knows that sometimes what we ask for is not in our best interest. Like children, we can't always see that, but God knows. God sometimes withholds answers to prayer because he loves us. Unanswered prayer is not necessarily about a lack of faith.
There are many more myths and misunderstandings about prayer that I have heard over the years, but these seem to be most prevalent everywhere I go. By exposing some of this wrong thinking my hope is that we will be more motivated to chase after what prayer is really about. May God truly teach us to pray.