Do Christians ABUSE Prayer?

Family PrayerI have a problem with and a growing concern about how I see Christians pray. I’ve seen myself and others fall into some bad praying habits….that I label as “Prayer Abuse”.

So, what types of prayers are an abuse of the God pleasing practice of praying to Him? The Answer: Prayers intended for and directed AT those around you, instead of prayers TO God. I’m talking about prayers intended to teach someone a lesson instead of prayers TO God. 

Let me paint a picture of what I’m talking about. As I paint this picture, ask yourself if you have ever fallen into this incredibly bad prayer abuse habit.

You are a parent of little children who have absolutely driven you crazy all day long. They haven’t listened to you. They have been disobedient and disrespectful to you and their siblings. And now it’s time for family Dinner and the family dinner prayer.

It goes something like this: “Dear God, help my children be more respectful. Help them to love one another. Help them to realize that when they treat other people rudely or disrespectfully, they are disobeying you God. God, you command us to love one another, and when we don’t do that, we sin. God, please help my kids be more loving. Amen!”

What I’ve witnessed in group prayer situations is all too often a speech, chastisement,  or teaching session directed at the listeners instead of a prayer focused on  and to God

Or consider this family prayer : “God, we are going to see the grandparents today and I pray that you help my children be loving and respectful to them. Help them to put down their iphones and to give their grandparents the attention they deserve. And when I drive, I get very distracted by all the noise from the kids. And so God, please help my kids to keep it down in the back while I’m driving so we don’t have an accident. God I pray for safe travels. Amen!”

Now, on the surface, these might seem like reasonable “intercessory” prayers. And if you were in a private place praying  just between you and God, I would say it would be perfectly fine. However, what I’ve witnessed in group prayer situations is all too often a speech, chastisement,  or teaching session directed at the listeners instead of a prayer focused on  and to God.

I think this is an abuse of prayer and I think it needs to stop. I’ve caught myself doing this with my kids, and I’ve got to stop too. I’m guilty of this abuse and as I work to eliminate this bad habit, I’m encouraging you to join me in praying more appropriately.

When we pray, let us pray TO God, and FOR God…not as a way of teaching or disciplining our kids. If you want to say those prayers to help your kids…great. Just do them in private as a conversation between you and God. If you want to teach your kids a lesson, have a conversation with them about the issue you are trying to correct. If you want some effective prayer on the issue, talk with your children and suggest THEY pray to God about their behavior, ask forgiveness, and ask God to help them.

So, who can join me in admitting that we sometimes abuse prayer in this way? Who will join me in resolving to stop praying this way?

If you do, leave a comment and also share how this might change the way you pray with your families.

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  1. Heidi Viars says

    ouch… yes… this is convicting… there are times I like others to see how much I know when I pray … thank you for pointing this out.. how quickly our pride comes in … rather than the humility with which we ought to come before our Holy God… unfortunately, I needed this reminder today how does that change the way I pray with my family? … maybe let God do the work in thouse around me, rather than me showing how much I know, and trying to manipulate behavior… I think He is better at it than I after all.

  2. blew says

    Nope, don’t see it this way at all. I think God can catch what’s being tossed in these types of prayers. I don’t see God limited or boxed in and accepting only certain types of prayer. Seems a bit like a Pharisee approach. I would hope God would allow me all types of praying to include teaching prayer for my children. It would need to be balanced in that I should also teach my children a deep respectful God-centered type as well.

  3. JR says

    I think I see what you mean…that if we are praying out loud with a group, we are not to be “passive aggressive” and call someone out on the carpet when we are praying. So here’s an example: If I am at my women’s group and we are praying out loud in turn, I shouldn’t say “O dearest God, please help our friend *princess* who is here with us right now, she needs your help in controlling her loud mouth. Also, I forgive her for being a total jerk.” Yeah, I think Jesus talked about that when he discussed if you have a grievance with someone. Instead of taking them to court, meet with them beforehand and rectify your grievance with them privately. In the case of your examples, instead of praying out loud to God in front of the kids in a passive-aggressive manner…the parent should instead confront the children about their behavior and correct it. A good rule of thumb is…would you pray that way in front of your boss? LOL Probably not, unless you wanted to get fired!

      • Gaynell Moore says

        Amen I see it going on even when people sometime pray in church. They will walk the floor praying hints about another individual, and assume they are praying to God.Really infact I believe its a communication problem with them and the other person.

  4. Liz says

    I read the article and was reminded of a Keith Green song-“Asleep in the Light” “Bless me Lord! Bless me Lord! You know It’s all I ever hear, No one aches, no one hurts no one even cries one tear, but He cries, He weeps He pleads and he cares for you needs –you just sit back and keep soaking it in-Can’t you see it;s such sin?” The song goes on but I am ashamed to say that until recently that I treated my Lord and Saviour like a ‘gumball machine” . Expecting Him to ‘despence” at my whim. It took a bout with cancer and some real soul searching for me to re-learn about prayer. I want to have His heart when I pray–not another ‘laundry list”.

  5. Larry says

    God is not fooled. He knows when we are sincere and when we’re not. He knows when we seek only His will by His method on His schedule and when we are saying, “MY will be done…” The author makes a good point. Some prayers are best said when we’re alone. We should lift up our Father, and glorify Him, not shame our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and/or our families.

  6. alan says

    Good article. . . prayer can be abused like anything else that God provides for our good when we use them in the flesh. As you have pointed out on your site, the Bible is abused when we pound on others for something we don’t like about them, all the while blind to our own failings. But prayer can be good. . . anytime I’m praying with others whose hearts are set on God, and their prayers are from their spirit and not their flesh, there is this blessed time of communion with God together. And the most amazing thing can happen. . . someone will pray, and someone else will take up that request and reinforce or enlarge it, and then someone else agrees and prays the same request and prayer time becomes the most living thing. . . a true fellowship where life in Christ together is so much better and more than walking alone. There is also the great side benefit afterwards of answered prayer. When God has answered your prayers for others, and released, healed, delivered and saved them in all the many ways God can, there is no greater joy than that shared joy with others who have been praying for that one as well. I have had the repeated joy over the years when receiving news of some brother or sister who was restored to their family or released from prison or from their sentence early, of calling and emailing others who have been praying as well. Praying for others, and bearing them up in prayer, always comes with the blessing spiritually that God is pleased. . .that in a real way, we are one.

    • alan says

      Should have added at the outset that in prayer meetings I have fumbled in the flesh badly and often, with the result always that the prayer had no life and sunk as soon as it left my mouth. It is probably the main reason why I hated going to prayer meetings. . . no life in things. But those failures were also the impetus to seek and find what is true and vital and real that is possible and available in Christ.

  7. João de Deus Brasil says

    I couldn’t agree more with you. Praying is an encounter with God; it’s a moment of deep communion between you and the Father, so it can’t be wasted as a teaching or disciplining instant in your family life. Very well-said!

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