Prayer is at the centre of Christian life and Christ’s instructions include healthy practical examples of how to pray. We can understand the ineffectiveness of our prayers by comparing them with Messianic instruction. The preliminary survey is disturbing.
What do we say?
We are familiar with repetitious, lengthy, and improperly addressed prayers, and these seem to be the standard. It is rare for a prayer to have the kind of effectiveness that is anticipated by the writers of the New Testament.
Personal prayer, addressed in Matthew 6:5-6, is decidedly a private, Father-directed endeavour. When an individual prays he should not imitate the hypocrites who are essentially performing for human observers.
The instruction directed to all the disciples discourages empty repetitions and imitation of the heathen (vs. 7).
In the actual content of the prayer our Lord expects the prayer to be collectively based. The Lord expected us to pray mindful of the common Father, the common bread, the common debts, the common protection from the risks of temptation, and the common rescue from evil.
The Father’s Realm
It will be evident that most (public) prayers turn intensely personal and even inappropriately private even though apostolic instructions, such as Paul’s, call for recognition of our community.
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; (1 Timothy 2:1) For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (1 Timothy 2:2)
The Church is in grave danger of majoring in minors when it comes to prayers. Prayers quickly degenerate into exorcisms, decrees and emotion-eliciting cliches and misapplication of Scripture. The hindrances that show up in our prayer life ought to be addressed m in our daily life.
When you pray, are you self-centred? Do you prepare lengthy preambles to establish your authority in the spiritual realm? Do you claim to be other than what you really are; a person with human passions and reverence for the Father in heaven? Is Father-God just another “friend”?