Like Jesus, I am no stranger to confrontation. In fact, in this ongoing revolution called “being a Christian in an anti-Christ world”, confrontation should be a daily occurrence – not with unbelievers (Jesus didn’t bother them) but with those who say they know God yet by their words and actions prove otherwise.
Enter Exhibit A: “Prayer warriors”. Never mind the stupidity of the phrase; let’s look at what these self-hyped “warriors” think they’re accomplishing.
First of all, prayer warriors like to tell you that they’re prayer warriors. They also usually include a side remark about how they’re fasting as well, and they prefer to pray in groups, out loud. Secondly (and perhaps more importantly), prayer warriors prefer to recite litany after litany of pre-packaged sentiments which they call “prayers”. Sometimes they repeat the same set prose over and over again, and sometimes they have a collection of “prayers” that they recite one after the other.
Let’s see what Jesus has to say about this.
Jesus said that when we pray, we’re to go into our closets and pray privately and “in secret”, meaning that no-one should know what we’re praying about let alone that we’re praying. Prayer is an intensely private communication with God in which we both speak to him and hear from him. Third parties don’t need to listen in (and you know how stilted your conversations get when you think a third party is listening in). Again, third parties are not required. Prayer should be between you and God only.
When Jesus did pray out loud in the presence of other people, like just before Lazarus was raised or at the Last Supper, he did so as a form of education for those listening. He didn’t pray to be heard by the people but to teach the people – mainly, to teach them that he was the Messiah.
In fact, Jesus warned us not to be like the hypocrites who make a big show of praying. He said that they like to be seen and heard praying in public and that they have their reward, meaning that their reward is simply to be seen and heard and thought “pious” of those who don’t know God.
As for what kinds of “prayers” prayer warriors tend to favour, the tendency is to recite pre-packaged litanies of petitions over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Jesus dismissed this form of verbal spewing as “vain repetitions” and was very clear that God didn’t hear such petitions. Being persistent in prayer is not the same as being repetitious. There’s a huge difference. The woman who hounded the judge eventually got her wish not because she asked him the same thing over and over, but because she reminded him again and again what it was that she wanted. She pestered him until he gave in.
Vain repetitions (that is, pre-packaged verses like the “Our Father” or “Hail Mary” or any of the other literally millions of mostly badly written prose pieces that are meant to be recited verbatim) make God’s eyes glaze over and then he starts to nod off (just kidding!). God doesn’t recognize vain repetitions as prayers. Prayers are simply talking to God as you would to anyone you loved and respected. Talking and listening to him. Telling him what’s on your mind and what’s important to you. Jesus said that God hears us anyway, without our having to say a word, but talking to him cements the deal. It indicates that THIS is what we want and that we’re giving God – of our own free will – full permission to intervene on our behalf.
Prayer is like signing our will on the dotted line, that’s why it’s so important that you tell God what is on your mind – not just to think it, but to say it (silently or otherwise, but alone).
I love talking to God. I could talk to him all day and all night (if I didn’t have to sleep), but I don’t think of myself as a prayer warrior. Like Jesus, if I see something that needs attending to, I’ll talk to God about it, maybe bug him about it a bit. Otherwise, I just hang with him or, as Paul so eloquently put it, “pray always”.
When it comes to prayer, don’t be like the prayer warrior hypocrites; be like Jesus.