Sitting in a church worship service as a guest, I was not surprised at the prayers being lifted up. In all honesty, the same prayers were being lifted in churches all across our nation. Being blessed to be a guest in several different churches each year, I hear the same prayers are voiced in almost every evangelical church each week. I am talking about denominations that do not have liturgical prayers quoted in each service. At these churches, at the time of receiving the offering, whoever is praying is likely going to voice, “Bless the gift and the giver…” At the close of the service, you will hear, “Put a hedge of protection around us.” Or “Keep us until we meet again…”
Not that any of these are bad or unbiblical prayers. They are rote. Most of our prayers are rote, even in church services. We are praying what we have heard others pray for years. I was at lunch one Sunday after visiting a church, with a man, his wife, and college-age son. The father asked his son to bless the food. After some awkward hesitation, the son voiced this prayer; “God is good, God is great, thank you for our food. Amen.” Had this been a four-year-old child, I would have been impressed. But this was a 21–22-year-old college student. Though apparently raised in church no one had taught him to pray beyond a preschool prayer.
I know, it is easy to fall into this trap praying rote prayers that we hear and voice on a regular schedule. We are praying from the head when God’s desire is for us to speak from the heart. We have become experts at praying from the head and not from a heart seeking God’s face. Jesus gave us what is referred to as the sample prayer, The Lord’s Prayer. I believe we should pray the Lord’s Prayer, among others. I also believe Jesus was trying to teach us to pray from the heart, not memorization.
Study the prayers of men and women in the Bible. They are rich and flowing with heartfelt passion. They are speaking to God with a passion or a burden as if kneeling before his very feet, pleading for life. Our prayers should be the same. Yet, we default to some prayer ritual we have heard or have been taught as liturgy. I seldom hear great emotion or passion in prayers, even in church services. Whether it is prayers before meals, at bedtime, in worship services, or other times, many of our prayers are vain attempts at empty rituals as if it were a duty to be filled.
Praying from the heart is simply crying out to God with a deep-seated passion that emanates from deep within your soul. When you long for something so bad that you will do almost anything for it, your passion index has raised almost to the level about which I am speaking. A heartfelt prayer is a yearning so strong that you cannot hesitate in crying out to God.
Will you set aside the regular run-of-the-mill, rote prayers to attempt today to voice your prayer from a pure God-seeking heart? Try to use words and sentences that you have never used in prayer before as you thank, request, and intercede to God.