This article was inspired by my friend and brother in Christ who posts articles at For Freedom – Galatians 5:1.
In a recent post, he offered some insights on prayer. I left the following comment:
One of my pet peeves are those repetitious corporate prayers that are recited in many evangelical churches. For example:
“Lord, we just want to thank you for (long pause), Lord, this opportunity, Lord, to worship you, Lord. And, Lord, (very long pause) we thank you, God, for blessing us, Lord, with every good blessing.”
After a minute or so your mind starts to wander, and you’re thinking about lunch. Imagine if people spoke like this in normal conversation:
“Michael, I really enjoyed this article. You made really good points, Michael. I think, Michael, you’re a great writer.”
People don’t talk like this! Most corporate prayer I hear is so awkward. I think this is what Jesus meant by vain repetition — speaking just to be heard, but with nothing to say.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words (Matthew 6:7).
Ellicott suggested that modern prayer has become mechanical — lacking emotion. Compare the standard church service prayer with Yeshua’s prayer on the Mount of Olives:
And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44 ).
I hear so many prayers that are devoid of any thought or feeling. They’re nothing more than a robotic recitation as if the speaker has given no thought as to what they might say. Then there are the speakers who have something to pray, but they repeat it a dozen different ways. After the second reprise I start to get droopy.
The greatest prayer ever spoken was the petition offered by Jesus Christ atop the Mount of Olives, but who among us has ever prayed with such emotion that we sweated blood?
Reynolds begins his book with Hannah’s prayer. If you’ll recall, Hannah was barren and this caused her extreme grief and distress. She prayed for years that the LORD might bless her with children. I said, she prayed for years. How many of us pray once and when nothing happens we conclude one of the following?
God doesn’t hear my prayer.
God doesn’t answer prayer.
God said no to my prayer.
The Lord doesn’t work according to our timetable. Abraham and Sarah were promised a son, but it was 25 years before Isaac was born. We have to understand that God is not constrained, but sees the bigger picture. Why didn’t Messiah enter our world after the Fall? Why were God’s people enslaved in Egypt for 440 years? Why has the Lord delayed his second coming?
Hannah’s long story short was that she finally reached an emotional break point, and poured out her heart to the LORD. Eli, the high priest, thought she was drunk, but Hannah answered:
No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation (1 Samuel 1:15-16 ).
Within a year, Hannah gave birth to Samuel — one of the greatest figures in the Bible. As evidence that the LORD always provides more than we may ask, Hannah delivered five more children.
We cannot worship the LORD nor offer prayers in vanity, unbelief or with an unclean heart and expect that God will receive them.
There is so much more to say about this, but I wanted to share with you the story of Benjamin Reynolds. He was afflicted with ulcerative colitis. One day his wife found him unconscious on the bathroom floor. He was held lifeless in her arms as she prayed to God to save her husband.
His was an out-of-body experience so dramatic and detailed that it is difficult to dismiss. Yet, we believe Ezekiel’s testimony of being carried up into the inner court of heaven (Ezekiel 8:3, Ezekiel 11:24, Ezekiel 43:5), or Paul’s testimony of being caught up in the third heaven after he was stoned and left for dead (2 Corinthians 12:2), or even John in his vision of the Apocalypse (Revelation 4:2).
I strongly recommend that you read Benjamin’s testimony. Due to Fair Use copyright laws I am not permitted to post his story here, but he recounts it in the preface of the book which can be viewed in preview format on Amazon. (Simply click on Look Inside on the product image.) I sincerely hope that you take a few minutes and read this brother’s compelling story of how prayer healed his body and saved his life. It’s truly amazing. I know you will be blessed.
Book Review: The Ten Greatest Prayers in the Bible by Benjamin Reynolds.
The book received outstanding reviews on Amazon (93% 4-stars or above). There were only a few 3-stars, and none lower. One of the 3-star reviews noted the poor editing, but they recommended the book as a “tremendous tool”. If you view the author’s bio you’ll see that he is rather accomplished and well-educated.
The book was poorly edited as if it had not even been proofread. However, I agree with the reviews that it is a useful tool if for no other reason than it encourages discussion, promotes Bible study and highlights the importance of prayer. For me, the Table of Contents is valuable as the starting point for further group study. The ten prayers are useful examples of how we should pray individually and as a body.
I posted the link to the free online version of the book. You don’t have to sign-up, and may close the box that asks you to log in. As a group study tool the book may inspire a deeper appreciation for the necessity of prayer.
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