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" Prayer: Motivation? "

This past week the topic of "prayer" was raised from a couple of sources. In one case a subscriber asked a question. In the other case it was a forward of an article by Buddy Smith from Australia.

In the one case the question was asked:

    "Can you tell what you believe can MOTIVATE A CHURCH TO PRAY?"
In the other case, the premise was a question, asked of pastors, college professors, missionaries, mission board of directors, etc:
    "The Question: In your opinion, what is your greatest failing? What aspect of your life as a Christian is most in need of improvement?"

    "The answer: Time and time again, his preacher friends would search the archives of their hearts and then a look of great solemnity would come over their faces. And they would confess their universal failure, "My greatest shortcoming is my prayer life. That is where I am most inconsistent."

To the subscriber I responded with a question: "What is your definition of "prayer"?" And then included this link to the vw website archives on topics related to prayer, many of which include definitions and arguments regarding prayer. [link]

The subscriber replied, asking 'which' of the links would answer the question about "motivation" to prayer. Essentially, asking the original question over again. I thought about essentially repeating my prior question, but then said this:

    "Again, I'll ask: What is -your- definition of prayer?

    "I included the link so you could verify what you mean by "prayer". If you are talking about when the people get together, and they all take turns speaking words, allegedly -to- "God".....I don't have an answer for that. That's why I asked your 'definition' of prayer. If the people truly know and love the Lord, there -is- prayer....by definition."

    They replied: "I'm not really sure. This question was asked of me and I don't attend that church. But I think you just answered that question."

The article by Buddy Smith included all the old tried and true arguments of historic conservative Christianity. Those bewailing when a "prayer meeting" -contains- only 2 minutes of prayer. Those famous all-night prayer meetings, and some wondering "what" they could find to "pray about" that would "take up" all those hours...and then magically coming up with extended "lists" of "things" to pray "about". There was the recounting of the "prayer warriors" that would be "praying" in a basement while the evangelist was preaching to the hundreds/thousands upstairs.

And of course, for these people, the famous passage that is quoted to support their "all-night" concept is Ac12:5, how for the early church prayer was a "priority".

So, let's start there. We have looked at it before...but apparently it is time to do so again now...

    (Side Note: Typically I have usually been in agreement with most things Smith writes, that get forwarded to me, up until now. This topic is an exception. But then I dare say that this topic is an exception compared to what 'most' people hold dear, and many of you likely won't agree with how this continues below, either. But then, many also don't see anything wrong with having crosses as idols (uh..'furniture') in their places of worship, either. This is not a condemnation of Buddy Smith (most notable christian leaders would likely write articles just like his, and probably have); but a look at the common misconception that people, for decades, perhaps centuries?, have been calling "prayer". So please keep your "sound minds" in gear as you continue reading.)

"Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church." (Ac12:5)

They use this verse to support what they do, the way they do it, or bewail the way it isn't being done anymore. But I have suggested in the past that this account actually illustrates the fallacy of what they -call- "prayer".

Remember: Acts is the "Acts [deeds] of the apostles". It is a -history- of what they -did-; right or wrong. It is not a doctrinal treatise, except as it records what the apostles might have preached correctly. Just because they did something in Acts, and they were the first Christians, didn't mean it was right. For us who are Christians today, we don't always do everything right, either. (1Jn1:8)

Jacob says:

    "But let him ask in faith, doubting nothing, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;" (Ja1:6-7)
If prayer is -asking- for something (it's more than that), is this not the premise for "success". (We'll come back to this word in a minute) Faith, trust and confidence... that, what God promises, He is "also able to perform" (Rom4:21) As Jesus would ask, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" (Mt9:28)

OK. So...

Peter is in prison, ready for execution the next day, and "constant prayer" is being made for him. The Lord releases him from prison, and Peter goes and knocks on the door where this prayer meeting is going on, and when Rhoda tells them excitedly that "Peter is at the door!" (vs14), having been engaged in prayer based on faith, they all eagerly went to the door to greet him! Right?

Awe you crazy girl! You don't know what you're talking about! (vs15)

OK. So let's try this again...

So when they finally do go to the door, and see Peter, they are 'thankful' and praising the Lord for "answered prayer"! Right?

No! Amazingly... "They were -AMAZED-" (vs16)

If they were praying, and expecting their prayer to be "effective" (Ja5:16), when Peter appeared...should they not have 'expected' it?? The fact that they were -AMAZED- indicates that 'something' was "wrong" within that account. And you can be sure that the fault was not with the Lord, for rescuing Peter. Nor was it with Peter for following the Lord out of the prison. Nor was Rhoda a "crazy girl"! The only other part of the story is their "prayer" and/or their "faith". And if their faith was faulty...was it even true prayer?

The fact that they were doubting, but the Lord delivered Peter, means that Peter's deliverance did NOT happen -because- they "prayed"...but IN SPITE OF IT! Their prayer had NOTHING TO DO WITH 'effecting' Peter's deliverance. It was the Lord's will for him to be freed, so he could go on and continue preaching....so the Lord did according to His own will and purpose.

    "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, He hears us." (1Jn5:14)
That word: "success". That is what most people consider prayer to be. Pray 'about' or 'for' something, and -see- 'results'. The "POWER OF PRAYER". So-called "christians" parrot the expression, Oprah preaches it, modern medicine allows it as "alternative treatment" on behalf of the sick in the hospital. Something to wield. A tool. That prayer for Peter was NOT "successful". As far as Peter was concerned, they might just as well have NOT been "praying" at all! God, who knew their doubting cynical hearts, was not limited by them!

Sadly, what most people (including a very high percentage of so-called "christians") think is prayer, is nothing more than another form of Babylonish eastern meditation and spiritism. (Please re-read that sentence. Every word is very seriously intentional) Buddhists drone with their voices, TM, Yoga, Hindu, etc., and variations, meditate with "Ohm", or other syllabic vocalizations, charismatics babble incoherently with their mouths, and fundamentalists put 'words' to their vocal utterances punctuating with "Lord, Lord, Lord". But in most cases, they are all equally pagan...and just as equally meaningless; except, that is, for those activities and hearts that are open to the demons to become "spirit-filled". The demons 'love' that activity on the part of humans! Here they are, humans presuming that they are actually -doing- something with their repetitious words; the demons cackle all the way into 'possession' of those thusly engage.

I've shared this before, and other accounts of it are at the website under some of those links... but: 17 years ago I was still 'in' Babylon. I hadn't yet figured out that what I was in -was- Babylon. But what I relate here was part of the process the Lord used to show me of what Babylon consists. If you read the newly posted series from Micah, you will see how the Lord sometimes has to 'show' the prophet just "how bad" the evil is, in order to properly motivate the prophet to proclaim against it with the same fervor God hates the evil.

I was still in this particular Baptist church. At the time the pastor and I got along. I did all sorts of music. Filled pulpit supply when he was away to conference, or on vacation. Taught adult Sunday School class. I was not a member, but was as involved as anybody would be. And besides, the pastor had formerly been a missionary to Japan, so we also had that 'bond'. Thus: I was still -in- Babylon.

Well...a new thing came to the area, enough to fill the laity with wonderment as the pastors would describe it from the pulpits. It was called the "Pastor's Prayer Summit". All the area pastors would ride together in this bus to some remote Bible camp ground, where the totality of their time together was "prayer". There was no schedule or (alleged) "agenda". Just gather around in a circle, and various ones would lead out in prayer, in song, in testimony, etc. Once the special event was finished, the pastors decided to meet in similar fashion every Thursday morning. And this pastor asked if I would like to come to the Thursday morning meetings. I did, gladly; still being of the same opinion as the attitudes of all the great ones Buddy Smith enumerated in his article the other day.

But you know...I finally started putting 2 & 2 together, and learning what 4 was all about. It took these meetings to finally put all the pieces together for me. Throughout my earlier life there was always 'something' about the way christians 'prayed' that always bothered me in my spirit. There was a certain aura of "holy spirituality" that many would put on, that would just as quickly disappear when prayer was done. I would observe the (fake) holiness, uttered in KJ-eze, but I also -knew- the hearts of these people otherwise. They were ANYTHING BUT "holy"! But around them, if you did not subscribe to this same 'aura', there was this -unspoken- 'understanding' that you are not AS SPIRITUAL as they were. Perhaps even 'backslidden'! Particularly... if somebody prayed in 'normal' English, not KJ-eze! And of course, having grown up in it, I knew 'how to' utter words the correct way (in KJ-eze) to participate in prayer meetings, and from the pulpit. But in my heart I was never comfortable with this 'ritual'. I did not know how to -pretend- properly to be "holy" like they were. I could never moan and groan with "Amen!"s to somebody else's prayer, etc.etc.

Anyway(!) Back to the Thursday prayer meetings... There was some mighty 'vehement' praying going on. But oddly enough, a big percentage of it was -to- SATAN. Satan, we are gonna Getcha! Satan, by the power "of the blood" we have power over you, and you are wrapped around our little fingers....you just better Watchout!!! We're coming for ya!! Start trembling before us!!! And for those prayers that were more 'normal', there was an aweful lot of moaning and groaning (like described above, that I had grown up around).

In addition, this was a few months after my unequal yoke had just left, and so one of the mornings I asked them all to pray for her. Whereupon it was offered that I could sit in the "hot seat", have hands laid on me, and "pray". Oh, let me tell you....there was some mighty vehement "praying" going on....all at the same time...a cacophony! I think, judging by some of the words, some were expecting that I should suddenly become "spirit-filled", or something, due to the volume and pomposity of their words. Some of them, claiming this and that, prayed that "TODAY! TODAY!" the Lord would do this or that, according to their commands. They were naming and claiming on behalf of what had been requested.

As Smith promotes: "storming the gates of hell" and "rattle the gates of Heaven". Sorta like the prophets on that other occasion: "O Baal, hear us!" (1Ki18:26); as they danced and cut themselves.

So...as I left the meeting, and was in traffic on the freeway, getting to my store for work for the day, I was actually (quietly) "praying" to my Father, asking Him for "truth" regarding everything I had been experiencing and seeing. (That morning was the 'climax' to the prior 4 decades of observations, and spiritual discomfort with what I had grown up with, alleging to be "prayer" to the Most High) I was seeking true understanding. The things they prayed for "TODAY!" did not happen. I did NOT become 'spirit-filled'...such that, a few weeks later as I happened to be sitting at McDonalds, a couple of them came in, and the one said to the other, "Hey, there's that guy!" But they did not greet or acknowledge me as they passed where I was sitting. I guess they had figured out that I wasn't really one of them..?

But the places and ways I experienced God's presence and prayer was at home, quietly. Sitting reading God's Word; sitting at the piano singing certain songs of praise to God. (Not today's "worship" songs)

    "And He said, Go out, and stand on the mountain before Jehovah. And behold, Jehovah passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before Jehovah, but Jehovah was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but Jehovah was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but Jehovah was not in the fire; and after the fire a WHISPER OF A SMALL VOICE." (1Ki19:11-12)
Since those days I have stopped saying so many words -to- God, nor trying to "compose" prayers according to the expected formula, but being more content listening: "..what do You have in mind...?" (Ac9:6) "Speak, for Your servant is listening" (1Sa3:9-10) Paul did say to, "pray without ceasing" (1Th5:17) But God doesn't need me to 'blab' at Him. He -already- knows what's in my heart: "before they call, I will answer" (Is65:24)

Praying "without ceasing" is the state of being "IN HIS PRESENCE" at the "throne of grace" (Heb4:16) When you are in the presence of a -GREAT- one, you don't speak unless spoken to: well... the 'preacher' says it like this...

    "Do not be rash with your mouth, and do not let your heart be hasty to say a word before God. For God is in Heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few." (Ec5:2)
I think prayer has become like modern English conversations. I can never quite figure out how anybody knows what anybody else has said, because they are continually 'interrupting' each other. It's an interruption fest. Somebody might ask a question of somebody else, and as the person is trying to give an answer, the asker keeps yapping with their 2-cents worth. So... did you want an answer, or what? (One reason I really like e-mail. The person is not sitting there interrupting while you type your reply to them!)

So... the person asks 'how' to motivate churches to pray...even if it wasn't their (own) question. You see why I responded as I did, asking their 'definition' of prayer. If they want more-of-the-(traditional)-same, they are better off NOT PRAYING! It's not real prayer. At least, to the Most High, it's not. But are the people of the attitude: What do you, Father, have in mind for me? Well, that is not the sort of prayer that is really appropriate in public.

Perhaps there might be 'official' prayers that are 'led' on behalf of the congregation, as Solomon did (1Ki8:22), as Jesus said, "because of the crowd standing by I said this" (Jn11:42), or as Paul did before the heathen in the storm at sea. (Ac27:35)

However: the very fact that the disciples asked Jesus the question, "teach us to pray" suggests to me that Jesus' prayers, typically, were not 'public'; otherwise, would not the disciples have been used to hearing Him utter words, and such a question would have been redundant. Ditto: the suggestion that Jesus did not lead them in "prayer meetings". If they had been having regular prayer meetings, prayer breakfasts, etc., such a question of "how to" would have been redundant. Why would anybody ask "how to do" something that is being done regularly? Yes?

It was -Jesus- who warned against the "vain repetitions of the heathen" (Mt6:7) Why? "For they think they will be heard for their MANY WORDS" You bemoan that people aren't gathering for groups to utter a lot of words? Are such words really 'heard'? Such words typically either 'ask' for stuff, or they 'preach' to the other person within hearing, who is presumed to be less spiritual...but the "prayer" adds an aura of "official holiness" to the words, so -you- (that other person) better listen and pay attention!

And -NO-!!! (another e-mail last week, different context) Prayer is not a "witnessing tool"! When you are meeting with other believers in a restaurant, you should NOT "pray" REAL LOUD, and -LONG-, so that everybody else in the restaurant is sure to HEAR YOU, such that they will then, presumably, -know- you are Christians and be 'impressed' by the fervor and spirituality of your "prayer". That is NOT "PRAYER". That is prideful 'showmanship'. You are doing it "to be seen by men" (Mt6:5) If you observe the "table grace" ritual, when in public quietly bow your heads and pray inwardly in thanksgiving.

Oh yes... and that other "prayer": 'Lord, I thank you for this ministry opportunity you have given me, at which I'm going to do great things for You.' Bragging to those within hearing, to whom you already 'informed' them of your coming exploits, but didn't get a chance to share all the details...now with the 'prayer' you can include all those juicy details uninterrupted...because it is, after all, -prayer-, and you're asking God's 'blessing'! Who's gonna cut you short there! Right? (Lk18:11)

So... obviously, if that question were asked of me, my answer would not be 'universally' the same as all those other famous big-shots. (No, I don't know everything about prayer: I don't understand the kind of prayer of Elijah, praying "seven times" for rain, sending the servant to look for the clouds each time; etc.) But the things that might need more work on, in my life, also would not necessarily be something to share publicly for somebody's 'list' or 'survey', to see if I 'measure up' to their standard. They are not things to be 'bragged' about in that way!

Prayer seems to be, in people's minds, the 'ultimate' in religious ritual and expression. To them it represents the ultimate in piety. Even when addressing one's own thoughts or attitudes about any given topic, one's own piety can be augmented to others by couching it with "I pray that..." such-n-so is/isn't the case. You see: such an expression gives to themself this aura of super-spirituality, because even in their normal conversation, they are letting the other person know that they are "praying" about it...even if their own heart, in reality, is full of dirty rotten filth and lying pharisaical self-righteousness.

For somebody to suggest that "prayer" is a person's area of greatest concern (but in context: everything else is alright as they search deep and thoughtfully), is possibly an attitude of ultimate pride, as if to say: I AM NEARLY PERFECT! But I'm lacking -just- a 'bit' in this 'greatest' area that anybody could ever be qualified in. I need a "bit more work" on it... -then- I (this big-shot leader you've just asked this question of, since you are taking a survey of 'great' Christian leaders) will be perfect. (Yes, I know: I've just added words to Smith's article that he didn't say. But in reality, sadly, this is truth when it comes to a great percentage of leaders... they are so 'great' in their own self-estimation!)

    "I hate, I despise your feast days; and I will not savor your solemn assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not be pleased; nor will I regard the peace offerings of your fat animals. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; for I will not hear the melody of your lutes. But let justice flow down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Have you drawn near with sacrifices and food offerings to Me forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?" (Am5:21-25)
I suspect that, what passes for "prayer" today (and the past how-many decades) would fit into the narrative of this passage, too. I certainly would not trust any narrative or book describing any alleged past famous "prayer warrior" and "how-they-did-it" and their great "successes". I don't care -how- 'famous' their name might have been, nor how much their name is touted and bandied around, back and forth, and people swooningly try to emulate -them-... that (oohhh-sssssohhh) famous (holy) person.

But Jesus said of prayer:

    "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret..." (Mt6:6)

NOW....
Supposing all this gets you to thinking, doing introspection, and wondering about this, that or the other scenario: Should every Bible study begin with prayer? What about the "table grace"? and whatever else might come to your mind from your own experiences...

HOW do we know how to pray? How do we know 'what' to pray for or about? How do we know 'when' to pray publicly? ...or to keep it private?

    "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to God." (Rom8:26-27)
Amen!
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