I was waiting for my knife to be sharpened at a gun shop. I couldn’t help eavesdropping on a conversation between the shop clerk and a customer who was enquiring on how to apply for a gun license. In South Africa we have some of the most intimidating gun control laws in the free world. The process can take over a year. One of the requisite steps is that you must provide a substantiated motivation as to why you want the firearm. The gun shop clerk was coaching the customer on how to craft his motivation using the exact wording that would improve his chances of a positive outcome.
As I was listening to all of this it occurred to me that people are willing to put a lot of effort and thought into making requests that are important to them. But often when people want something from God, they put no thought into how to frame their petitions. They assume God will accept any request, from anyone, in any format.
Well, they would be wrong.
God has very specific ways in which he wants us to communicate with him and make requests. And Jesus coached his disciples on this very topic. In Matthew 6 Jesus provides a template for prayer that has become the most famous and repeated prayer of all time, known as the Disciples’ prayer, the Lord’s prayer, or simply as the “Our Father.” Jesus taught how to pray on two different occasions, in Matthew 6:5-13 and Luke 11:1. And although the two prayers are as similar as fraternal twins, they are not identical twins. The dissimilarities prove that Christ never intended this as a formula or rote prayer. It was a model or pattern for prayer. Of course, it is not wrong to pray it word-for-word, but that was not the intended purpose of the prayer.
Let’s examine some of the wrong ways to pray. Six insights from wrong ways to pray: