Growing up, we realize that we can often arrive at a destination and remember nothing about the trip that got us there. Driving to some locations, like school, clubs, or weekend activities become mindlessly automatic, the entire activity performed by nothing more than instinct.
Regrettably, many people who know Jesus often do the same thing in their prayers. We can mindlessly engage in prayer, multiplying words without any real reflection or genuine affection for God.
In His teaching about prayer, Jesus was quick to point out that He didn’t want His followers to be like “the hypocrites” (Matthew 6:5). Those who just wanted to be seen by others. He also didn’t want the disciples to fall into the trap of using mindless words. He says, “do not Keep babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:7).
According to Jesus, prayer is communion with God; but He also teaches us what prayer is not. First, prayer is not an act of therapy. Some psychologists suggest people pray because prayer produces serenity and alleviates anxiety and fear. Prayer certainly does these things, but sometimes prayer actually disrupts our tranq. God uses prayer to radically re-orients or hearts, which can be disturbing.
Second, prayer is not an act of manipulation or persuasion. We’re not just trying to find the right formula or secret code to force God to answer our prayer how we want it. Nor are we trying to persuade or bargain with God as if we weren’t one of His creations. Prayer is about God’s will being done, not our own. If God’s will is truly perfect, then why would we want to persuade Him to di something that’s less than perfect?
Finally, prayer is not an act of bargaining. Maybe you’ve prayed prayers that sound like you’re in a negotiation meeting: “Lord, I will work on this issue if You help me with this blessing.” Though I wish It could prayer doesn’t inform God of what He does not know, nor does it get Him to do what He’s reluctant to do. Prayer does not change God. It changes us.
Yes, God commands us to pray, and He takes our desires in prayer seriously. Yet, God is sovereign at all times over all things, and still loving toward His people. Prayer is not our bargaining chip with a reluctant genie. It’s our opportunity to commune with the Creator and Redeemed who loves us.