It was the day of prayer meeting. Every Tuesday my church meets to pray for concerns in our personal lives, families, the country and any other thing that pressed our hearts. This Tuesday I decided to go since I had missed many before. Requests were made and individuals were asked to choose which they would pray for. I chose a concern that was near and dear to my pastor’s heart.
As I waited for my turn to pray, I became very distracted with random thoughts. Thoughts on the new language I was currently learning, the fact that I couldn’t hear what was being said and why that was so. Basically, I was thinking about everything that had nothing to do with what I had to pray for. Then it became my turn. I found myself saying clichés and vague phrases such as “ Lord just”, “Let your will be done” “Let your favour..” and other ramblings because I wanted to hear the ‘amens’ and ‘yes lords’. It’s crazy, now that I’m thinking about it, that I was very aware of how wrong the situation was as I was in it. When I couldn’t think of anything else to say I immediately stopped.
Later as I laid on my bed thinking about what I said, I had to admit out loud “that was the dumbest prayer I’ve ever prayed”. Right there I heard God say, “Then what would you have said?” I began to pray. I knew that the concern I had to pray for was near and dear to my pastor’s heart because my pastor is my father and we had had many conversations about it. His desire to see lost souls in our community saved is a driving force to his ministry. I prayed with the truth that God grants the desires of our hearts as we delight in Him and knowing my father, there was no doubt that he delighted in God. It is funny that a few moments before this I was fumbling to end verses as I prayed in the meeting but on my bed, verses became the actual prayer because I knew them. At the end, I heard that convicting voice ask, “What did you learn?” and I answered, “Pray on what you know”.
This got me thinking about the term ‘praying amiss’ and what it means. I started to research on it and found various and different perspectives on this but what was common is understanding the will of God, which is found in His word and understood through the Holy Spirit. James 4:3 says “Ye ask, and receive not because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts”. Another version says “When you ask, you do not receive , because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”. Wrong motives huh? That is what asking amiss means. Well, that was my case for sure.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6. Verse 7 is the kicker; “And when you pray, do not use meaningless repetitions as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard because of their many words”. Ay yay yay! Have you ever had a verse totally embarrass you? I mean I heard this verse before, but the truth of its words became real that Tuesday night. After that night I became very aware of my prayer and many scriptures popped out to me in sermons, conversations and my own readings.
In Matthew 6:9 Jesus gives what is considered a blue print to prayer, but recently Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9: 4-19 stood out in how he prayed in the context of his situation. The people of Israel have been taken into captivity and Daniel is one of those privileged to have a high position in leadership. He, being a man of God and a student of His word, realizes that the end of captivity is near according to Jeremiah’s prophecies. He starts a fast and describes his prayer in the verses mentioned previously.
I noticed the praise he gave to God at the beginning, the humility in him admitting the wrong they have done and the shame they deserve, the reminder of God’s promises, the plea he made as he related to the situation. He knew the situation. He knew the God he served because of his studies and relationship.
Praying on what you know means that you are deeply invested in that concern you are lifting. It means you understand the capability of God in the situation. It means that you know how God gets the glory out of the request being answered. We must do more than blurting out words that seem to sound right because they are often used, as in my case that Tuesday night. I have started to replace words on the spot when I’m not too sure of meanings, just to make sure I pray on what I know. After the prayer I would research the word’s meaning and usually find that I would have used it the right way but being careful in prayer has become a stronger value to me.
The MacArthur Study Bible commentary on Daniel 9: 4-19 says that “True prayer is in response to the word, characterized by fervency and self-denial, identified unselfishly with God’s people, strengthened by confession, dependent on God’s character and has as its goal, God’s glory.”
I have a lot to learn but I’m hoping that with every dumb prayer, I grow from my mistakes. Don’t be dumb y’all! Well, try not to be.