Prayer is a good thing. Always.
But not all prayer is created equal. Did you know there are actually some kinds of prayer that can be destructive mentally and spiritually?
You already know this if you think about it. Think of how differently you feel after a screaming match with God over something you don’t understand compared with an intimate time of just being with Him and listening to Him from your heart. Neither are wrong. In fact God is the best One to go to with the tough stuff. But that illustrates how different types of prayer have different results.
As we grow through the Christian life we come to understand more and more about what it means to connect with God, communicate with Him, and walk with Him. In that process I hope you’ve grown past these 3 unhealthy, even dangerous types of prayer.
3 Unhealthy, Dangerous Prayers
1. Prayer That Demands
Demanding is not the same as asking. Jesus likened God to a father who loves to give good gifts to his children. (Matthew 7:11) If you have children you understand how different these two things are. Haven’t you felt dismissed, upset, even angry when your child tried to demand something of you? And haven’t you felt the thrill of giving them something they really wanted when they simply asked?
Here’s the difference.
- Treats you as a vending machine – impersonal, distant
- Dismisses the value of your relationship
- Believes you are holding good things back from them
- Attempts to exert control over you, making them in charge
- Treats you as a loving parent who can meet their needs
- Comes out of a secure relationship with you
- Believes you want what is best for them, even though they may be upset if you must say No
- Is more characterized by trust and gratitude
What to do: Come to know God as your loving Father. Learn how much He wants to give you good things. Choose to grow in trusting Him. Express gratitude for what He does for you. And confidently, boldly, but humbly ask Him for what you need and desire.
2. Prayer to an Angry God
The kind of God you pray to makes a difference. No, you don’t change HIM. But your view of God makes a big difference in YOU, and even in how your body and your mind respond to prayer.
Researchers reviewing data from the large Baylor Religion Survey found that people who saw God as punishing and therefore avoided connecting with Him or were anxious and upset about their relationship with God became more anxious and upset after prayer. Those who felt secure and connected to a loving God felt less anxious after prayer.
Those results aren’t that surprising. But it shows how powerfully the way in which you see God affects your mental/emotional wellbeing, not to mention your spiritual vitality.
What to do: Spend some time with other believers who have a strong relationship with God. Read about Christians who were close to God. Read the Bible, especially the story of Jesus, to see how He related to God. Ask God to show you who He really is. Think about what you think about God, and question those thoughts if they are largely negative. Give God a chance to show you the truth about Himself.
3. Prayer Without Responsibility
I’m sure you would never do this! (Would you?) But some believers pray for God to do things that He hasn’t promised to do, but that are really their own responsibility. It’s not that God doesn’t want you to pray about those things. He does! But God didn’t make you to be a blob waiting for whatever good or bad things might happen to you. He made you to be active, to take charge in the portion of His kingdom that He put under your influence.
In most areas such as our physical health, our material wellbeing, etc. there’s much that is within our power to do. God won’t take the fork out of your hand if you need to lose weight, vaporize your credit cards if you need to get out of debt, or chain you to the bedpost if you need to pray. There are certain things God won’t do for you!
Believers who see themselves as working together with God to solve problems generally have the most resilient physical, emotional, and spiritual health. You are a partner together with Him in accomplishing what needs to be done, and what He put you on this planet to do. He won’t do what is your job to do, and you can’t do it without Him. It’s you and God working together.
What to do: Think of the things you struggle with the most and that you most often pray about. Ask yourself if you are working together with God in those areas. Are there things you’re trying to do that only God can do? Are there things you’ve waited for God to do that you need to step up and deal with? Consciously think about working together with God every day.
Do This Now
Does any of this strike a tender nerve with you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself that will help you know what to do next.
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how well do I know God as my Heavenly Father?
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how certain am I that God is for me and not against me?
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how well am God and I working together on the challenges I’m facing?
Right now, take a few moments to talk with God about your responses. If one of these points is a sticky problem for you, I’d love to talk with you about it. Send me a note on the CONTACT US page, or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
Your Turn: How do you feel after prayer? Anxious? Peaceful? Upset? Hopeful? What does that say about your relationship with God? Leave a comment below.
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