Overcoming Casual Prayer

Overcoming a Casual Prayer Life


Over the last few weeks we, as a congregation, have engaged the subject of prayer. We have talked about how simple prayer truly is, that it is not complex and at its most simplistic core is just talking to God. We have talked about the fact that as a congregation, if we are not praying then we can expect nothing to be transpiring.


With all of this said, I think the most troubling thing in the church to today is the casaul prayer life. Now let me first say I am by no means the first to say this and in fact early Methodists like E.M. Bounds would have heralded this message from the rooftops over a 100 years ago, but casual prayer lives are troubling. What I mean by casual prayer life is simply that  idea or action of being unconcerned! When you look up the word “casual” the definition is just that:  relaxed and unconcerned.  For many of us, if we are honest, we are unconcerned with our faithfulness in prayer. This is troubling!


Let’s put it this way, our pray lives are summed up in the dinner time prayers of a family ready to eat. The idea that we’ve got something to do and we need to get that done so we can get down to real business. Have you ever sat in a church meeting where the pastor’s prayer felt like the first agendized item that needed to be overcome in order to get down to “real business” of the meeting?  This is often the whole of our prayer lives and they are reduced down to the ritualized necessities.


Maybe you and I are not guilty of the get it done mentality, but we might very well be guilty of prayers that are so safe that honestly we could answer them ourselves. We are afraid that in asking we won’t be heard, or worse yet, the answer will be no. So why bother asking for more than we can accomplish? With this kind of pseudo prayer the church moves from a band of radical disciples, following an even more radical Lord, to a group of functional agnostics that are ensuring the wellbeing of the institution by not asking too much or by being too hopeful.   


Thus, our prayer life is filled with pleasantries, but not much progress.


It doesn’t need to be this way; and Jesus never designed the church to be like this!


The heart of biblical prayers show the individual prayer's willingness to engage in wrestling with God. God desires to see a showing of all our emotions, showing a true desire for the thing prayed for and/or about. Biblical prayer is about honest communication with God in non-ritualized/ non-obligatory ways whereby we bring all that we are before the Father in worship and supplication. It is like a child desperately in need of help and asking a loving parent for assistance.


So today I want to offer a few suggestions in helping us get our prayer lives more where they need to be:


Pray past your obligation


If you want to be helpful in the lives of other people and your church;  pray past the so- called obligation. It works like this:  when you come to the end of your Christian obligation to pray for your church, neighbor, pastor, or whatever it is…  then we really start praying.

Pray for your church every day, twice a day, until it feels like a burden and then… keep praying even more in frequency and fervor.


Be Persistent   


    Jesus teaches about this in Luke 11 telling a story of how persistent prayer for the Spirit results in answers. If we are not persistent in prayer, then often we will not change. The act of asking again and again is an act of submission that often results in not only the prayer somehow being answered, but often more time than not, us being changed for the better in the asking.


Pray to God about your church growing, pray about your leaders being active, pray about the faith of your family, and do it all with the persistence that lasts years not hours. I cannot tell you how many times in my own life that prayers that I have said for years have been answered, even when I almost forgot that I still was asking.


Be persistent!  


Pour out what is true


    I went to the hospital room of a woman facing surgery once. She didn’t know me, she just wanted the chaplain to say a word of prayer before surgery. In those moments she told me how upset she was,  how much her life was a struggle, and how much life stunk in the days around her surgery. All of this was said with a southern closing of well I best not complain;  God’s been good. I asked her if she had expressed any of her hurt to God about what was taking place in her life at this time. She looked shocked at the question. How could she express that to God? We did just that, she cried out before God about all that had taken place in the last few months of her life:  surgery, family, all of it. I stood there listening knowing that in this moment she didn’t need a chaplain to pray for her;  she needed to pray before God about all that was on her heart. I could feel the Spirit’s presence in the room in this woman’s prayer and the tears rolling down her cheek. When we got done praying I could see the sense of relief on her face:  life was still not easy, surgery was less than an hour away, more problems were still to come, and family was still difficult:  but God was there and she knew it.


When we tell the truth in prayer, even in the expression of anger to God, we strengthen the relationship and in doing so, we find that we are not alone.


Prayer is about communication:  open and honest, heartfelt and true. May our prayer for Cherryvale, our community, and our families be the kind of prayers that pour out before the throne of God!    




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