Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

09 June 2009

Prayer - (1) Quality

As I was praying for my family a few weeks ago I noticed something about my prayers that absolutely horrified me.

There are various things that I pray for repetitively. I pray that my husband will have an effective and productive work day and that any meetings he has will of value. I pray that the gospel will sink deep into my boys' hearts.

And there are other things that I pray about repetitively. I pray that gospel seeds will be sown in the hearts of the children in my scripture classes and to that end, I often pray that they will simply behave during our lesson together so that they can engage with the lesson.

I pray that the children at our Sunday School will love coming to church, that they will make real relationships with each other and the grown-ups who are trying to connect with them and that they will learn something wonderful about God in their time together.

On these and other subjects I pray the same things over and over and over and over.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with repetitive prayers. Nothing at all. Except when you catch yourself thinking, before you pray one of your repetitve prayers, "Well, I suppose I ought to pray for such and such now..."

I suppose I ought to pray for my husband and his day ahead because I am his wife. I suppose I ought to pray for our boys because I am their mother. I suppose I ought to pray for my scripture classes because I am their scripture teacher...

It is wrong to pray repetitively if those daily prayers become empty words mouthed out of a sense of duty.

That horrible (and wonderful) morning I realised that I was praying my way through a list in order to tick the box of duty served and not because I actually believed God would answer those prayers. Autopilot meets unbelief.

It was horrible to realise that this was what I was doing. A weight lifted off me as I repented of my wretchedness. And a certain joy and fresh enthusiasm for prayer replaced it as the quality of my prayers changed - as I actually began to pray in belief that God is listening and will answer.

Yes, I still pray my repetitive prayers for my husband, my boys, my scripture classes, the Sunday School children and for a whole lot more besides - but now I try to start those prayers asking God to help me to pray with concentration, with genuine love and concern for those I am praying for and for a sincere and deep belief that God will hear those prayers and answer them. Again and again.

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief." Mark 9:24

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