Quit Praying – Part One

Having a passion for prayer, in and of itself, means nothing.  There is no spiritual virtue inherently associated with a passion for prayer. Jesus said: “Hypocrites love to pray [at length] and in public.”[1] Most of Jesus’ public prayers (that we know of) can be said in five minutes or less.[2] If He really is our example, if we really believe WWJD, we need to give serious reconsideration to some of our prayer beliefs and practices, particularly in “prophetic” communities.

Though emotionally intense and perhaps sincere, a good bit of our prayer belief and practice is rooted in unbelief and a lack of the assurance of sonship.

Any passion for prayer must be grounded in the new creation and a thorough understanding of the New Covenant truths regarding identity, sonship, and the finished work of Christ—risen from the dead. If it is not, it will degenerate into very unhealthy and spiritually unstable practices of bondage and deception.

The Scriptures are the objective element of our faith. They are the more sure word[3] of prophecy that speak to our redeemed rational faculties. Prayer, worship, and communion with God via the Holy Spirit are the subjective elements of Christianity. The voice of the Good Shepherd[4] speaks to our spirit-man, sometimes referred to as our hearts. Vital Christianity requires the presence of both aspects in proper relationship to each other.

For centuries, Fundamental and Evangelical Christianity have emphasized the objective to the near extinction of the subjective. The Charismatic Renewal was (in part) divine remediation for the historical imbalance. However, unbridled, undiscerned, and unrestrained subjectivism is a plague in the church. Objective truth validates subjective and intuitive leadings. Subjective experiences put flesh on objective truth. We must have both.

This is hardly a newsflash. However, this fact is regularly violated and abused by many innocent and well-meaning believers, and others not so innocent nor well-meaning.

We do not need to “pray about” that which God has made clear in Scripture!

 Obedience

It is inappropriate to pray when God is asking for responsive obedience.  I regularly interact with Christians who use a pseudo-spiritual cloak of prayer to cover impenitent self-will, rebellion, and disobedience. It is a particular plague among prophetic believers.  By prophetic I mean Christians who believe, as I do, that the voice of God can still be heard and discerned in the redeemed human spirit. The closed Canon does not render God a mute.

For example, consider an individual hurt in a local church by dictatorial or carnal leadership. He or she usually reacts, withdraws, pours out his or her complaint to others, seeks God, and receives a revelation something like this: “God told me I do not have to follow any man, only Jesus—I must be led by the Holy Spirit and not man.” This has a germ of truth, sounds spiritual and noble but is in open contradiction to explicit Scripture.[5] Dear reader, it doesn’t matter how sincere you may be about this (or something similar in which the Scriptures are explicit)—you may be sincerely wrong.

Believers often engage in a manipulative spirit of control when they say things like: “I have prayed about it, and the Lord told me I must .  .  .”  This is not the language of mutual respect and dialog.  It is the language of spiritual ultimatum—spiritual blackmail—a legitimate truth (hearing God for one’s self, and obeying) energized in the old creation nature and pushed too far.  It is impossible to talk to people who cavalierly use this type of language, without stepping all over their prayer life and self-perceived spirituality. There’s just enough truth contained in it, to ruin relationships when expressed carnally.

 Repentance

Praying for hours to bring revival, save souls, or whatever is useless if God is requiring active repentance and reconciliation. This is particularly true concerning interpersonal relationships. It is easier to talk and pray about unity and “revival” than repent and make right the breaches in relationship that prevent unity and “revival” in the first place!  Most American Christians simply do not have the stomach for biblical interpersonal reality.  They will leave a church rather than resolve relational difficulties. Someone once said: “We resolve our relational difficulties with good-byes.” (Of course, we pray for unity and revival at the next church we bless with our presence!).

The In-Working of the Cross

An individual undergoing the child-training discipline of God, or a crucifixion/resurrection experience, is not helped by the prayers of others for blessing and escape. Believers with an unsanctified mercy or compassion gift frequently err in this regard. Sentimental prayer based on human analysis of circumstances and a soulish desire to spare people from difficulty, often runs counter to God’s redemptive purposes. We must always pray in wisdom with a God-perspective.  If we do not know how to pray, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to pray for us and through us! Get to know Him and let Him pray through you.[6]

                                                                 Faith Response

Endless prayer over the same issue or pending action, can be a cloak for unbelief, passivity, timidity, and faithlessness.  Inappropriate prayer is often a manifestation of the carnal mind in rebellion against God, masquerading in religious garb. When God is calling for faith action, it is inappropriate to keep praying.  Act.  Don’t pray.  When God is calling for responsive action, perpetual prayer can be a deluding spiritual narcotic used to cover disobedience.  Since prayer is normally held in high esteem, we can feel good about ourselves in our disobedience. Moses at the Red Sea is a classic Scriptural example. When faced with an impossibility, he cried out for God to “do something.”  God reproved him for his prayer and exhorted him to use what was in his hand.

Moses’ rod can represent many different things. Simply, it represents what has already been provided and what has proven effective.  For the believer, this is the Word of God, the indwelling Spirit, and our confidence as His sons and daughters.

Vacillation and indecisiveness are not fruits of the Spirit. It’s better to be bold and decisive and have to compensate for mistakes, than to be immobile and right too late!  No decision is a decision.  God’s admonition to Joshua wasn’t: “Be cautious and be careful,” but “be bold and be strong.” Leaders and individuals who insist on “more prayer” may be yielding to a human (or demonic) spirit that requires absolute assurance in every detail before stepping out in faith.  This is a religious manifestation of a perfectionistic, cowardly, and emasculated spirit, not godly virtue. The way of faith always encompasses a degree of uncertainty.

Pragmatism often masquerades in the church as wisdom. Many believers’ minds are deeply impregnated with worldly and culturally conditioned concepts of wisdom, prudence, and caution which impersonate godly virtues.  The world’s wisdom is devilish, and inordinate caution is always the mantra of the fearful.

Godly wisdom and faith are two valid biblical virtues in divine tension.  They are like a kite and string: wisdom is the string that enables the kite of faith to arise and stay in a proper sphere.  The kite of faith keeps the string of wisdom from being earth-bound. Healthy Christianity requires both. However, the overall tenor of the New Testament is that faith is the superior and eternal virtue. Faith is the short-supply commodity the Lord seeks in His people and in the earth.  If we must err, err to the side of bold faith. It is what the Lord is looking for.

The Remedy

The disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1-13).  He promised that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to that very end. We have the same confidence and more because the Teacher is within us. He is the resurrection life remedy of God for ill-advised prayer. He is present in us to teach us to pray. Let’s pray as sons and daughters, as insiders to the throne of heaven, not as outsiders, begging and hoping that an indifferent heavenly potentate will throw us some crumbs if we just beg him long enough. Our Father IS NOT LIKE the reluctant judge in Luke 18. He doesn’t have to be begged. It is an insult to what Christ has done for us to relate to our Father in that way.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.


[1] Matt. 6:5 – paraphrase; length of prayer is implied from what we know of Pharasaic practices at the time.

[2] He would sometimes pray longer privately such as in the selection of the twelve and in the Garden of Gethsemane.

[3] 2 Peter 1:16, 19.

[4] John 10:27.

[5] E.g., 1Ti. 1:16, 1Co. 4:15-16, 1Co. 11:1, Ep. 4:11-13.  The remedy for leadership abuse is not abandonment of leadership. It is healing and genuine relationship with trustworthy fathers and mothers in Christ, who have proven themselves through their laid down lives (not their demand for submission!) that they are worthy to submit to. This is all regardless of any ecclesiastical hierarchal structure, position, title, or lack thereof. We all must submit to Christ in one another in the fear of the Lord. Christianity cannot be lived biblically or effectively in relational isolation and independence.

[6] Romans 8:26-28

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16 comments on “Quit Praying – Part One

  1. Thank you Stephen! Well done! I was just reading some posts today on the “contemplative prayer” movement and was so saddened that people seem to be either way off into things that are clearly not of God or they relegate God as an impersonal step father who only communicates through letters. Thank you again for rightly dividing the Word.

    Kelly Tyler

  2. Again, excellent Stephen

    “I pray that the eyes of OUR hearts may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”

  3. This is very helpful Steve. I understand what you are saying, that praying at length may seem to be spiritual yet often rooted in unbelief. Without a good understanding of the New Covenant Truths, our prayers can so often miss the mark because we are praying more like a slave than a son. It is so true, sometimes the prayer of blessing can also miss the mark, when God is wanting to lead the person into death to the old nature, so they can learn to live from the new nature in Christ.

    Steve, your posts are always so helpful.

    • Thanks Marcus. You are getting it precisely. We are not slaves, but sons, and for the most part, we pray like disenfranchised slaves and beggars. Some even encourage a form of beggar/”worm” theology, supposedly pleasing God is we feel bad about ourselves and try to convince him in our prayer of how miserable and worthless we are. So very sad.

  4. I love my love letters from my Father, it is through them I have come to KNOW Him.

    Without them, I would have created Him in my own image.

    • Thanks, precisely. Even a topic like prayer becomes idolatrous, we create a God according to how we want him to act in response to our prayers, rather than praying with understanding of who he is.

  5. Hi Steve,
    This is an important word to all of us who have prayed for revival. Revival will be initiated when we engage those around us. Jesus taught that we are salt and light: when we speak the truth in love and operate in kindness and care, then we can be the children of light He has called us to be. No longer just a candle hidden under a bushel or salt without flavor. Just praying for a result and not taking the initiative already given to us through the Holy Spirit is like walking into a dark room, complaining that the room is dark, and not switching on a light.
    Blessings to you Steve,
    Craig

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