Admittedly, this is meant to challenge the way you think about prayer. So I fully expect disagreements to arise with my list. But at the end of the day, I hope this helps stimulate growth in your relationship with God.
1. More of You, less of me
He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30 NIV)
This is one I hear a lot. Strictly speaking it is “biblical” in the sense that it is “in the bible”, but I would argue that this prayer is actually not “biblical” in the sense that it actually applies to us today.
First of all, this prayer comes from John the Baptist. John was the opener for Jesus, and the closer of the old covenant. He represented a transition. He prepared the way for the Lord, and the New Covenant He initiated.
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3 NIV)
It’s important to realize that John was never meant to be our model for life. Not a single other biblical writer ever echoes this prayer. (Nor do any of the early church Father’s for that matter.)
So why do we pray it?
We often pray this prayer out of false humility. We think that God wants to get rid of our will, our personality, and our very being in order to Get His way.
We have misunderstood God. We think He wants to remove us, when actually He wants to live IN US.
It’s not “Christ instead of you, the hope of Glory.” It’s “Christ IN YOU!” (See Colossians 1:27)
God doesn’t want any less of you! I would actually argue that He wants more of you. The world needs more of your personality, with all it’s unique tendencies and funny quirks. You are one of a kind, and without you the world is missing out!
God actually had less of you at one point. But guess what? He didn’t like it. That’s why He made you. Stop asking for less of yourself. God doesn’t want that, and neither should you.
Instead let’s pray: “All of me with all of You IN me. Lord please help me be myself everywhere I go, and help me see that you have chosen to dwell in me always.”
2. Draw me closer to you
Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:8 NIV)
This always used to be the go-to prayer for me- given my charismatic background. It was one of my favorite promises. “All I have to do to get close to God is draw near to Him!” I thought.
But what does that mean? Is drawing near to God about pressing in, praying harder, worshiping better, or singing the same song lines over and over again?
Is nearness to God all about what I can do?
Certainly not. It’s all through Grace, not works.
I am all fine and dandy if you want to learn more about God, and enjoy your relationship with Him. We will always grow in our discovery of who God is. I believe we will always be learning new fun and exciting things about Him. So in that sense, we will “draw near” to Him. However, this can’t become bigger than the central truth of the Gospel which is our Union with Christ.
John Murray says, union with Christ is “the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.”
We can’t take one bible verse from James and use it to redefine the central truth of the Gospel. Which is this: We are in union with Christ. We have been made One with Him!
Paul refers to our union with Christ 216 times (through phrases like “in Him’, and “In Christ”). It’s a massive part of the Gospel.
What a wonderful truth: we are not far away from God!
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 NIV)
Distance is an illusion! There is now no separation between you and God. There is no more need to “draw closer” because God now dwells within you!
When we are continually praying, “Draw me close to you God” we are feeding a lie that makes God somewhere “out there” instead of “IN ME”.
God is not out in space somewhere. God is the ever present God. It’s our job to recognize how close He is, and enjoy it.
I love the way the Mirror Bible translates James 4:8, Snuggle up to the warm embrace of God, experience His closeness to you.
Instead let’s pray: “Give me faith to realize my Union with Jesus. Open up my heart to feel your presence with me right now.”
3. Come Lord Jesus/Come Holy Spirit
Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20 NIV)
It’s important that you see where this verse is placed in the bible. It’s not placed in the Psalms, nor is it a part of the Lord’s prayer. This is found at the end of Revelation.
By praying “come Lord Jesus” the intention is not “come Lord Jesus, and fill up this room with your presence.” 90% of the time when I hear this prayer it is used as the later.
But this prayer was never meant to be about invite an omnipresent God into a room that (somehow) didn’t have Him before. This prayer is about the returning manifestation of Jesus.
So why do we pray it?
Because we want to feel His manifest presence. Which is something I am 100% for. We should, and must encounter God. His embrace, and the tangible experience of His love is far beyond anything you’ll ever experience.
However, Jesus doesn’t magically show up when you feel Him. The presence of God is not conditional. It is unconditional. He’s always right here, fully present, right now.
David said “there’s no where I can go where you aren’t already!” (Paraphrase of Psalms 139:7)
God takes up all the space!
You can’t escape Him. The world is crowded with God. I love the way C.S. Lewis puts it, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The whole world is crowded with Him.”
Feeling the manifest presence of God doesn’t happen when you pray from God to show up in a room that’s already jammed full of Him. Feeling the manifest presence of God comes through trust. In this instance (although there are exceptions) once you trust in the truth that God is everywhere at all times, your experiences will follow.
Instead let’s pray: “Open my heart to the reality that you are here with me right now, and you never leave. Give me faith to experience your nearness more and more everyday.”
4. Any prayer that tries to glorify God by degrading you
We pray a lot of prayers like this. I’ve heard many prayers that start of something like this “God I know that I’m an unworthy, dirty-rotten sinner, but I pray that you would be glorified in my life.”
Where did we get the idea that God is glorified when we are belittled? Who told us that we need to become piles of poop in order for God to become glorious?
God doesn’t need you to flaunt your incompetence, and to degrade yourself in order to stroke His ego.
What kind of Father would require that from his kids? Definitely not our Papa God.
I believe that degrading prayers are the fruit of false humility. Which when you get down to it, is really just pride wearing a mask.
False humility tries to humble you by making you talk about how awful you are. False humility says, “you have to beat yourself up, and always be aware of what’s wrong with you”.
But really, it’s all just pride.
Pride is essentially making yourself the center of the universe. It’s independence on steroids.
False humility is pride because false humility is all about you.
I don’t care that it’s in a negative way. False humility is still all about you, even if it’s all about what’s wrong with you.
Instead of beating ourselves up to glorify God, let’s just shut up about ourselves all together.
Leave you behind, and just thank God. – “Thank you Jesus for who you are, and for what you’ve done.”
5. I just want to make you happy/proud
We often, with good intentions, will pray along these lines. “God all I want to do is just make you happy. I don’t want what I want, I just want what you want.”
It is of course a well meaning prayer, however, I believe it’s misguided. Namely because it neglects the heart of The Gospel.
So if you didn’t know, let me shock you with some Good News. God is already outrageously happy with you! He’s the proudest Papa in all the Cosmos.
But wait, there’s more: You simply do not need to do any single thing to make God more happy or more proud of you. EVER!
Why is this? Well simply because God is already bursting full of so much joyful thoughts towards you that He can not possible be more proud of you. He has used up all His pride on you!
He’s bonkers about you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Give up all the pushing, and pulling; striving, and trying to make God proud of you. Stop praying like God is a temperamental God who is easily angered. He is not!
God is the good God, who thinks good thoughts about you! He’s wildly in love with you. Get over it! Let Him love you!
Instead pray this: “God help me see how happy I make you. Help me hear your joyful song, and dance over me. Help me know that I am your beloved child, no matter what I do.”
What are your thoughts? How does this make you think different about prayer? Discuss below!
(Disclaimer: I want to make it clear that I am not against the heart behind each of these prayers. There are valid reasons for praying each of these. The heart is often times in the right place when we pray, so I don’t want to discredit that. However, I do want to guide your thinking about prayer and take you into a new place with God.)
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