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As a Christian, one of the first things you learn about is prayer. But are there somethings you’ve learned that are hindering your prayer life? In this post, we’ll talk about 5 common misconceptions about prayer you need to reject particularly when learning how to pray.
- FALSE BELIEF #1: Your prayer must be elaborate
- FALSE BELIEF #2: Your prayer must be lengthy and loud for God to take notice
- FALSE BELIEF #3: You can only talk to God in certain places or at certain times
- FALSE BELIEF #4: You must close your eyes or kneel to pray
- FALSE BELIEF #5: You can only talk to God about certain things
- Tips for learning how to pray
When you’re just learning to pray as a beginner or trying to improve your prayer life, you may find prayer to be a frustrating process.
You may feel like you don’t have the right words or feel overwhelmed by how long it seems to take.
Maybe you hear other people talking about how much better they feel after praying, but you don’t have the same experience and you’re not sure why.
When you feel this way, it’s important that you don’t give up and stop praying altogether. And you shouldn’t feel guilty either!
The fact that you’re reading this post is a sign that you genuinely want to improve your communication with God — and He sees and knows that!
You’re off to a good start.
While there are various reasons you may feel frustrated when praying, one big culprit could be that you’ve adopted some false beliefs about prayer that are preventing you from enjoying your time spent with God.
It’s important to identify what these false beliefs are so you can make the necessary changes.
Below are 5 beliefs about prayer you need to reject in order to improve your personal prayer life:
FALSE BELIEF #1: Your prayer must be elaborate
The truth: Prayer is simply a conversation with God
Prayer is not some elaborate speech filled with fancy words.
Yes, you may find that when praying in public, people sometimes tend to use bigger words and say longer prayers because they are aware that their prayer is also being heard by an audience.
While this isn’t wrong per se, it really isn’t necessary.
Matthew 6:7 (NKJV) says this:
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathens do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
Here, Jesus tells us that using ‘many words’ — or fancifully sayings and repetitions — don’t make our prayers any ‘better’.
God hears the simple prayers too.
The perfect example of prayer
If you need an example of how simple and straightforward a prayer can be, take a look at the example Jesus gives later in Matthew 6 from verse 9 to 13:
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
*Hallowed here means holy
So when you pray, you don’t need to use fancy language or say ‘thou’ or ‘thee’ or ‘ye’. You can just talk to God like you would talk to a good friend.
Because: prayer is simply a conversation with God.
One synonym for that word is a chat. So we can say prayer is like chatting with God.
This isn’t to say that you don’t need to be reverent (you do), but you should know this: God still hears you when you just talk.
Key point: Your prayer does not have to be fancy or elaborate because prayer is simply a conversation with God.
FALSE BELIEF #2: Your prayer must be lengthy and loud for God to take notice
The truth: God hears short and quiet prayers too
You may believe that you don’t have the time to pray or that you can’t pray in certain places because you don’t want people to hear you.
But there is nowhere in the Bible where you find ‘long’ or ‘loud’ as a requirement for prayer.
In fact, the Bible says that there are some people who try to make themselves look good by saying long prayers but who still do wicked things.
But they cheat widows and take their homes. Then they try to make themselves look good by saying long prayers. God will punish them very much.– Mark 12:40
In Luke 18:10-14, Jesus gives a story that is essentially a comparison between a long and loud prayer with a short and humble one. Read it below:
These verses aren’t saying that long or loud prayers are bad, but that the length and volume of your prayer don’t prove anything.
Saying a long prayer isn’t better than a short but sincere one.
Saying a loud prayer isn’t better than a genuine but whispered one.
Yes, they are times when your prayer may be lengthy as you pour out your heart to God or it may be loud as you cry out to Him. But there are lots of moments when you can only whisper a short prayer of a few words:
“Help me” “Thank you” “Guide me” “Forgive me”
Although short and whispered or silent, God hears your prayers.
Key point: A prayer can be short, whispered, or even silent.
FALSE BELIEF #3: You can only talk to God in certain places or at certain times
The truth: You can talk to God anywhere and at anytime
When you recognize that prayer is simply a conversation with God and that you don’t have to say long or loud prayers, you begin to realize that you can pray to God anywhere and at any time.
And I really mean ANYWHERE and ANYTIME.
Joshua 1: 9 tells us:
… don’t be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
And again in Matthew 28: 20, Jesus promises that He will always be with us until the end of time:
… You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time.
So if God promised to be with us all the time, why would we have to wait for a specific place or time to pray?
Since He is always with us, we can always talk to Him!
God isn’t your boss that you have to schedule a meeting with and He isn’t a college lecturer that you have to wait for office hours to see.
He is an ever-present friend and a loving Father who wants to talk to us all the time!
God’s office hours are from 12 am to 11:59 pm, 24/7, 365.
We can reach Him ANYTIME!
Key point: God is always with you, so you can talk to Him anytime and anywhere.
FALSE BELIEF #4: You must close your eyes or kneel to pray
The truth: A reverent prayer posture is important, but not mandatory
So no, you don’t have to close your eyes and clasp your hands and kneel every time you want to pray.
These things should be done when possible — they help us to avoid distractions and to show reverence to God — but of course, there will be times when you can’t adopt a posture of prayer.
What do you do then?
Think about these scenarios, for example you’re:
- walking or driving through a lonely place
- at a job interview and the interviewer asks a tough question
- on a stage and about to give the most important presentation of your life
These are all examples of moments where we would call on God for protection, guidance or wisdom, but not ideal moments for closing your eyes or kneeling.
So while it’s important to have a reverent prayer posture whenever possible, remember you can also pray with our eyes wide open, standing up or seated or lying on our beds in the dark.
Key point: You don’t have to close your eyes, clasp your hands, or kneel every time you need to talk to God.
FALSE BELIEF #5: You can only talk to God about certain things
The truth: You can talk to God about everything
I am always thankful for the fact that I can talk to God about anything and everything.
Those secret things (fears, confessions, plans, insecurities, joys, struggles, accomplishments, failures) that I can’t talk to family or friends about… I can always tell God.
So it saddens me to think that some people believe otherwise.
They wonder: Can I really talk to God about anything?
Reasons you can talk to God about anything
1. The Bible says so
In 1 Peter 5:7, it says:
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
Not some of your anxiety, but all. Tell Him everything.
Even David did that. In Psalms 6:6, he talks about how he spent the whole night crying to God:
Lord, I am so weak. I cried to you all night. My pillow is soaked; my bed is dripping wet from my tears.
And it’s not just the bad stuff we can tell God. In Philippians 4:6 it says:
Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have.
This means we can also talk to God about everything we need and we can tell Him how thankful we are for all the good stuff.
So, we can tell God all our worries AND all our joys.
2. God knows everything
Another reason why you can and should talk to God about everything is that there really is no use in keeping/hiding things from Him. He already knows everything!
Proverbs 15:11 says:
The Lord knows everything, even what happens in the place of death. So surely He knows what people are thinking.
You may wonder then… if He knows everything, why bother to tell him?
Here are some good reasons:
- It’s always good to vent and to let things off your chest. According to familydoctor.org bottling up your feelings worsens the negative impact they can have on your health. So venting is actually therapeutic! And what can be better than venting to someone who will always give good advice and will never gossip to anyone about your situation?
- It’s free! Unlike with a therapist, talking to God is 100% free. So while I definitely recommend going to a therapist if you need to, take advantage of the fact that you can even talk to God at 3 am, when you can’t reach your therapist.
- Telling God what’s going on in your life and asking for help allows Him to intervene and play a part. You’re giving Him permission to take control. And He’s bigger than ANY problem you could possibly have… so who wouldn’t want that??
Key point: You can talk to God about anything because He already knows and cares.
Tips for learning how to pray
Now that you know the truth behind some of the common misconceptions about prayer, here are two helpful tips you can use to guide you when learning how to pray the right way:
Take a look at prayers in the Bible.
The Bible is filled with prayers from people from all walks of life. Some examples of powerful prayers in the Bible are:
- The Lord’s Prayer – Luke 2: 4
- The Prayer of Jabez – 1 Chronicles 4: 10
- The Shepherd’s Psalm – Psalm 23
- Psalm 91 – Psalm 91: 1 – 16
- Psalm 51 – Psalm 51: 3 – 21
- Jonah’s prayer – Jonah 2: 1 – 10
- The tax collector’s prayer – Luke 18: 13 – 14
You can pray these prayers yourself or use them as a guide when praying.
More prayer is always a good idea. Like I said before, you shouldn’t give up on prayer even if it’s frustrating right now. When you pray often you’ll become more comfortable with talking to God. And, as your relationship with Him improves, you’ll find that prayer really isn’t as difficult as it first seemed. You’ll find it a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
If you’d like to learn how you can pray more, check out this post: 8 easy ways to pray without ceasing
There are many false beliefs about prayer that can negatively affect the way we communicate with God. They can make prayer seem like a tedious and frustrating experience.
Thankfully, the Bible does not fail to give us guidance on how to pray so we can better identify these false ideas. Then, once we’ve recognized what those misconceptions are, we can begin to make the necessary changes to enjoy a better and more consistent prayer life.