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Am I Disrespecting God in Prayer?

When we pray, there can sometimes be an over-emphasis on things that don’t matter.

Whether we stand or kneel.

Whether we talk out loud or to ourselves.

Whether we use exactly the right phrasing.

What really matters when we pray towards God is the posture of our heart. What is our disposition towards Him? Why are we praying? What are we hoping to accomplish? Do we have faith that God will hear us?

Sometimes these things that don’t really matter can actually stop us from praying towards God. Because we think we have to have certain “things” in place, we put off praying until the situation is exactly right.

Meanwhile, Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “Pray without ceasing.”

That means all the times we need Him, in every situation, no matter the context.

He’s always listening.

Three Things That Don’t Disrespect God in Prayer

Despite the fact that we’re told to “pray at all times” (Ephesians 6:18), there are some times when people hold off on prayer because they think doing so would be disrespectful towards God.

To be clear, I absolute applaud the mindset of maintaining reverence towards Him, but we should never wait for a “more opportune time” to pray to Him. 

Below are some times when prayer might seem disrespectful, but it really isn’t.

Praying While Busy

At least four times in Paul’s writings, he tells us to maintain a constant state of prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 2:2).

This does not mean, as some would argue, that you need to pray 24 hours a day, seven days a week (as if that was even possible to begin with).

Instead, what he’s arguing for is a constant mindset of prayer. That means that you have a natural reaction of praying when times are good (to thank Him) and to ask for help (when times are rough).

It’s about making a habit, and like any good habit, you know when it’s been “too long” between prayers.

In order to be “praying without ceasing,” you have to weave it into your everyday life. That means praying while mindlessly binging Netflix, staying in line at Whole Foods, or mowing the lawn. Lean into the concept of praying short prayers — even if they’re only ten seconds — and use them to fortify your life

Praying While in Sin

A lot of people feel like God won’t hear them while they’re in sin, but that’s not the case either.

The confusion happens because the Bible clearly states in John 9:31 that God “doesn’t hear sinners.” But if that were true, how could any of us pray for forgiveness?

What the blind man means in this passage is that if people are engaged in active, stubborn sin where they have no intention of ever repenting, those prayers fall on deaf ears. After all, why should God listen to people who don’t plan on ever plan on listening to Him?

When Solomon dedicated the Temple (1 Kings 8:22-53), he emphasized the fact that no matter how far apart God’s people are from Him, they can pray and He will listen. The only question mark is whether or not we actually intend to return to Him.

Praying an Angry Prayer

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that you can yell at God. That’s not at all what I’m advocating, and the Bible certainly never endorses that either.

What I am saying is that you can be blunt in prayer. Moreover, I would argue that you should be blunt — while maintaining an attitude of reverence, of course.

This is essentially the basis for the entire book of Job. Throughout that whole story, Job constantly cries out to God and lays out his entire life before Him. He pulls no punches — which is why many people argue that he was disrespectful.

I would claim he was just being honest, though. Twice in Job it’s said that he never “sinned with his lips” (Job 1:22; 2:10); if that’s true, then the rest of the book teaches us how we can also air our grievances.

Again, Job was never disrespectful. He knew exactly who God was and simply asked for an audience with Him. The fact that he asked over and over and over again and asked in a way that seemed blunt may feel off-putting, but sometimes that’s exactly what we need too.

1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast our anxiety on Him, because He cares for us.” To do that, sometimes we need to be blunt.

Three Things That Do Disrespect God

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we do have to be mindful of some prayers that will definitely impact our relationship with God.

The below points all have to do with matters of our heart; as we stated earlier, our spiritual posture is most important.

Be sure to check your heart regularly, and if you have any of the below situations, rectify them ASAP.

Praying While Hating Your Brother

In 1 Peter 3:1-6, Peter talks about the relationship of a wife to her husband. Despite the cultural differences between us and them, everyone would agree that a wife like the one Peter describes would be an enormous asset to her husband.

The responsibility shifts in 1 Peter 3:7, though:

“Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

1 Peter 3:7

Did you catch that last part? Peter argues that the way in which husbands treat their wives could actually impact their prayers towards God.

Why is that? One reason could be because they wouldn’t have the right attitude towards God to begin with — one of grace and compassion — but the other has to do with simple logic. How can God bestow mercy on someone who is incapable of showing mercy on anyone else?

This is the whole point of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. One servant is forgiven a huge debt (several millions of dollars), then he goes out and shakes down his friend for a debt that represents a tiny percentage of what he was just forgiven.

The master’s judgment is swift: “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”

The same is true for us. How can we possibly expect to have our prayers heard if we harbor hate in our hearts for others? 

Praying While Doubting

When you pray to God, do you actually believe that God will hear and answer your prayers?

Sometimes our faith wavers a bit. We pray, but we don’t really know for sure if He’s listening or if He’s going to respond at all.

To be clear, God always responds, but sometimes that answer is “yes” or “no” or “not now.”

James 1:6 addresses people who pray “while doubting” and says that those people “shouldn’t expect to receive anything.” The argument here though is not between people who pray with a little faith and those who pray with a lot, but between people who pray with faith and those who pray without any faith.

This idea is more prominent than you realize. Atheists who claim they don’t believe in Him and then say a prayer “in case He’s listening” obviously don’t have any faith at all. 

But more than that, those of us who say we believe in God and then turn around and limit His power are under a similar charge. If you believe that God is all powerful and can do anything, pray like it!

Praying to Be Seen

Jesus reserved a special amount of anger for Pharisees who made their religion a show. He calls them out specifically in Matthew 6:1-8 for their habit of praying on street corners (where they can be seen) and repetitive, hollow prayers.

Do you ever do that? 

I’ve been guilty of sometimes “praying on autopilot,” without any real sense of what I even said. In times like those, we have to take a step back, think about what we just said, and then pray again.

And this time, mean it.

After all, if we’re not even listening to ourselves, why should God listen?

And if we’re just praying to be heard by other people, then whatever praise they give us is reward enough. That’s what we were after to begin with, wasn’t it?

Pray Without Ceasing

The physical context of prayers doesn’t matter nearly as much as our spiritual context. When we think about things that show honor to God, think less about your physical environment and more about your heart.

Who do you want to hear your prayer? What are you asking for? What is your relationship with others like?

Answer those questions, make the adjustments (if necessary) and your prayer will reach God every time.

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