How Not to Pray

I believe strongly in the need for prayer; most people do not pray enough. The problem is that too many prayers ask for miracles from God when what is needed is faith, courage, and work on their part.

In the Bible itself, the miracles are few, except mainly in three eras: the time of Moses; the time of Elijah and Elisha; and in the time of our Lord and the apostles. Even then, God did not allow prayer to replace practical action.

Thus, we are told that King Herod had decided to kill the Christ child (Matthew 2:16-23). God did not tell Joseph and Mary that He would deliver them miraculously; rather, He told Joseph and Mary to make a run for it to Egypt, and to stay there until Herod died. In other words, God did not work a miracle to deliver the infant Jesus: He ordered common sense action.

Why should He work miracles to deliver us when work, common sense, and faith can supply the answer?

A woman whose son and daughter both became promiscuous, called up everyone on her "prayer chain" to ask prayers for her dear children. Nothing good happened, of course. What God required of her was that she ground them, take away their sports cars, cut off their allowances, and apply some Godly discipline. Long before that, she should have placed them in a Christian school.

I believe all the sweet ladies on that "prayer chain" were guilty of blasphemy, as was the mother. They were taking the name of the Lord in vain, and by prayer, to make matters worse.

If God did not work a miracle to save the infant Jesus when practical action was the right step, why should He give you preferential treatment? The second temptation of our Lord by Satan was to ask God for a miracle where none was needed (Matt. 4:5-7), and our Lord’s answer was, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Most prayers tempt God: they demand miracles where faith, courage, and work are needed.

We are commanded to pray, and our Lord gives us the model prayer. It begins: "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10). Only after this are the simple requests in order.

Who has the priority in your prayer? Christ’s Kingdom and work, or your own desire for miracles instead of faith, courage, and work? What kind of prayer do you think God answers?

– R.J. Rushdoony