During college I did an internship at a church where the pastor was into a “Get everyone to the church at 5am to pray for exactly one hour” kick.*
I heard through the grapevine that some well-meaning person slipped him a book on prayer (I believe it was TV evangelist Larry Lea’s Could You Not Tarry With Me One Hour?) and that was all she wrote.
For 13 weeks straight I would get up at 3:45 a.m., take a shower, get dressed, and then make the 55 minute commute to the church building just in time to hit my knees and join the faithful.
For 60 minutes of prayer.
On my knees.
Every flippin’ morning.
For 13 straight weeks.
I kid you not.
“The Koreans are doing it and their churches are growing like wildfire,” I remember him telling me.
“That’s great,” I said, “but can’t God hear us just the same at 9 a.m.? And does it need to be a whole hour? My knees start killing me after 20 minutes. After 30 minutes I’m getting butt cramps. And after 45 minutes, honestly, I’m contemplating converting to Zoroastrianism. Besides, is this really the way prayer works anyway?”
The cure was worse than the disease. Rather than helping everyone gain a greater sense of joy in their prayer life, it accomplished the exact opposite: the more we prayed, the more we felt like we didn’t pray enough.
Ever felt that way?
Moving Past Ridiculous Prayer Expectations
When the topic of prayer comes up just about every Christian I talk to feels guilty. “I don’t pray enough.” “I wish I could pray more.” “Whenever I think of my prayer life I feel like a failure.”
What if we actually do pray enough?
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus tells us,
“This, then, is how you should 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 today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
I’d like to challenge you to read that and time yourself with a stopwatch. How long does it take you to read that prayer at a normal pace? It takes me around twenty seconds.
What if Jesus meant it when he said, “This, then, is how you should pray?”
I do that. And I bet you do too. All throughout the day. Twenty second prayers here. Ten second prayers there. Forty second prayers for this person. Twenty-five second prayers for a struggle I’m having. It’s like we’re having an on-going connection with God all throughout the day. And we feel great about it; that is, until we read a modern-day book on prayer.
What if all of these well-intentioned prayer experts with all of their finely tuned strategies and outlines were wrong?
What if Jesus was absolutely cool with fifty-three word prayers?
Do you feel guilty because you don’t pray enough? How’s your prayer life right now?
*Just to set the record straight – butt cramps aside – my internship that summer was incredible.