This Type of Praying is Not Biblical
I have often heard it said: “Prayer is a conversation; conversations go two ways. Sometimes, we just need to listen.”
That sounds reasonable, does it not? Well, the problem is that it is not entirely true. Not all of it, at least.
It is true that a conversation goes both ways. One-way communication requires only a speaker and a listener, whereas a conversation requires both individuals to participate.
The problem is that prayer is not merely a “conversation,” in the sense that we think of it. In fact, it is not possible for us to hold a direct conversation with God at all! This is why Jesus is the mediator between our prayers and God the Father.
After all, Scripture does say that we make the mistake of trying to fit God into our boxes of human understanding, known as "anthropomorphizing" God. In Psalm 50:21, He says “you thought that I was just like you.” But God is a transcendent being. He surpasses our understanding of how communication works sometimes.
So, the idea of a “listening prayer” is not exactly Biblical. In fact, nowhere in the New Testament exists a single verse suggesting this way of praying! Now, that is not to say people who do spend time in silence, listening to God, are heretical by any means. It is simply not a Biblical method of praying. Now, that being said, I believe that we should listen to what God has to say, just not in the same way.
We should listen to the words of God by going directly to the Word of God. I often hear people say “I don’t hear God speaking.” My first question will always be, “how is your quiet time?” In other words, God already did speak! That is the reason we have the Bible at all! But the Bible is unique, in that the writer of Hebrews says that it is living and active.
So while it is true that God already spoke through the Biblical authors, his word continues to speak to us today. If we want to hear it, though, we must actually take the time to pick it up and read it.
So, the question remains. How should we pray, then? And why pray at all, if God has already given us his sufficient Word?
How, Then, Should We Pray?
Several points. One, we pray because we are commanded to pray by Jesus himself. And he even teaches us how to pray! This is what is often referred to as the Lord’s prayer. Side-note, this is actually an inaccurate title for the prayer. Why? The Lord cannot pray this prayer! Because it involves asking forgiveness of sin, which Jesus never did. A more accurate title would be the disciples prayer! But I digress.
Jesus tells us to pray like this:
“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 also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
A simple acronym for a Biblical model of prayer is ACTS.
The A stands for “Acknowledge.” Jesus acknowledged God the father in his model prayer. We should always begin praying by recognizing who we are speaking to; namely, the Creator of the Universe himself. Our Heavenly Father. We often don’t revere him as such anymore. We speak of God as if he is our buddy, or use colloquial language to describe the Eternal King.
But God is not mocked. I even hear people jokingly ask God to bless their favorite sports teams when praying. I believe this is making a mockery of prayer to the Father.
The C in Acts stands for Confess. We come before God with confession of our sins, recognizing our faults as imperfect people, loved by a perfect God.
The T stands for thanksgiving.
This is possibly the type of prayer we spend the least amount of time praying. How often to we come before the Lord just to thank him for his goodness and mercy? Probably not as often as we should, if we’re honest with ourselves. But we should always take the time to give thanks for what God has done, what he has given, and simply for who he is!
Lastly, the S in Acts is for Surrender. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” Lord, not my will, but Yours. God will see his will accomplished one way or another, whether we’re faithful to him or not. So, if we claim to be followers of Christ, we are expected to submit to that will, take up our cross, and be his disciples.
I have also seen this model laid out to where the S stands for “supplication”. This is the part of our prayer where we ask God to supply our needs, as Scripture promises He will do (Philippians 4:19).
So, now that we have a Biblical understanding of prayer, you still may be wondering why God commands us to pray. Well, James says in James chapter 4, “you have not because you do not ask God.” Paul tells us in Philippians that through prayer and supplication, we are to present our requests to God in the midst of anxiety. Abraham prays for God to spare Sodom in Genesis 18, and he does! Paul tells us also to pray without ceasing. There are plenty of other examples of why we pray throughout scripture. But the biggest reason is that the God of the universe has allowed us to. Why wouldn’t we?