I hope that title grabbed your attention. No, I don’t think praying is a waste of time. But, perhaps how Christians go about praying is a waste of time.
To hear some Christians speak of prayer, you’d think they were climbing the ramparts of hell—climbing those ramparts with flaming swords in their hands. You’d think they were glorious paladin in glistening white robes. Or, hunkered down in their prayer rooms, praying unceasingly for hours—hours upon hours, on their knees as mighty warriors—prayer warriors, lobbing spiritual cannonballs at the enemy. The Evangelical community has painted prayer in such romantic terms—and people that spend hours in prayer are seen as untouchable, far above any level of spiritual maturity that most of us can obtain.
But, maybe we need to quit buying into this hype about the prayer warrior. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with prayer, but maybe we’ve made it seem too arduous. What did Jesus say on this matter? Consider Matthew 6:5-13, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
Seems Jesus’s example is short, simple, and to the point. There’s no glorious pontification. There’s no detailed breakdown of every little detail of a person’s sin. There’s no lengthy laundry list of needs.
God does want us to pray. But, maybe we’ve turned it into something grandiose, when God wants simplicity. Perhaps we’ve turned prayer into a ritual. And, when it becomes that, maybe it is a waste of time.