Prayer is seldom easy. I talk with a lot of folks about prayer, and I fear that many of them approach prayer as a ritual rather than as a relationship. Use these questions to consider which one more describes your prayer life today:
- Do you pray because you have to or because you want to? If you talk to God only because “that’s what a Christian is supposed to do,” you’re likely treating prayer as a ritual.
- Are you comfortable praying wherever you are, or must you pray in a certain place at a certain time? It’s fine – important even, for some believers – to have a set time and place to pray each day. But, your prayer life might be ritualistic if you pray only in that place and time.
- Do you ever just talk to God about your day, or do you turn to Him only when you have a need? Praying only when a need arises makes prayer a ritual of response. True relationship means you want to talk often with the person, even if you seemingly have nothing important to say.
- Does your language style change when you pray? We’ve all heard that leader whose accent disappears and whose words change to KJV English when he prays. That’s ritual. In a relationship, we might even call that “fake.”
- Can you make it through the day without praying? If so, that’s not a very strong relationship. When you do pray, I’d not be surprised if it’s only a ritual someone else expects you to follow.
- Do your prayers sound alike all the time? That’s one way I realize when I’ve shifted more into ritual. When my prayers sound remarkably alike – sometimes word-for-word alike in a given setting, like praying with my wife in the morning or saying grace over a meal – I’ve moved in the wrong direction.
- Do you just know that your prayers are more a Christian ritual than an expression of a relationship? See, I think we do know, unless we’ve allowed our heart to deceive us. Is prayer more ritual or relationship in your life? Be honest. Trust your Holy Spirit-directed gut.
If your praying has become more “I have to pray” than “I get to pray,” ask God to give you a “want to” heart for Him. And get somebody else to pray the same for you . . . .