21 Days of Prayer 2022
The passage for today comes from the Sermon on the Mount, a collection of Jesus’s teachings on what it means to live according to God’s way. He says a lot of surprising things, encouraging his audience to look deeper than the mere words of the Law to the spirit behind them. Saying prayers doesn’t mean we always say them sincerely. In verses 5–6, Jesus warns us not to pray to impress people. In what ways have you been tempted to adapt your prayers so that you will look good when praying publicly? How does your demeanor, your word choices, your voice change because you are aware of others around you listening?
Sometimes we tell people we will pray for them without actually talking to God about those requests. Our offers to pray can build up our reputations as spiritual people. What new habits can you form to limit casual, insincere offers to pray for others? What practices can you start to help you actually pray when you say you will?
J.D. described the Pharisees who prayed as a means to an end. They wanted something from God more than they wanted a close relationship with God. Have you ever felt the tension between wanting answers to your requests and acknowledging God’s love and righteousness no matter what happens? How does that tension affect your prayers?
Sometimes our desperate situations which bring us to God cause us to forget his loving-kindness. Instead, we fear that we aren’t doing enough to deserve his attention or favor and our prayers become forced, precise, repetitive. If only we pray the right way, we think, he will listen to us. How do you use familiar prayers in your worship without them becoming rote?
J.D. told the story of his daughter bursting through the crowd to show him her picture. Her freedom and joy are a reflection of what our relationship with God our Father can and should be. He welcomes our prayers with open arms. How have you imagined God listening to your prayers? Is he attentive and caring or skeptical and disapproving? In what ways can your prayer life be enriched through the reminder of God’s fatherly affection for you?
God isn’t looking for eloquence or dignity or a demonstration of our devotion when we talk to him. He wants us to approach him in the knowledge that we are his children and he is our Father who loves us. Think through your typical approach to prayer. In what ways do you feel hindered or stuck? What new practices can you begin to help your prayers become more sincere?
If you realize you’ve been praying in order to get something—whether approval from people, an answer from God, or something you have been wanting—confess your self-centeredness. Ask God to help you better understand his love and grace, and to increase your love for him over anything he might give you.