Are You Praying Like an Unbeliever?
“My whole upbringing, customs of childhood, and the poetical image of Christ and all that belongs to His teaching, are so deeply implanted in me, that involuntarily I find myself calling upon Him in my grief and thanking Him in my happiness. “
These words were written by an unsaved man.
He was a confused, cynical artist wavering between religion and agnosticism. He knew Christian truth, but was certainly not Christian. His view of religion was to pick and choose what was easy for him to believe. He hated God’s ways, he loved sin, he feared heaven.
And yet he prayed. Regularly. Naturally. It flowed out of him by habit.
I believe that prayer comes instinctively to the whole human race, no matter how firmly atheistic some people are. It’s wired into us, to seek help outside of ourselves. When people are in a tight spot or going through a near-death experience, it’s not surprising to hear them praying. Performers of all genres and lifestyles make prayer a regular part of their pre-show routine. People of many different belief systems treasure the moments when they pause and send up a simple prayer of thanks or petition.
That’s why it’s so important to realize that not all prayer is spiritual prayer. Just because you address words to God throughout the day doesn’t mean you’re abiding. It doesn’t mean you’re worshiping. Some people might just be submitting to force of habit. Or they might be looking for a pick-me-up or an extra fuzzy feeling.
The scary thing is how deceptive empty prayer can be. Acknowledging God throughout the day makes me feel spiritual and connected. But there are days in which I never stop to consider whether I’ve actually communed with God at all.
I’m not saying that a simple, “Thank you, Lord,” or “Help me, God,” is necessarily an insincere prayer. But if we throw out these phrases in an offhand way without truly thinking of the Creator God while we’re saying them, they become dangerous. It’s like a subtle way of taking the Lord’s name in vain. When we call on God without truly calling on God, prayer becomes more of a superstitious habit than an act of communion.
As Christians, let’s be committed to truly Christian prayer. The prayers of a Christian should look distinctly different than the prayers of an unbeliever. Anybody can say, “Lord, Lord.” Let’s determine to be people whose prayers are tough, honest and Spirit-filled. Prayers that empower us to do the Lord’s will.
Christians pray when it’s hard. They fall on their knees when they don’t want to. They pray when they’ve sinned, when they’re angry, when they doubt.
Christian’s pray vulnerably. They pray surrendered. They pray without an agenda. They open their hearts – not just to be heard, but to be changed.
Christians pray God’s priorities. Their prayers aren’t continually focused on themselves and their problems. Truly Christian prayer is expansive, global and eternal.
And finally, Christians worship. They don’t just thank. An unbeliever can thank God for what He gives. We do the same, but we also have the privilege of thanking God for who He is. If we have a prayer life that is filled with worship, not just gratitude, we will be able to pray with joy no matter our circumstances. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”
Let’s be praying people. People who connect, who don’t just “heap up empty phrases” like unbelievers.
What are your ways to keep connected with the Lord throughout the day? Let me know in the comments.
 The Life and Letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky