5 Misconceptions About Prayer Your Congregation May Believe

By Chip Ingram

Jesus calls us as His disciples to pray. And as church leaders, we definitely want our church members to be people of prayer. However, there are five misconceptions that our folks just may believe, and we actually may believe some of these ourselves. Read on to discover what we can do to address these 5 misconceptions for ourselves and our congregation.

Misconception 1: Prayer is too passive. I need to actually do something to change my situation.

Many of us are by nature, doers. Therefore, when we want our situation to change or we want God to intervene in our lives, we determine that prayer is too passive.

This can’t be further from the truth. In reality, prayer is incredibly active. It’s about connecting with God in a personal and deep way through an active waiting upon Him. We abide in His presence and wait for Him to work in our situation in His timing for His (and our) best possible outcome.

Misconception 2: Prayer is transactional (If I use the right words when I pray, God will give me what I want).

This attitude about prayer follows a sort of “if/then” methodology, and it’s where many believers find themselves today. It holds to a view that if we do the right things, use the right words, and perform well as a Christian, then God will give us what we want and will answer our prayers.

This attitude toward prayer sets up God as a sort of genie in a bottle or a great cosmic Santa Claus. But in both the Old and New Testaments, prayer isn’t transactional. It is always an invitation by God into a relationship.

What God wants and what you and I need is to actually meet with Him. He wants us to come with our fears, our hopes, and our anxieties; and they don’t need to be solved ahead of time. God just wants us to bask in His presence.

Misconception 3: I don’t pray because God doesn’t actually want to hear from me.

Sadly, many of us have a view of God in which He’s sitting in heaven with His arms crossed and is waiting for us to clean up our acts before He’ll answer. Unresolved sin in our hearts does create a roadblock to God answering our prayers, but God is faithful to forgive us when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9) and is ready and eager to meet with us.

We have to remember that prayer is promise-centered, not performance-centered.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)

Misconception 4: Life is good right now, so I don’t really see a need to pray (I don’t need God at the moment).

Have you ever really had a moment when you’ve discovered just how much God loves you? Perhaps there was a time in your life when you did something so dumb, stupid and sinful that you realized there was no point pretending like you had it all together. You were spiritually and emotionally bankrupt, and there was no performance to bring. All you could do was simply cry out for mercy.

If you’ve experienced that, or if that’s you right now, you know that it’s when life is messy that we truly encounter God’s heart.

On the other hand, if you don’t think you need God right now because life is good, you’re missing out on the relationship God wants to have with you. Again, you might not say any of this aloud, but pause for a moment and ask yourself if your lack of prayer is rooted in a belief that you don’t need God. It’s in our brokenness that we begin to champion God’s agenda over our own.

Misconception 5: I pray through my prayer list; therefore, I’ve prayed.

Lists without heart are useless.
Let me say that one more time.
Lists without heart are useless.

If we’re not careful, our entire relationship with Christ can become just another “to-do” list item. Again, what God wants is to meet with us. He wants us to “cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Are any of those misconceptions true for either yourself or the people in your church? The reality is that prayer is how we ask for the improbable, expect the impossible, and receive the unthinkable. If you want to learn more about prayer either for yourself or your congregation, check out our free video series, How to Experience God in Prayer.

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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