I have been around Christians my whole life - I was born into home where my parents were active in the church and where I was immersed into Christian culture. I wore the WWJD bracelets, bought my music CDs from the "If-you-like-this-secular-band-you'll-be-dissappointed-with-these-Christian-bands" rack and went to all the youth groups and summer camps.
Eventually, my story took me to bible college and now into pastoral ministry. I've led bible studies, worship nights, prayer nights, devotions and preached sermons. I've been surrounded by Christians and prayed with brothers and sisters in Christ from all denominations and traditions and through it all, I've come to the conclusion: Christians have boring prayers.
Prayers aren't meant to be rated on their entertainment value, but I can't help but be bored when praying with most Christians. Their prayers are often small, vague and full of weak disclaimers; as if they are uttering the Christian equivalent of a post-game NHL player interview (minus the sweat and breathiness... in most cases):
We gotta take it one game at a time, get the puck in deep, finish our checks and get some shots on net. We need to take advantage of our chances, get into the dirty areas and score some goals... give 110% and play a full 60 minutes.
I mean, when has any viewer ever been inspired, encouraged or challenged after a post-game interview? I interned at a church where a few hockey players in the WHL attended and they practiced their cliched lines so they could be ready for a sound-byte if needed.
In recent years, I've had the chance to have great relationships with people with little or no church background and watch them as they grow closer to Christ and give their lives over to him. It is in their presence, when it is time to pray am I captivated with what and how they pray.
People who encounter Christ later in life don't seem to carry any of the religious baggage that so many life-long Christians have like that can stifle prayers. They are free in expressing their struggles, dislikes, challenges and celebrations in prayer and with others.
Christians, on the other hand, learn how to be reserved with their struggles, hide their weaknesses and think that offering secret "unspoken prayer requests" are the way to grow and mature in the faith and relationship with Jesus.
If you were grab a mic and camera and approach most Christians after a church service to ask about what they're praying for, you'd probably get a response similar to this (maybe including the sweat and breathiness, too!):
We have to pray for strength and wisdom... travelling mercies and that Jesus would guide and direct us... Help us to be kind to people in our life as well,There's a lot of unspoken prayer requests and I'd covet your prayers... pray as you feel led...
Serious? I can hardly imaging that If we're supposed to pray without ceasing, God wasn't wanting us to come up with prayers like this. The new Christian tells it like it is:
My marriage is really tough right now, and I need prayer to be a more loving spouse. I find myself being a control freak and I need help letting go of that. I also want my friend, Jane, to come to church - can we pray for her?
The scary part it, new Christians take their cues from more 'mature' Christians and they pick up subtleties in what words to use when praying, what is topics are off limits (because it makes insecure people feel awkward) and to not be specific with their prayers.
I know that my prayers have changed recently to reflect the rawness needed to both grow as a disciple for myself as well as to become a better shepherd of those around me who are looking to grow as well. Here's what's changed in my prayers:
What do you think? Do Christians really have boring prayers? Leave a comment below!
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.