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Day 14 — Things That Hinder Prayer (You Mean There’s More?)

Matthew 5:23-24 — “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

This may sound controversial, but did you know there are things that can hinder your prayer life? Even as born again, committed followers of Jesus there are things that can keep us from having a deep, unhindered, intimate prayer life. In today’s focal Scripture I think we see two clear indications that we need to give thought to our actions and the condition of our heart as we seek God’s will.

Does God really care how I treat my wife Amber? Of course, He does. In fact, it is a command that I love my wife like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). In that command I should also realize that mistreating my wife and failing to treat her in a Christ honoring way can take me out of the will of God and hinder my prayer life. I think the central point for husbands and wives is this: if we are failing to love our spouse in a Christ honoring way, this can and does hinder our intimate prayer time with God.

Secondly, Jesus points out that if we come to the altar (wherever we pray is an altar) and remember that someone has a real issue with our behavior, we should pause before we come to the altar to commune with God and seek reconciliation with them. As I sit here writing this devotion, I’m asking God “what is the central theme of these thoughts?” I think the answer is this: when we fail to love others how God intends and then we think we can boldly stroll before the throne without thinking it will impact our relationship with God, we are wrong.

Think about it this way, my son Kasen and my daughter Abigail love to fight with each other. I’ve found myself again and again reminding Kasen: “Abigail is my daughter, you aren’t going to treat her like that.” I’ve also reminded Abigail: “Kasen is my son, you aren’t going to treat him like that.” Imagine then that as they are mistreating each other that one of them would have the audacity to try and walk up to me and begin a casual conversation as if nothing had happened…this has actually occurred in my home before. I have stopped the conversation and made them reconcile before we could move on to anything else.

This may not be a purely Biblical example of how this process works out but remember God’s love for each of us is perfect. When we mistreat someone (especially our spouses) it is foolish to think God is unaffected. Imagine His frustration when we come to Him with unresolved anger, unforgiveness, or sin that we refuse to face and confess. I can almost hear Him saying: “no Daniel, you just mistreated Amber. She is my daughter, go apologize to her first and then come back and let’s talk.”

Today as you pray, consider this question: who are you still refusing to forgive? Is there something you’ve done that you are even refusing to forgive yourself for? It’s time to face that unforgiveness. If it is keeping you from a deeper, more intimate prayer life with God… isn’t it time to give it up? Secondly, consider how you are treating your spouse in light of Scripture. The command is simple… husbands love your wives, wives submit to your husbands. (Ephesians 5:24-25) If you are failing to love your spouse the way God intended, know that this will hinder your prayer. It’s time to face this reality and stop setting unbiblical preconditions on your submission to God’s Word (“I’ll do this when they do this…”). Press in deeper to God’s presence and confess any failures, ask for forgiveness, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to live in a way that glorifies Him.

Lord, we submit our entire lives to you. We submit our unforgiveness and our spouses to you. Help us Lord forgive and love the way you’ve commanded. Teach us to be more like You in these areas of our live. Reveal to us any unforgiveness or any area we don’t love our spouses in the way you’ve commanded. Help us realize that the power of our prayer is limited in these two very serious areas. Help us submit to you even when it’s hard to submit to others. Help us place the highest value on Your Word and trust your process. Help us do what you’ve commanded even when those we love most are not. Give us an intimacy like we’ve never had in our prayer life. We believe that as we know you more, we will know true love, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 13 — Can My Prayers Be Hindered?

1 Peter 3:7 — “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

I have often heard it said that “God always hears our prayers.” We hear Scriptures such as, 1 John 5:15 that says, “And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” We may be tempted to immediately draw that conclusion. But as Jesus challenged Satan during his wilderness temptation with the simple retort, “It is also written” (Mat. 4:7), perhaps we should examine more of what Scripture has to say on the matter.

Our Scripture today from 1 Peter 3 would seem to indicate that our neglect of our spouses, lack of respect or lack of being considerate may indeed hinder our prayers. 1 Peter 3:12 says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” God apparently does listen attentively to those who are righteous (in right standing with God), but it seems as if He is set against, or deaf, to those who do evil. This echoes David who writes in the Psalms, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” (Ps. 66:18). David was a “man after God’s own heart,” if there was anyone who was righteous before God it was him…and yet, he laments that his own predilection to sin could keep his prayers from reaching God’s ears.

Now I’m not trying to scare you or bring condemnation or fear…all of our right actions are as filthy rags before Jesus (Isaiah 64:6; Rom. 3:10). We should be thankful to know that our righteousness (right standing) before God is not our doing. Faith in Jesus Christ alone is what gives us a right standing before God. And it keeps us right before Him (when we confess our sins — 1 John 1:9). But if you you feel like God is distant or not “hearing” you, you may want to take spiritual inventory. Is there any sin in your heart? Are you treating your spouse with respect? If so, the remedy is simple…confess your sins to God and you will find that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul. Amen. (Psalm 103)

Day 12 — Praying Through Pain

Psalm 34:18 — “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Matthew 11:28 — “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Imagine for a moment that you couldn’t hide the emotional scars and spiritual desperation that you’re feeling. Imagine that instead of saying “I’m doing fine” when someone asked that you were real: “my life is falling apart and I’m powerless to stop it”. Imagine being honestly broken before a holy God and confessing every heartache to Him. Do you know where God is when you are in pain? According to Scripture he is “close”. Close enough to save you from the despair. I imagine Him holding me and carrying me when I am too weak to even crawl to Him.

There have been moments after the death of my late wife and daughter where I locked my bedroom door, turned the music up loud so no one could hear me, and I screamed in agony at the floor. In my mind the emotions flooded every part of me as the pain threatened to overtake me and destroy me. My prayers became a mixture of confused cries and desperate pleas for the pain to stop. Do you know this type of praying? Chances are if you have ever lost someone you loved, you know what I mean.

It is far easier to slam the door shut on prayer after tragedy. I tried. I can remember feeling numb (physically, mentally, and spiritually). I can remember thinking “God I have faithfully served and followed you… how could you let this happen?” I can remember honestly being afraid that I would be in pain the rest of my days. That I would never be able to take care of my son Kasen or that I would be broken for the rest of my miserable life. I was wrong, you are too. But in the midst of that pain, we must continue praying and seeking God’s face.

Jesus doesn’t scold those who are weary and burdened for hurting. He gently beckons and tenderly calls them to come to Him for rest. When you are in pain, praying doesn’t seem to come naturally. You may not know what to pray or how to pray or why to pray. Pray any way. The Scripture promises us that the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us and even in our groaning and pain, He makes our prayers known to God. (Romans 8:26)

As you prepare to pray today (or if you are trying to avoid it) even as you’re reading this devotion, be honest with God. He is intimately aware of every thought and hurt you are facing. He hasn’t left you or forsaken you, Scripture promises He never will. Honestly, humbly, and simply bring your broken heart to God. If you need to yell, yell. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to scream until your voice is gone and cry until you have no more tears to cry, do it. Prayers prayed in honest humility and in surrender to Him are powerful prayers.

Lord, we confess our pain. The anger, hurt, and brokenness sometimes feel overwhelming. Thank you for being near us in our weakness Lord. Jesus we come to you seeking the rest You’ve promised. Lord You’ve been faithful and even though we are hurting now, even though the pain has blinded us, we come. Open our eyes to Your presence. Renew and refresh us. Lord we don’t know what we should do or what we should say, but You do. Jesus thank you that we never walk a single step alone, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 11 — Praying When Distracted

Psalm 46:10 — “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

What am I going to do for lunch today? Did I sign the kids agenda? Did I forget to pay the power bill? Hey God. Oh, that’s my favorite song! Is my music too loud? Should I be praying sitting down or while I’m kneeling? Thank you for another day Father.

Does that seem familiar? Distractions can be a powerful roadblock in our prayer time as the demands of life, work, marriage, and families can be at the forefront of our minds. For the longest time in ministry I can remember encouraging men and women to place all these thoughts, burdens, and distractions to the back of their mind as they made time to focus on the things of God. The problem? That isn’t fully possible.

Instead today I want to suggest something radical: when you pray, bring those things out immediately. Is your marriage struggling? Start there. Are you worried you might lose your job or not find another one? Begin your conversation with God there. I think doing this, speaking about the things in our life (even the “small” things) will help us start to clear our mind, and as the Scripture says we can “be still.” Remember, God knows exactly what you need (Matthew 6:8), but it may feel difficult to give Him your undivided attention while you are carrying all these burdens.

Don’t hide them or pretend they aren’t there. Humble yourself and confess the truth: “God I need you.” I think, at least for me, when I start here (confessing my overwhelming need to the only One who can truly do anything about it) the posture of my prayer and the reality of the situation converge: without you God I have no hope. But because of Jesus… I am assured that the Creator of the universe not only hears but even keeps my prayers because they are precious to Him! (Revelation 8:4).

So now you’ve started your prayer by confessing your needs and thoughts to God but you are still distracted, what now? How can you minimize distractions during your intimate prayer time with God? Turn the TV, music, and phone off. Lock your door. Find a private place you can spend a few minutes alone with God consistently and practice. Practice prayer? Yes, because learning to “be still” and know that God is who He says He is can take practice.

I can remember so many times I’ve been speaking with my wife Amber and I’ve failed to give her my undivided attention. Spoiler alert, it rarely ends well. I miss something she says or don’t fully grasp how important something is and things can become a big mess. It’s time to make an effort to confess the distractions we can’t eliminate, and to eliminate those we can. Think about it this way, doesn’t my wife deserve my undivided attention? How much more then does God deserve it?

I won’t promise it’ll be easy. You may have to give something up to make time to truly be still. But in those moments when you are, God will refresh you and just resting in His presence will give you the strength you need for another day.

Father we confess that our lives are full of distractions. People and things are all fighting for our attention and sometimes when we pray it’s hard to focus. We are thankful that in our weakness we can still come to you and with a humble heart we can feel the peace that only being in Your presence brings. Today Lord we want to be still. We want to know you are God. We want to take every worry, every earthly care, every burden, every trial, every thought that we have and place them at your feet. Calm our minds and help us to hear your voice, in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Day 10 — When Prayer Doesn’t Come Easy

Romans 8:26 — “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

Have you ever had a tough time praying? I’m talking about times you made an intentional effort to get away and really spend some time speaking with God. Chances are likely that if you are like the rest of us, you have had times where prayer not only didn’t come easy, it seemed impossible to even find the words.

What will I say? I really messed up this time… is God even listening to me? I’m so hurt, how can I pray? It’s like my prayers are bouncing off the celling, what’s the use? There is something so beautiful about this promise concerning prayer. Even when we are too weak or don’t even know what to pray, the Holy Spirit interprets all the jumbled-up mess and our prayers still come before the God who loves us.

I can almost imagine when one of my children comes to me after something very painful has happened, with crying and painful moans, through my love for them I can still understand one thing: they need me. In that moment they need me to comfort them, help them heal in some way, and to provide in a way that reminds them I’m there. How much more then can our perfect heavenly Father help us in the midst of great pain and suffering in our lives.

I can clearly remember after the death of my late wife Cassie and four-year-old daughter Brynleigh spending many nights with my door locked, music turned all the way up, screaming and crying on my face before God. Although sometimes all I could do was weep, I am confident that as the Scripture promises, God kept track of every sorrow and collected every tear. (Psalm 56:8)

When words elude you, when your thoughts are jumbled and your mind is going a million different ways, when the pain and sorrow of the moment feel like they will overtake you: pray anyway. Prayer isn’t so much the words you speak or the thoughts in your mind as it is a posture of your heart that says: “here I am Lord. I need you.” Make up your mind today that you will make and keep an intimate time of prayer with God. Then, keep that appointment.

God, we confess we need you. Father sometimes in our weakness we become overwhelmed and even unable to know how or what to pray. Help us in those times. Lord Your Word promises that your Holy Spirit makes intercession for us and our prayer is that you remind us of this truth often. Help us make daily time spent with you a priority in our life. Hear the deepest groans of our heart and help us know that you are intimately aware of all our needs, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 9 – Can God Hear Me?

Romans 10:13 — “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

When it comes to prayer, perhaps one of the greatest questions is: Does God hear me? What good is it to seek God, to speak to Him, to attempt to get His attention through fasting, if He is not listening? Surely, the assurance that God hears us is a necessity. The first prayer God hears from anyone is “Lord, save me.” God is always listening for the cry of the lost to be found, for the broken to be healed, for the sinner to be saved. The assurance is God’s own Word that declares it. God’s Word is never wrong. We can also be assured that God’s ear is attentive to the righteous, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;” (Psalm 34:15) The natural question should then be, “Who is righteous?”

The good news is that God has made all men righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ. But there is only one way to activate this righteousness personally…through faith in Jesus Christ. “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22) Faith is more than belief — it is belief, hope and trust in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross to pay for our sins. It is belief, hope and trust in Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead, so that we too will be raised to eternal life with God the Father. It is belief, hope and trust in Jesus Christ to complete the work of saving us not just from the penalty and consequence of sin, but also from the bondage and servitude to sin that we are all trapped in. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, a divine transaction occurs…our sin (past, present and future) is paid for in full. We are declared righteous by God the Father and we are brought from death to life!

This new declaration of our righteousness means God now hears all our prayers! Because His Word confirms that “His ears are attentive” to our cry. God hears you.

Father God, I thank You that You are always listening. Thank You for saving me from my sin. Thank You for declaring me righteous through Jesus Christ. Help my faith to rest on nothing else but Christ’s completed work on the Cross. Lord, today I ask You with confidence for my every need. I believe Your Word, that You hear me, and that You will answer. I praise You for Your awesome promises and for Your great love for me. Help me today to reach out to others that they may see and experience Your love and call upon Your Name and be saved. Amen.

Day 8 — Being Intentional About Prayer

Matthew 6:6 — “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

My wife Amber and I try to make time for a date night every few weeks and try to take trips together whenever possible. Why does this matter? We intentionally make the decision to continue pursuing each other and getting to know each other even though we have already said “I do” and even after the birth of our daughter Annabelle. Don’t miss this: we consciously make a decision, an intentional, planned, purposeful decision to continue seeking one another. How much more important is it that I make an intentional, purposeful effort to pray?

Being intentional about prayer has a powerful impact on the rest of your life. Merriam-Webster defines intentional as “something being done by intention or design.” When you design your day to build time in to spend intimate alone time with God in prayer, everything else will be impacted. It is impossible for me to be the husband, the father, or the servant I’m called to be without having an intimate connection with God in prayer. Be honest with yourself for just a moment… only you and God will hear your answer: are you being intentional about prayer?

Corrie ten Boom put it this way: “Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” Think about it, we make appointments for the doctor, to get a haircut, to meet with the kid’s teachers at school, and for so many other important things in our life. We make time for date nights, play dates, coffee with friends, girls’ night out, the list goes on… but do we make consistent, intentional time for prayer?

Although our “prayer closet” may look different (mine is my office for example), we should all have a consistent hiding place we can enter into privately, freeing ourselves from outside distractions, where we can come to intentionally call on the name of the Lord. Don’t just be intentional about the time of day you pray (yes, make and keep an appointment), also be intentional about where you pray and even how you pray.

As we spend today thinking about intentional prayer, don’t be confused. Being intentional about the time, place, and how you pray doesn’t mean it’s scripted. Everything I see in the New Testament indicates that Jesus wants us to pray from our heart. He doesn’t want it to be scripted or repetitious. He doesn’t want us to come before Him in our own power, knowledge, wisdom, or strength, He wants us to come to Him in our weakness. In humility. In honesty. In vulnerability.

Just like I want to be intentional about my marriage, I should be even more intentional about my relationship with God. The Scripture reminds us: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV).

Lord, help us be intentional. We confess that without you we can’t be the person you’ve created us to be. Help us to learn and understand that as we become more serious about our prayer life, You will speak powerfully through Your Word and the Holy Spirit. Help us make You the first priority in our lives. Help us enter in to the secret place knowing you will meet us there. Help us seek You early knowing we will find You. Help us to consistently, intentionally seek You out and know that every area of our life is blessed by Your presence, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 7 — When Do I Pray?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 — “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Paul answers this simple question with a most emphatic, “continually”! Always, without ceasing, never ending, never stopping — unbroken contact with God is our true need. Jesus allows us because of His work on the cross to have restored fellowship with God and be in constant contact with Him. That means that as we go about our daily lives, we live in an ever-present attitude of prayer. We give thanks in all circumstances, with a heart full of rejoicing, and so we remain aligned with His heart and intentions throughout the day.

Alright, let’s be honest — do we really experience this? Do we really find ourselves truly in this unhindered, uninterrupted state throughout the day? Some may answer “yes” — and I won’t fault you for it. Many will say “I do my best” and that “I experience something like this” — again I don’t question your honesty…But for those of you who struggle (I include myself in this category), can I just encourage you that the difference between the way things are and the way things ought to be, is often the experience that Christians relate to most profoundly. Circumstance is the chief enemy of this unhindered contact…and when it hits we are often ripped out of this pleasant state of thankfulness and rejoicing and plunged into a fury of things that act as an undertow that pulls us out into the depths of an ocean of despair.

How do we get out of the undertow? There is a “church answer” that we just pull ourselves out of it, or shake it off…pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps so-to-speak. But the Bible answer is that we learn to give thanks, in any and all circumstances. This is not easy at first, of course. We must discipline our hearts to understand God’s desire for our good no matter what. When we develop a grateful heart that begins to give thanks, even for life’s hardships, we are getting closer to God’s heart. We find it easier to joy and joy again (rejoice)…we are transformed in mind and body. We trust God’s heart that He works all things for our good and His glory. (Rom. 8:28) The avenue of “prayer at all times” opens as He transforms our minds and hearts into His. The more we pray continually, the more natural it becomes.

Father, sometimes it is hard for me to stay in tune with You. I get bowled over easily by the stresses and worries of the day. Please help me to stay connected to You through my day. Help me to remain in that state that Your Son knew of being perfectly aligned with You. I want to have Your joy constantly. Help me to joy and joy and joy and joy! Thank You for Your great patience and lovingkindness toward me. Thank You for my life and each breath that I have. Thank You for my family and friends, thank You for my church and for Your grace. You are amazing and I will remember that even in the hard times of life. Thank You for every moment, even the difficult ones, that You allow me to experience. I am grateful for Your great glory. Amen.

Day 6 – Being Consistent in Prayer

Matthew 7:7 — “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The depths of the Scriptures can elude us if we aren’t careful in our study of God’s Word. At first glance, this Scripture focused on prayer, is a simple directive to ask, seek, and knock. A closer look begins to uncover a depth of Jesus’ instructions that should serve as a constant reminder when we seek God in prayer. First, consider the 3 separate actions mentioned here: “ask”, “seek”, “knock”. All three of these steps act in unison in a healthy prayer life but all have a different part to play.

Sometimes it can be difficult to translate the depth of the original Biblical languages into English. In this verse for example we are instructed to ask, seek, and knock but the English would incorrectly lead us to believe this is a one-time action. I don’t often like to switch around to different translations to make a point, but the Holman Christian Standard translation gives us a much more accurate translation of this verse:

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 HCSB)

Do you see it? There is a consistent approach in this verse that should invigorate our prayers. If you’re going to ask God, don’t stop asking in prayer until He has given you a clear answer. The parable of the widow and the unjust judge is an example of how consistent we should be in prayer. (Luke 18:1-8)

What’s the deal with this? Is God hard of hearing? Is He so busy He needs a reminder? Do we have to beg? Certainly not. Consistency in prayer and seeking God’s face is not meant to change the heart of God, it is meant to change ours. As we keep asking, keep searching, and keep knocking the Holy Spirit will begin to change our hearts and bring us into God’s will for our lives.

Just a warning here and a reminder: sometimes God’s answer is no. If God’s answer is no, trust that He is still good and that His will for your life is perfect. Sometimes what we think we really need turns out to be the thing that will take us out of the will of God.

As you pray today, present your needs to God (knowing He already knows your needs – Matthew 6:8). Walk boldly into the throne room to find mercy and grace to help in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Seek God’s will along with presenting your desire for an answered prayer. Be prepared to say: “not my will be done, but Your Will God” (Luke 22:2). Lastly, urgently knock at the door until God answers. As you ask, seek, and knock, continue to trust God through the process. Remember this truth: even when it feels like Jesus is four days late, He is right on time. (John 11:38-43)

Lord in Jesus name we come asking, seeking, and knocking. Jesus we confess that without You our prayers would never make it past the celling. But because of you Lord we know that our prayers reach the Father. Help us not to give up hope. Some of us have been praying for weeks, months, or years and it seems like we’ve prayed in vain. Remind us that we never pray in vain Lord. Surround us with your presence and remind us that the God who spoke the universe into existence by the power of His Word hears our prayers and will move in ways we can’t understand. Lord help us in our spiritual exhaustion to continue diligently seeking Your will for our lives. Give us grace to sustain us, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 5 – Being Direct in Prayer

Matthew 6:7-8 — “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

If you have kids, chances are you’ve heard the elaborate story that invariably leads up to a question. It goes something like this: “I had a great day at school today, I made an A on my history quiz and was really good. Abigail and I cleaned up our room and had our snack. The sun is shining, it’s currently 35 degrees Fahrenheit and the moon is going to be full tonight. Can we play Minecraft?” OK, I made that last part up about the sun shining and it is probably only 35 outside, but the point is… kids beat around the bush. We’ve all seen it whether it’s in business, at church, from our spouse or kids, sometimes people add in about 900 unaffiliated details that were not necessary. Do we sometimes do that same thing in prayer?

How about this tactic: “I know you’re probably going to say no, but I’ve had a really good week and I feel like I deserve it. You know everyone else has one, I’m the only kid in 6th grade without one. You said I’d get rewarded if I did a good job, I made honor roll again! I’ve been really good and respectful at home too… I know you already said no but if you just understand why I need it! Dad, I need a phone. Can I have a phone?”

I think what Jesus was talking about here was a bit different than the examples we just looked at, but I think the heart of His message is clear: get to the point. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t add in 900 additional words to your prayer to sound fancy, educated, or eloquent. Remember that when you come before God, He already knows what you need anyway. So when you come to Him be direct, be honest, be humble, and don’t “babble” on.

Thinking back to my children, although sometimes they tell me stories with many twists and turns, when they really need something, they just ask. When they are hungry, they ask for something to eat. When they are thirsty, they ask for something to drink. You know what I do in these times? After I drop a dad joke (“hey thirsty, I’m dad”), I get them a drink. Jesus calls us to be childlike (not childish) in our relationship with Him (Matthew 18:3). So what should we do when we are hungry and thirsty? Come to Jesus for Living Water and Living Bread.

I think at the heart of Jesus’ reminder is this truth: don’t let prayer become a ritual. Imagine for a moment if every time I spoke to my wife I said the same thing. Also imagine if I kept on endlessly babbling but never gave her the chance to respond. Jesus is not telling us not to continue praying about the same things, we are actually encouraged to do that in Scripture (Luke 18:1-8). He is telling us to be honest, direct, and remember Who we are speaking to.

So, when you get the urge to become a professional prayer ninja, resist that urge. Regardless of where or how you are praying, speak from your heart. Know that our Father in heaven knows our needs and will provide for them. Just as I will give my kids something to eat when they are hungry, when we ask we will be filled with what we really need (Matthew 7:9-11).

Father, forgive us when our prayers take detours and U-turns to get to the point. Help us consistently come before you in honest humility and ask for what we need. Lord help us not be discouraged when Your answer is no. Help us trust you. Help us remember You promise to meet our needs and give us wisdom to understand the difference between our desires and our true needs. Help us to trust that not only do You know our needs, but You can and will meet them. Forgive us when we think somehow the power in which we pray makes any difference in how You respond. It isn’t our power Father, it is your grace, love, faithfulness and mercy that renew and refresh us. Thank you for hearing our prayers, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.