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Here’s a common church scenario. You’re sitting in the congregation and Pastor Bob gets up and says, “Let’s pray.” He then starts dictating a prayer for you to pray. In other words, Bob is telling you how you ought to talk to God. This is a problem.
Your relationship with God is an extremely personal thing. Your soul’s communication with Him is as intimate and private as a man and wife cuddling each other in bed. In the Bible, God constantly likened worship and prayer to sex. He said His followers were like His wife and He was the possessive Husband who got super ticked when His wife starting doing it with other gods. In the Old Testament, most of God’s chosen people were heavy into idol worship. God took major offense at this. He called it adulterous betrayal and He put out some very crude descriptions of how He viewed souls praying to supernatural beings other than Him.
“At every street corner you built your lofty shrines and made your beauty abominable, spreading your legs to everyone who passed by with increasing promiscuity.” (Eze. 16:25)
To describe a woman as “spreading her legs” is a very crude way of saying she’s having sex with a man. Why is God being so crude here? Because He’s extremely upset about His people praying to other gods. What you do with your soul is extremely important to God. He is very jealous and possessive over you. He says that all of your spiritual “sex”—all of your soul worship and prayers—belong to Him alone. This is why it’s so important that we don’t go praying to Mary, saints, angels, dead people, planets, or anything else. Whenever your soul is reaching out to anyone or anything other than God, God says it’s like you’re having sex with that thing–it’s like you’re committing adultery and cheating on your real Husband.
Prayer is never a light subject to God. It is extremely serious. As Christian parents, we should never be teaching our kids to pray to “the man in the moon” or to dead relatives or to Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Prayer is not a game. When we encourage our kids to make a game out of prayer by encouraging them to pray to beings other than God, we are teaching them to grossly disrespect God.
By using such a shocking metaphor for prayer and worship, God really helps us understand how serious prayer is to Him. In this world, learning that your spouse is having sex with someone else behind your back is a real gut-wrenching experience. Even watching your spouse or date flirt with someone else in front of you is very painful to your heart. God has intentionally chosen a metaphor for prayer that helps us grasp how very serious our loyalty is to Him. We can’t be cheating on our Husband—it’s just not right. We can’t be going around flirting with other supernatural beings right in front of Him. This is what we’re doing when we dabble with things like tarot cards, Ouija boards, horoscopes, and séances. All of these are spiritual activities which are aimed at trying to get your soul interacting with beings other than God. When you do these kinds of things as a Christian, you’re acting like a woman who starts feeling up some other man in a bar while her husband stands there watching angrily. Your soul belongs to God. You are in a sacred union with Him and you shouldn’t be spiritually communing with anyone other than Him.
Your exclusive loyalty is the first thing God insists on when it comes to your prayer life. God wants you praying to Him and only to Him. The second thing He insists on is honesty. God detests it when you’re all fake and phony with Him. Let’s get back to that sex analogy. Picture a woman in bed with her husband. The woman is deeply loved by her husband, and he loves it when she talks to him. As they’re lying in bed together all cozy and cuddly, the man knows something is weighing on his wife’s mind. But when he asks her what’s wrong, she either ignores him or she lies and says everything is fine. How do you think this makes the husband feel?
God wants total honesty from you. He wants you to come to Him about anything and everything. He hates it when you try to shut Him out and stonewall Him. God already knows exactly what you’re upset about, so what good is icing Him going to do? God loves you more than you can fathom. He loves it when you talk to Him. He wants you to be constantly talking to Him throughout the day, not just giving Him these formal “Dear Lord…In Jesus’ Name, amen,” sign offs. Prayers shouldn’t be like e-mails to a stranger that you open and close with formalities. Prayer is your intimate communion with God and you can’t ever talk to Him too much. God loves your simple “Hi, God” that you say in the middle of your day. He loves it when you greet Him in the morning and talk to Him as you’re waiting to fall asleep. God is a very possessive Husband. He wants everything you do to be shared with Him—all your thoughts, your activities and your feelings. When you’re talking to a human friend, God is right there as well, hearing the difference in what you say with your lips and how you’re really feeling in your heart. God is the only One who knows everything about the real you.
Honesty is so important to God that He’d rather have you admit that you’re mad at Him than try to hide your anger under some phony act of worship. If a husband knows his wife is really upset with him, he wants her to talk to him, not break out into some irrelevant song. Don’t stand in church singing love songs to God when you’re inwardly fuming at Him. God hates fake. Prayer is your spiritual sex. Don’t be fake in the marriage bed—that’s just going to be a negative experience for both you and God.
In the Bible, God complains a lot about His people being fake with Him. Under the Old Covenant, people worshiped God by bringing Him sacrifices, singing group songs, and celebrating religious holidays. Listen to how God describes His feelings about these things when He knows His people aren’t being honest with Him:
“I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of My courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to Me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all My Being.” (Isa. 1:11-14)
This is really strong language, isn’t it? Well, this is how strongly God feels about you being honest with Him. How awesome is it to have a God who is so passionate about His relationship with you that He wants everything to be 100% real? If you’re totally honest with other humans, they’ll write you off. Total honesty doesn’t work in this world. What we call “good manners” is about learning to hide how we really feel and putting on a fake pretense of politeness. If you were to vocalize every angry, jealous, and critical thought you have towards others, you’d end up hated by all and utterly alone. But in your relationship with God, it’s totally different. He insists that you be 100% honest with Him. He hates fake. You’re never going to get in trouble with God by being honest, even when the honest truth is that you think He’s a total creep. Yes, God demands that you respect Him, but respect doesn’t mean you can’t be honest. You can respectfully say, “I really hate You for what You did to me.” If that’s how you really feel, that’s what you need to say. It is always far more pleasing to God when you are totally honest than when you stand around singing praise songs that you don’t really mean.
So given all of this, what should you do when you find yourself in some group of Christians and the leader says “Let’s pray.” First, you need to realize that there’s nothing group about you talking to God. Your prayers are a personal, private thing. It’s just you and God in that metaphorical marriage bed—it’s not you and the entire congregation at church. When you talk to God, try to imagine Him standing right in front of you, facing you, with no one else around. This kind of imagery helps you to realize when you’re about to say something to God that you don’t really mean. Maybe your father’s at the dinner table praying out loud over the food. Well, what your father says to God has nothing to do with you and God. You shouldn’t be agreeing with your father’s prayer in your mind and saying those same things to God unless those things are an accurate description of how you honestly feel. Are you going to invite your father to stand in your bedroom telling you where to put what as you make out with your spouse? Not hardly, so don’t be letting other humans dictate how your soul communes with God. It’s no one else’s business what your soul says to God. When you close your eyes to pray in some home group or bible study or before a meal, you need to be tuning out what other people are saying and having your own conversation with God. God says your prayers are like sex, and sex is a very personal, intimate thing.
In the Church, you’re going to find a lot of teachers who put out prayers for you to pray. You need to see all of these things as mere suggestions. In our material, we often suggest things for you to pray about. When we do this, we’re trying to help you turn your soul’s focus in a direction that will help you stay in alignment with God and/or become receptive to certain things He might want to teach you. But just because we suggest a way for you to pray doesn’t mean you ought to automatically do it. You need to think first and decide if the prayer we’re suggesting is something you honestly want to say to God right now. If it’s not, then forget it—we don’t get to dictate how your soul talks to God. Prayer is personal. Prayer is between you and God, and everyone else can just mind their own business. No one gets to control how you interact with God. Other people can lecture you and command you and insist that you’re doing something wrong, but at the end of the day, it’s your soul and God interacting in a secret place that no other human can access.
It’s very important that you keep a firm grip on the fact that you have total control over how you talk to God and no one can take that control away from you. Just because someone has a title like “Pastor” or “Prophet” or “Intercessor” or “Deliverance Minister” or “Anointed Windbag”, it doesn’t mean you ought to let them dictate how you talk to God. Just because someone has their hands on you doesn’t mean you have to agree with what they’re praying over you. Realize that God is never going to change how He views you because of what some other human prayed. Other people have no control over what your soul is doing with God, that’s why all of this interceding and “lifting each other up in prayer” that we do in the Church is an epic waste of time. If you throw some woman out of her bed, can you have sex with her husband on her behalf? No, when you have sex with her husband, it’s you and her husband having sex—the other woman has nothing to do with it. In the same way, this business about other people representing you to God or praying on your behalf is total rubbish. Even under the Old Covenant when Yahweh ordered priests to pray for people, the prayers of those priests didn’t discount the importance of individual soul attitude. If a soul was defying God, God would be angry with that soul, and no amount of priestly prayers would change that. If a soul was obeying God, no priest could turn God against that person.
Today Christians make way too much of intercession, and they don’t realize that in Bible times, every false religion had priests who interceded between people and their idol gods. When Yahweh came up with priestly intercession for the Jews, He was merely copying a ritual that they were very familiar with–a practice that they had seen used over and over again in demonic religions. In Bible times, everyone had priests, everyone did sacrifices, everyone had religious intercessors. To take all of these things away from the Jews would have been too much, so Yahweh intentionally set up religious rituals which would make people feel normal in their cultural context. But although intercession was practiced, it was nothing more than a religious ritual. Since the beginning of this world, every soul has been individually judged by God. When Moses tried to tell Yahweh who He should save and who He should forgive, Yahweh told Moses that that wasn’t how He operated. Yahweh also made it clear that the fact that He relented from killing someone didn’t mean He had forgiven them. Every soul stands alone before God. We are all judged according to our soul’s response to God, not according to the prayers of other people.
Prayer is personal. Prayer is your soul talking to God with no one else around. So when Pastor Bob gets up on Sunday morning and tells the congregation to pray along with him, what are you going to do? You’re going to close your eyes and say your own things to God. No pastor gets to tell you how to pray. If Pastor Bob is a good guy who seems to say a lot of useful things, you might listen to what he’s saying and consider saying a few of those things in your own conversation with God. But when you’re talking to God, it needs to be real and honest, not just you reading off of someone else’s script.
The reality is that a lot of Christian teachers are teaching souls to pray some very bad prayers. No Christian should be praying things like “Holy Spirit, please come to me today,” or “Jesus, please accept me as Your child.” As a Christian, you already have the Holy Spirit and Jesus has already accepted you. When you talk like this to God, it’s really insulting to Him. It’s like a human wife saying to her husband, “Will you please marry me?” Any man would be upset by his wife saying such a thing, just as you’d be upset if your child came to you and asked, “Will you please be my parent?”
The more you learn to view prayer as the personal, private thing that it is, the more it will bother you to be less than honest with a God who knows you inside and out. This is a good thing, because the more real you are with God, the richer your relationship with Him will become. When the worship leader fires up a song and urges everyone to join him in singing praises to God, look at those lyrics and decide if they are statements that you honestly want to say to God right then. If they’re not, then forget it. God hates fake. He isn’t going to be disappointed that you’re not singing to Him. Instead, He’s going to be very pleased that you’re choosing not to be false with Him.
God doesn’t leave us in the dark about how to relate to Him. In the Old Testament, Yahweh gives us a lot of great information about how He does and doesn’t like to be treated by His people. In the Gospels, Jesus gives us some more insights. All of this information makes for a nice starting point, but it’s hardly a complete education. The Bible is like a brief introduction to God. But the real good stuff comes as the Holy Spirit starts teaching your soul directly in life. The Bible is only useful to you when the Holy Spirit is choosing to use passages out of it to teach you something. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need the Bible to teach you—if He did, He’d be a pretty limited teacher. But the Holy Spirit is not limited, He is God Almighty, and He is going to teach you about who your Creators are using a thousand different teaching tools. Sometimes He’ll talk to you through people, sometimes through experiences, sometimes through something you read or see. Plenty of other times, He’ll just whisper things to your soul and you’ll have some aha moment of new understanding. The point is this: your Gods are guiding you personally in life. They don’t expect you to figure out what They want all on your own. They tell you. They help you out. They break down difficult concepts into simpler steps that you can understand. They thoroughly enjoy teaching you and They’re not in some big rush for you to grasp everything right now. They’ll teach you stuff in the order that They feel is important. All you need to do is be ready to listen when They talk and agree with what They tell you. We all start off treating our Gods in many ways that They don’t like. But that’s okay, because They know that we don’t know any better.
As the Holy Spirit educates you about how important things like prayer are to Him, you have the chance to agree with what He’s saying and cooperate with Him as He helps you improve your treatment of Him. God is never going to be mad at you for treating Him badly when you didn’t know any better. But once He tells you, He wants you to be eager to improve the way you treat Him. Always remember that God isn’t grading you by your perfect performance, but by your concern for His feelings. When He sees that you really care about treating Him well, He’s going to be very pleased with you, no matter how much bumbling around you do.
Asking & Aligning: The Two Stages of Prayer