The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Praying for Other People: Why It’s a Bad Idea

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In our material, we teach you not to pray for other people.  This includes praying for God to heal, save, and comfort other people.  Many Christians find such teaching to be quite disturbing.  So what’s the deal?  If we claim to be Christians–which we do–then how can we have a problem with praying for others?  The answer is simple: we care immensely about pleasing God, and once treating God well is your top priority, praying for other people needs to go.  That’s the short answer.  Now we’ll give you the long one.If you currently pray for other people, then here’s a very important question for you to contemplate: why do you think it’s a good idea to pray for other people?  You see, your beliefs about God greatly influence how you pray and what kinds of things you feel you need to pray for.  God says that He is all-knowing.  If you believe this to be true, then clearly there is no need for you to try and inform God of someone else’s needs because He already knows about them.  God also says that He is infinitely wiser than you are.  If you believe this to be true, then clearly it makes no sense for you to be giving God suggestions about how He ought to take care of another human.  God says that His love for other humans is far greater than yours. In fact, God would say that He totally surpasses you in the areas of compassion, mercy, kindness, comfort, faithfulness, and generosity.  So if God is all of these wonderful things, plus He knows far better than you what is best for other humans, what exactly are you going to pray for?  If God really is the perfect Creator and Caretaker that He claims to be, where is there room for you to take the role of His adviser in any area?

If a human isn’t doing well, God would say that their lack of well-being is quite intentional on His part, and that He has very good reasons for withholding certain comforts and blessings from them at this time.  In such situations, it is not the other person who you should be praying for.  Instead, you need to recognize that the real source of your distress is your own lack of trust in God’s goodness and in the wisdom of His methods.  Don’t read a critical tone into that last statement–every human struggles immensely with a lack of trust in God. So you’re not flawed to have a lack of trust–but if you’re going to mature in your relationship with God, you need to turn the focus inward and start dealing with your own issues instead of trying to distract yourself by playing the role of God’s adviser.

Whenever we see God doing things that upset us, we naturally feel that He’s doing it wrong–either that, or we fear that He’s not as good as He says He is.  There is no quick fix to these kinds of deep rooted fears, and every human has them.  When humans are faced with a difficult problem, they often find it much more comfortable to deny that the problem exists.  This is what you’re taught to do by the Church.  Instead of teaching you to see how fear and doubt driven your prayers are, the Church teaches you to fake faith, deny your doubts, and spend your life instructing and criticizing God.  No matter how politely and respectfully you phrase your prayers, the fact remains that you can’t tell God what to do in someone else’s life without acting like you’re wiser than He is.

Once we elevate ourselves as wiser than God in any area, our submission to Him in that area is not happening.  Submission is a soul attitude which is essential to pleasing God.  Submission says “Not my will, but Yours be done.”  Is this what you’re saying when you pray something like, “God, please heal my friend from cancer” or “God, please start a revival in our country” or “God, please save my neighbor”?  No, these requests are directive and they are all attempts to instruct God in areas that you have no wisdom in.  What do you really know about what is best for the well-being of your friend?  When you pray for a spiritual revival in your country, is it really God you’re concerned with?  No, it’s not.

When we start telling God what to do in the world, it’s really our own comfort that we’re after.  God says that He always gets what He wants because He is in absolute control over all that He creates.  He says He’s always doing it right.  He then tells us that we should be submitting to Him and treating His preferences as far more important than our own.  If we’re going to love God the way that He wants to be loved, then we need to stop only thinking about what we want, and we need to start thinking more about what He wants.  If your friend is miserable, then of course you are going to want her to feel better.  Here’s where you’re going to want to pray a prayer that comes down to saying, “God, please give me what I want and make my will happen in this situation.”  But is this a God honoring prayer?  No, because there is no submission and no respect for God’s preferences.  The far better way to pray is this: “God, please help me align with Your will in this area. I’m having a hard time watching my friend in misery, but I know that You say You are a good and trustworthy Creator.  Help me to trust that You are doing what is best for my friend, and help me to learn to put Your will above my own.”

The question “How should I pray?” leads to the very important question of “Who am I living to please?”.  If you’re living to please yourself, then you’re going to make all of your prayers some version of “God, do what I want.”  If you’re serious about pleasing God, then you’re going to need to make some major changes to the way that you talk to Him.  You simply can’t go on praying like the Church teaches you to, because her style of praying will cause you to keep rehearsing wrong soul attitudes (such as thinking you’re wiser than God) while you constantly reject many claims that God makes about Himself (such as the fact that He is always doing what is best).

The reason our teaching differs so much from what you’ll hear in any Christian church is that we’re pushing you to pursue full devotion to God.  In our articles about prayer, we teach you how to pray in a way that will greatly please and honor God.  This is a foreign concept to most Christians.  Once you’ve spent years being taught that God loves it when His people express constant doubt in His abilities and that He actually finds it pleasing when we’re always trying to direct Him about, it’s quite shocking to realize how wrong this approach to prayer really is.  You simply won’t learn how to put God first in mainstream Christian teaching.  You’ll just be told to think that you’re putting God first while in reality you are treating God like a Being who exists to serve you.

We’re not going to lie to you by telling you that there’s a good way to instruct God in His dealings with other humans. The truth is that there is no right way to pray for other humans, because you shouldn’t be praying for others at all.  Instead, you should be asking God to help you to deepen your submission to Him so that you will stop trying to assist Him in managing His own creatures.  It is your own soul’s response to God that you are judged by, and He encourages you to ask Him to help you align with His will for your life.  But when it comes to what other people are doing with God and what He is doing with them–that is an area that you simply don’t have any say in.  God is not going to compromise His treatment of another human because of something you told Him to do, nor is He going to withhold something from someone simply because they don’t have any praying friends available to petition God on their behalf (see Lifting Each Other Up in Prayer).

Prayer is central to your relationship with God, and when you improve the way that you pray, you improve the entire relationship dynamic.  We’ve written many articles on the subject of prayer which can help you identify the core beliefs, fears, and doubts which are influencing the way you attempt to communicate with God.  We also teach you many specific ways that you can improve your treatment of God, and that means talking to Him in a manner that He finds pleasing.  Of course you won’t want to bother with any of this unless you care enough about God’s feelings to treat His preferences as more important than your own.  One thing is for sure: if you start talking to God the way He wants to be talked to, the gap between you and other Christians is going to widen.  You simply can’t keep participating in popular Christian prayer rituals when you are serious about pleasing God, because you will come to realize that many of those rituals aren’t pleasing Him at all (see Rethinking Your Christian Rituals).  So while much of our teaching sounds strange at first glance, realize that the purpose of our site is to encourage souls to actually make pleasing God their first priority in life, as opposed to just talking about it.  Putting God first has never been a popular goal among Christians, so you shouldn’t be surprised that our material sounds so different from the mainstream.

FURTHER READING:
Treating God Like God: Simple Steps to Improving the Way that We Pray
Christian Prayer Groups: Why God Isn’t a Fan
Practicing Submission in the Way that We Pray
Praying for the Sick
Praying for Your Flock in a Way that Honors God (Guidance for Pastors & Priests)
Soul Attitudes That Please God: What They Are & How We Develop Them

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