The difference between being motivated by guilt and love is miles apart.
In our church we valued public prayer. Every Wednesday night we gathered to do just that. I have always had a strong desire to please others. Certainly there was no rule saying that in order to be acceptable to everybody else I had to take my turn praying out loud, but I still placed this expectation on myself. I worried what everybody would think about me if I remained silent.
And so I prayed.
I would always get nervous. As I waited for my turn I would rehearse everything in my head. I would start out in some way acknowledging the holiness of God. I felt that belittling myself somehow made me better.
Then at some point I would try to reference Scripture, preferably Old Testament ones. Towards the end it was necessary to get louder to add emphasis. Occasinaly it helped to almost cry.
I would carefully choose which prayer request to go for. I gravitated towards health problems. Asking God to get rid of someone’s plantar warts is not too challenging. I really did not need to know much about them. Plus there are pretty good remedies for warts, so my prayers might even appear effective. God tells us that he does not hear the prayers of a wicked man, so when you prayed about something publicly you did not want to take any risk.
My goal for my prayer was to hear as many grunts and groans as possible. I believed that grunting was a sign of approval, that my prayer was good and acceptable. Hopefully someone would say Amen out loud too. A prayer without at least one Amen by someone other than you was a disappointment.
I might have gotten a tatoo of hash marks designating how many grunts I received in prayer if I had not believed tattoos to be sinful.
Nearly every prayer ended with the declaration of my desire to see God’s will be done. It made sense because Jesus says this in the Lord’s Prayer, but when you added it on to certain requests, it could be awkward.
“Father, we ask that you would heal brother Joe from his cancer. Cancer is a slow painful death. Plus Joe is a husband and father of four. He is important to this church. He seems to love you and we would love to see him healed (Amen) but your will be done even if that means a slow, painful, untimely death at the age of 35. If you really want him dead, don’t let our prayers get in the way.”
I don’t really mean to make fun of anyone but myself. I simply wanted to confess that I prayed out of a sense of guilt. I prayed because people expected it from me. My prayers were driven out of duty, not love.
I esentially prayed to myself.
Have you ever prayed to put on a good show? What is the strangest prayer request you have ever heard? Share your stories here.
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