Prayer is Only Play...

It seems that with regular frequency I'm seeing a disturbing trend regarding how people say they will "pray" for others. Maybe this observation is due to the prevalence of social media and email that opens access to others' thoughts. I will explain with an example that is an amalgamation of recent social media posts and emails received:

"Hello friends, please say a prayer for Suzie. She is having surgery this afternoon to remove a tumor in her lungs. Thank you."

I'm satisfied with the request for's a serious need.  However, many of the replies to the request give me heartburn.  Here are some examples:

-- "Prayers and thoughts sent!"
-- "Done!"
--"Prayers headed her way!"

So what's my beef?

First, we have a rather cavalier approach to prayer these days.  After all, we have emails to send, Facebook feeds to read, and candy to crush. To many people today, the average prayer is akin to a short tweet or email sent up the chain to God, only then to be checked off the list of things to do that day.  I imagine God opening his web browser and reading, "You've got mail!"  His reply?  "Oh, super!  Let me just reach down there and fix things now that I've read all these little notes asking for my help."

I imagine people praying (if they actually pray for the requested need at all), "God, please heal Suzie", then clapping their hands together like they're removing dirt from their palms, saying, "Good, done with that one. Ok, now what am I going to make for dinner?"  We may not actually SAY those words, but our approach to prayer seems to suggest that's exactly what we believe.

Pastor David A. Redding, in his 1962 book, "The Parables of Jesus", when discussing the parable of the persistent widow, wrote, "Those who take prayer so lightly they can't remember what is was they meant to pray for and never pray for the same thing two weeks in a row, who assume one mention is enough, at least to be mad about if He doesn't answer within the hour, make prayer a pity.  Prayer demands determination and patience." (p.39).

Next, what exactly are "thoughts" sent?  This has also been translated as "positive vibes", "good thoughts", etc. How can one's positive vibes or nice thoughts help even the most distressed person in this world? "That guy down the street sure is cold and hungry, but I'll just think positive thoughts, and everything should be alright."  James wrote, "What good is it if a person goes without clothes or daily food and you say to him, 'Go, I wish you well. Be warm and well fed?' and you do nothing for his physical needs? without deeds is useless!" (James 2:14-26).  Our thoughts cannot truly help anyone! The hurting, the hungry, and the lonely crave our ACTION, not simply our "positive thoughts and vibes".

Finally, and this is probably my biggest beef of all -- whenever I read something like, "...sending prayers your way", I get, well....  NO!  Don't send your prayers to me, or to Suzie, or to the doctors, or to anyone else.  What value is in that?  Pray FOR me, or Suzie, or the doctors, but not TO us.  Sadly, this is not just something I've observed only from non-believers; I've also read this from professing Christians!

Prayer offered to anyone but the Father Almighty is not only pointless, but is an idolatrous abomination to God himself! (Ex. 20:3).  Please, if you're truly going to pray for this-or-that need, please earnestly approach the throne of Heaven (Matt. 6:9-13), and beg God for His mercy and favor.  If you pray for me, please do so in this manner, or I must kindly ask you not to pray for me at all.  Please don't ever send prayers "my way".  Instead, " everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Php. 4:6). Approach HIM, not me -- or anyone else.

Lord, may I take prayer so seriously that I will "pray with passion -- until all the yawns are gone and the sleepy, halfhearted hopes and dreams become burning desires".  May I remember "prayer is only play until it is intense, relentless." (Redding, p.41).


  1. Many folks may just type the words and not pray, some may give a passing, "God, help 'em." Others, however, do actually bow their heads and say a heartfelt prayer for the need. I do, and I know others do as well. In emergency situations when prayer is needed and needed fast, those social media outlets are perfect to reach those who do pray.

    The lady returning to the unrighteous judge? In my humble opinion, that parable is much more about justice, not begging God over and over to do something. After all, Jesus Himself called justice the weightier matter and listed it first in the list of justice, mercy and faithfulness. (Matt 23:23) Justice is mentioned over 500 times in the Bible, and the foundation of God's throne is justice and righteousness (Ps 89).

    As far as prayer goes, words are important, we need to be specific in what we are praying about. It is not a ritual of words to be repeated, but when the words are short and steeped in faith from an upright and righteous and believing person, God hears and God honors those prayers. It is not the many words, it is the faith, my friend. ☺

    Having said all that...I fully,fully understand what you have written and why you have written it. But when others are "sending prayers your way" perhaps they mean they are "bathing you in prayer" or something like that. I think it's understood they are praying to God, not praying to the person asking for prayers.

    Since we agree that God doesn't hear the prayers of the unrighteous, if it gives a hurting person a little comfort to know they are in another one's thoughts in their time of need, what does it hurt? In the meantime, those prayers of pray-ers who believe God hears their petitions and answers their prayers are already in the ears of the Almighty. If it took begging God for favor, what would we do in emergency situations?

    None of the above I meant harshly, and I sincerely hope you don't think I sound harsh. It's just my thoughts on the matter.

    ~Margaret (The Ol' Brown Recluse)

    1. Margaret, no worries -- I didn't interpret your words as anything other than the sharing of ideas...definitely not as an angry rant!

      "It is not the many words, it is the faith, my friend." -- I couldn't agree more!!!

      "...when others are "sending prayers your way" perhaps they mean they are "bathing you in prayer" or something like that." -- Possibly so. If that is the case, then why not simply say, "I am praying that God comforts you, heals you, etc, etc", or something similar to that?

      "...if it gives a hurting person a little comfort to know they are in another one's thoughts in their time of need, what does it hurt?" -- It doesn't "hurt", per se, but it doesn't seem to convey (to me) in a brief reply much genuine sentiment. I like to encourage people with my "thoughts" by sending notes in the mail. It gives me the platform to tell them (1)what I'm thinking about them, (2)specific words of encouragement, and (3)that they matter enough that I'd write on and send them a note. If not a card in the mail, then an email, text, or FB side message would suffice, I suppose. I like those replies a lot better than, "sending thoughts your way". Don't you?

      Thank you again for your thoughtful comments!
      God bless you, Margaret.

    2. There are times we just have to remember that we are not all on the same level of spiritual maturity (or life maturity, either, for that matter.)

      Stay safe, Mike. Keep on keeping the good race.

  2. I get your point Mike. As far as the social media thing, I do stop and pray right then, and it's typically not a lengthy prayer. Sometimes I pray more later. Having said that I will admit that lately I've been convicted of the need for more prayer in my life. I'm convicted that prayer, like everything else in life,takes a commitment to make time for it. I also think that Margaret makes some important points- I agree that Matthew 23:23 is about justice, not about the need to pray more times. I adore your idea about sending people some sort of note when you feel impressed - I do that as well. Lately I've been pondering Romans 8:22-28, especially verses 26 & 27. These verses bring me an immense amount of comfort; this idea that the Holy Spirit comes along side me and helps me pray

    1. Just to be clear, Tracy, I did not cite Matthew 23. Margaret did. Instead, the parable is over in Luke 18, which opens, "then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up"...and the parable so continues. Food for thought...

      I was convicted after a funeral this past weekend how often I neglect telling influential or important people just how much I appreciate them. So, rather than send a card this week, I found one of my favorite ladies in the church body and told her heart-to-heart just how much I appreciate what she does for our children and for the body of Christ. While I like telling people in person, I personally like receiving letters/cards because I save them all for times when I'm discouraged.

      God bless you Tracy, and thank you for sharing your comments/thoughts!

  3. Prayer is the only thing which makes you strong and feels you relax.Your blog is really too good. Thanks for sharing your blog here with us.