One day as I read my Bible, I was startled by these words about the wicked: When he is judged, let him be found guilty, and let his prayer become sin (Psalm 109:7 NKJV). How can prayer turn into sin? How can something as lovely as communication with our heavenly Father be twisted into something that condemns us? There are five ways that we can sin by praying.
1. Prayer becomes sin when it is an act of disobedience. In a previous post, "When Not to Pray," I wrote that there are times when God says to quit praying and start doing. But a prayer might also become sin when we fail to pray for those things that God has commanded us to pray for (look for a post on this subject soon). We might also err by talking when we should be listening or just remaining still and quiet in His presence (Psalm 46:10; Habakkuk 2:20).
2. Prayer becomes sin when it is contaminated by a sinful life. Proverbs 28:9 says, One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. We need clean hands and a pure heart to approach the Holy One (Psalm 24:4). Ron Dunn used to say, "It is the life that prays." If our life offends God, so will our prayer, unless it is a prayer of repentance.
3. Prayer becomes sin when it is offered to a false god or idol. Israel provoked the Lord by their prayers offered on the high places. Westerners in the 21st century may lightly dismiss this offense thinking that idolatry is a thing of another time and place. But when the Bible warns against "images," we need to make the connection to imagination. If we are praying to a false idea of God, our prayer is an act of sin.
4. Prayer becomes sin when it is centered on self. The New King James Version has a picturesque translation of Psalm 106:15: He gave them their request but sent leanness into their soul. The Psalmist is referring to the time when the children of Israel craved meat in the wilderness (Numbers 11). God's granting of their petition was a judgment on the sinfulness of their prayer. We should always keep in mind that prayer is not getting man's will done in heaven but getting God's will done on earth.
5. Prayer becomes sin when it lacks faith. The Bible says, Whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). The apostle Paul was referring specifically to a believer who ate meat that had been offered to an idol even though he was unsure whether or not it was right to do so. With regard to prayer, we can commit the same offense when we pray in ways or ask for things when we are not sure it is right to do so. It is imperative that we pray in the will of God by the aid of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27).
We should not let the danger of praying wrongly keep us from praying. The only way to learn to pray is by praying. Our heavenly Father is as delighted by our sincere mistakes as is any earthly parent who hears his child learning to talk. As we pray, His Spirit will lead us and correct us.
Let us pray today, not in fear that we might do it wrong, but in full assurance that when we pray for His glory to be extended to all peoples, we are doing it right.
The Purpose of This Blog
In response to the challenge by the Southern Baptist Convention that churches take on the task to share the gospel with unengaged unreached people groups, the missions team of Harmony Pittsburg Baptist Association felt the need for a way to focus prayer on the task. This blog is intended to facilitate prayer for those contemplating their role in fulfilling the Great Commission. This on-line prayer guide may prove useful to those exploring a call to missions involvement as well as to those who have sensed a call to pray for those who will go to the front lines.