What Does It Mean to Truly Pray?
All believers in God know that praying is the only way through which our spirits can connect with God’s Spirit, and that we cannot practice our faith without it. However, many of us have no idea what true prayer is though we make prayers every day. Perhaps some people might say, “Ievery day. In the morning, I entrust the entire day to God in my prayer and express my wishes to Him, begging Him to lead me throughout the day; in the evening, I pray to God confessing my sins. Is it not truly praying to God?” Some say, “Every day I give thanks before meals and express thanks in everything. Am I not truly praying to God?” Still others may say, “In my prayer, I can recite many passages of the Bible, say many nice words and speak for a long time. Isn’t it a true prayer?” Indeed, there is no denying that all these above are prayers made to God, but are they true prayers?
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- 1. Prayers that are merely going through the motions are not approved by God.
- 2. What does it mean to truly pray?
1. Prayers that are merely going through the motions are not approved by God.
Let’s look at two passages of God’s words, “Prayer is not a case of going through the formalities, or following procedure, or reciting the words of God, which is to say, prayer does not mean parroting words and copying others. In prayer, you must give your heart to God, sharing the words in your heart with God so that you may be touched by God.” “By only focusing on the method, and taking the words of God as rules to keep, this kind of person is not practicing the word of God, but is satisfying the flesh, and is doing things to show off to others. This kind of religious ritual and rule comes from man, not from God. God does not keep rules, does not abide by any laws; He does new things every day and He does practical work. Like the people in the Three-Self Church who are limited to daily morning watch, evening prayers, giving thanks before meals, expressing thanks in everything, and other such practices, no matter how much these people do, or how long they practice, they will not have the work of the Holy Spirit. If people live within rules, with their hearts poured into practice, then the Holy Spirit has no way to work, because people’s hearts are taken up with rules, are taken up with human conceptions; therefore God has no way to do work; people will just always be living under control of the law, and this type of person will never be able to receive the praise of God.”
From God’s words, we can see that if we are limited to such outward practices as daily morning watch, evening prayers, giving thanks before meals, confessing our sins, reciting the words of God and parroting the words of others, we are just going through the formalities and following procedure. Praying like this is merely clinging to rules and religious rituals, and is being perfunctory with God. Such prayer is not sincere and won’t bring us enjoyment, nor will it enable us to gain the work of the Holy Spirit or strengthen our love for God. For all those who make prayers like this, no matter how many times they pray in a day, or how many years they practice praying, God will never do work on them, and they therefore won’t get their life dispositions changed, nor will they gain a real knowledge of God or be approved by God.
Take the prayers of the Pharisees as an example. They prayed in the synagogues and on the street corners, saying words pleasant to hear and appearing very pious, yet they did all this just for others to see and hear while in their hearts there was no place for God at all. After praying, they didn’t practice any of God’s words, but instead devoured widows’ property and murdered prophets and righteous people. Their prayers were simply a case of going through motions and formalities and were a performance of religious rituals, which were hypocritical and detestable to God. That was why God warned us not to pray as the Pharisees did, just as what the Lord, “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Matthew 6:5).
Let me give you another example. I know a pastor who recites a number of scriptures every time he prays, seemingly very sincere and pious, but behind the scenes, he schemes against other co-workers and even embezzles the church offerings. Obviously, he is just going through the motions and following the religious rituals when he prays, and he is treating God perfunctorily and deceiving God. God will never work on such people like him who don’t have the slightest fear or knowledge of God and He also detests their prayers.
Also, we often imitate the pastors and preachers in our prayers by repeating almost every word they say. When praying, we express our willingness to faithfully expend for the Lord and practice His words to satisfy God, but when we encounter practical problems, we forget all about what we have prayed. For example, when our family affairs conflict with our work in the church, we find excuses to escape our duties. When we support the brothers and sisters who went back to the world many times but they are still unwilling to turn around, we lose our patience and tolerance. And when our children don’t listen to us, we usually fly into a rage. Clearly, most times we just pray one way but do another way, failing to fulfill what we have said in prayers. This is all because we don’t say our prayers from the depths of our hearts but just go through the motions and follow the rituals by repeating the same things every day, with the thought that it’s enough that we have reported before God. In fact, this is dealing with God perfunctorily and trying to fool God and deceive God. God will never listen to prayers that are not sincere, nor will He acknowledge them, so if we pray like this, we will never gain the touch of the Holy Spirit but instead will feel dry and barren inside. This is not truly praying. So what does it mean to truly pray?
2. What does it mean to truly pray?
God’s words say: “What does it mean to truly pray? It means speaking the words within your heart to God, and communing with God having grasped His will and based upon His words; it means feeling particularly close to God, feeling that He is in front of you, and that you have something to say to Him; and it means being especially radiant within your heart, and feeling that God is especially lovely. You will feel especially inspired, and after hearing your words your brothers and sisters will feel gratified, they will feel that the words you speak are the words within their hearts, the words they wish to say, and that what you say represents what they want to say. This is what it means to truly pray. After you have truly prayed, in your heart you will feel at peace, and gratified; the strength to love God will rise up, and you will feel that nothing in your entire life is more worthy or significant than loving God—and all this will prove that your prayers have been effective.” “The lowest standard that God requires of people is that they be able to open their hearts to Him. If man gives his true heart to God and says what is really within his heart to God, then God is willing to work in man; God does not want the twisted heart of man, but his pure and honest heart. If man does not truly speak his heart to God, then God does not touch man’s heart, or work within him. Thus, the most crucial thing about praying is to speak the words of your true heart to God, telling God of your flaws or rebellious disposition and completely opening yourself up to God. Only then will God be interested in your prayers; if not, then God will hide His face from you.”
From God’s words we can see that whether it is a true prayer doesn’t depend on how much we say or how pleasant our words are, but is instead decided by whether or not we are speaking our innermost thoughts. When we pray to God with our true hearts, we will feel touched and gratified in our spirits and our resolution to pursue to satisfy God will be inspired—this kind of prayer is true. In our daily life, we have experienced happy or upsetting things, we have felt moved after relying on God to overcome the difficulties, or we have also felt reproached for doing something against God’s will. We can bring all this before God, pray and seek for His will, and ask for the guidance of His words. If we are able to resolve some problems through relying on God every day, then our strength to love God will rise up and we will feel it so great to believe in God and that God’s words can solve all our problems. As a result, our resolution to expend for God will be ignited and we will become eager to bring more people before God so that they can receive His salvation. This is the result achieved by truly praying to God. There are no rules to prayer, nor does it has anything to do with how much we say. As long as we speak honestly and sincerely, God will listen.
I remember the experiences of a sister who has been working in the church for several years, during which time the money she earned was just enough to cover her daily expenses. Once her relative invited her to start a factory in partnership. She felt this was a good opportunity to earn big money and live a good life, but meanwhile she also knew that taking this opportunity meant that she would have no time or energy to work in the church anymore. Because of this, she was caught in a dilemma—she neither wanted to betray God nor let such a good opportunity slip. Just when she felt pain and didn’t know how to choose, she prayed to God, telling Him her innermost thoughts and true state: “O God, now I really want to open a factory with my relative to earn more money, but in that case, I will have no time to work for You. God, I don’t want to betray You, but I feel it so hard to overcome the temptation of money. I beg You to guide me so that I can make the right decision and act in accordance with Your will….” After many times of speaking to God what was in her heart and confiding in God her practical difficulties in prayers, she saw these words of the Lord Jesus: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36–37). The sister then realized that getting rich was not the will of God. Even if we own all the money in the world and lead a superior life, what is the point of it if we miss the chance to be saved and lose our lives? Besides, pursuing fame and fortune can only provide us with temporary enjoyment and glory, after which we still feel empty. There were so many celebrities and stars who had money but still felt empty and who committed suicide at a young age. Coming to this realization, the sister resolutely declined her relative’s offer and again threw herself into serving God. This was the result achieved by her true prayers to God, which enabled her to overcome the temptation of money and live in God’s care and protection.
In addition, sometimes when we are trapped in a negative state whereby we lose interest in reading God’s words, we should pray to God, “O God, I’m now very negative and my heart is so dark that I don’t want to read Your words. God, I don’t know what leads to this. Please guide me to find the reason so that I can return before You to read Your words.” Though these words are simple and may not sound pleasant, they come straight from our hearts and give voice to our real condition, so God will listen.
In a word, if we use a true heart to pray to God, telling Him our innermost thoughts and the truth, then that is truly praying, and by doing so, we will be able to establish a normal relationship with Him and live under His care and protection.
Read more on our Prayer page, or click on the related articles below.