Prayer: Ritual or Relationship?

Prayer: Ritual or Relationship?

How would you describe your prayer life?

Is prayer a special part of your day? Do you protect and cherish that time, or do you just go through the motions so you can check it off your to-do list? Is prayer an obligation or a necessity for you? Have you made it a ritual, or is it about the relationship?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in his book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God… Prayer is the ultimate test of a man’s true spiritual condition. There is nothing that tells the truth about Christians as much as our prayer life.”

What does your prayer life say about your spiritual condition?

To be honest, I would guess most of us struggle with prayer from time to time. I do. The busyness of life sometimes crowds out time alone with God in prayer. And when we do pray, we often tend to bring Him our grocery list of things we want, and then rush off to those things waiting for our attention.

For some, prayer has become nothing more than a routine ritual we go through out of a sense of obligation. But God wants a relationship.

I recently did a heart inventory on my prayer life, and I encourage you to do the same. Take some time this week and ask yourself these questions about your prayer life.

  1. Am I praying with pure motives or wrong motives?
  2. Am I praying for God’s will to be done or my will to be done?
  3. Am I praying for something that would glorify Him or that would glorify me?
  4. Am I confessing any sinful attitudes that would hinder my prayers?
  5. Is my prayer life a ritual or a relationship? An obligation or a necessity?

What have you found to be helpful in keeping prayer as a vital part of your spiritual life?

  1. This is a necessary and perfectly timed post. At the start of a new year, it is important to lay everything on the table before the Lord and ask, “What needs to go and what should stay?” An inventory of our heart is included.

  2. Thank you, April!

  3. Crickett, Thank you for this post. I asked myself these questions many years ago. I won’t get out of bed without acknowledging my Father. If my attitude is bad I refuse to put my feet on the floor unless the Spirit has filled me with joy. Continual consistent contact with my Abba is mandatory for me to get through the day. I love speaking to Him whereever and whenever. He is always there to listen. WE are so blessed to have His ear.

    • Cherrilynn, I love the idea of not getting out of bed in the morning without acknowledging my Father. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Crickett, Wonderful points. I think we could all use them every once in awhile. It’s easy to slip into habit and ritual.

    • Beckie, thank you for sharing! I really want to grow in my prayer life, and these questions keep me honest before God. Thanks!

  5. Good questions for self-examination, Crickett. I find that sometimes reading a prayer by someone else will “prime the pump” for me. Sometimes I read the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. There’s an online version here: The Prayers and Thanksgivings page is a good place to start using these prayers. The language is old-fashioned, but the subject matter leads me to think of things I should be praying about.

    • Emily, that’s a great suggestion of reading a prayer. I actually have the Book of Common Prayer but haven’t looked at it in awhile, so I need to pull it out! Also, I like the prayers in The Valley of Vision. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Many of the questions asked in your inventory are addressed in Paul Miller’s book “A Praying Life,” which I am reading this school year. It has helped me wrestle through many of the problems I encounter in prayer. Thanks for posting on this topic.

    • Thanks, Heather, for sharing! I love Paul Miller’s book, and he has definitely challenged me to go deeper in my prayer life. Hope things are going well with you and your ministry!

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