It is common to feel frustrated about prayer that doesn’t seem to work as we intended. We can feel like God isn’t answering in the way we want, or we don’t feel heard, so we just gave up. But what if you’re using prayer the wrong way?


In this sermon we learn about how to pray God’s way, the way that it’s designed to work. We explore two ways of praying that never work, and one way that always will.


  1. Looking to Others: Prayer that uses God to look good will never work. We can do this by using prayer to gain status in the social order, to find our place in the world, or to look good in the eyes of others. Imagine how God feels by prayers like this. He doesn’t want to be used so that we can look good; He wants us to authentically desire His presence.
  2. Looking to Ourselves: Prayer that uses God to get His stuff will never work. We can repetitiously plead with God hoping that He will give us what we want; we can use all the flattery and well-oiled phrases, but in the end we’re just bargaining to get our needs met. We’re trying to control our situation in the world through prayer, and our eyes are focused only on our needs, wants, goals, and priorities. These kinds of prayers treat God like a vending machine in the sky. In practice, we’re saying we don’t really want God, we just want His stuff. God doesn’t desire these kinds of prayers.
  3. Looking to Our Father: Prayer that pursues our Father with childlike trust, intimacy, and surrender will always be answered. Jesus says that prayer works when it is used as it was intended, to seek a trustful intimacy and surrender with God. Do you see how radically different this is from both religious and irreligious prayer? Instead of showing off to impress others and fit in, or trying to convince God to do what we want, gospel prayer is about trustful intimacy with God. Prayer never works when it’s about our agenda. Prayer is designed to draw us close to our Heavenly Father, in child-like trust and surrender.


Takeaways: Three ideas to orient your heart to God in prayer.

  • Pray when no one is looking.
  • Pray to “waste” time with God.
  • Pray as adopted heirs of our Father.


Matthew 6:5-13


Watch Living the Message episode here: