Don't Just Pray

I have a pet peeve.

As I listen to spoken prayers, I hear a phrase repeated over and over: “Lord, I just pray…” Usually we don’t say it once, but many times in the course of a prayer. We are just praying, just praying and just praying about everything. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not criticizing that we are praying! I’m sure our Father is pleased for us to come to him with our requests rather than not approach him at all.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think adding a “just” to the prayer leaves much to be desired—it weakens the request and removes the power. I have never read the phrase in Scripture. Not once.

Instead, the believers in the Bible pray with boldness, confidence, emotion and authority.  They say “Lord, I pray…that the eyes of our hearts may be opened, that Your kingdom would come, that we would be filled with all power in believing.” They entreat, request, plead, implore, beg and ask without giving up, but they never “just pray.”

Occasionally, I hear myself slipping into this habit of “Lord, I just pray…” and cringe when I hear it. But there is grace for this, too. After all, it’s my pet peeve, not God’s.

When I do take the time to pray, I want my prayers to be as effective as possible. Simple, heartfelt entreaties with economy of words. Adoring utterances proclaiming God’s glory and majesty. Earth-shattering prayers of faith, heaven-bringing down requests of favor and deliverance, and dynamic pleas to the Lord of both heaven and earth. I don’t want to water down anything, even if it’s a desperate, “Lord, help me.” And, I believe one of the most eloquent prayers of all is the heart cry of “Jesus,” when words fail.

I want to be like the father of the son possessed with a mute spirit. When Jesus exhorted him to believe because all things were possible to those who believe, he responded, “I believe. Lord, help my unbelief!” I rehearse the Apostle Paul’s prayers which are jam-packed with bold language and powerful expressions of divine intervention: “And this I pray…that He would grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit,” “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,” “that you would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” and “that you would walk in a manner worthy of your calling.”

I want to feel the emotions of David when he prays: with weariness in, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?” with great joy in, “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me,” or in deep contrition with the words, “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord.”

When Peter was in prison, the church prayed fervently for him to be released. When a woman with a spirit of divination confronted Paul , he declared “I command you in the name of Jesus to come out of her!” Because she could not bear a son, Hannah went before the Lord in her distress and exclaimed, “O Lord of Hosts, please look on the affliction of your servant and remember me…” When Elijah prayed for the burnt offering to be consumed by the fire of God he prayed, "Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their hearts back again." The verse goes on to say that the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering along with the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. The result? When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God…”

There’s not a “just” in these prayers anywhere.

We are to emulate Jesus in all things. He not only prayed, but also modeled how to pray. He told Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.” At the tomb of Lazarus he cried out, “Father I thank you that you hear me!” And when the disciples asked to be taught how to pray, he responded with the most beautiful, concise pattern of prayer ever uttered—“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”

I want my prayers voiced the same way—with strength and boldness—words accompanied by faith, authority and the power of God through His Spirit and His word.

I don’t know about you, but that means I won’t “just pray” any more.