I take prayer seriously. Probably not even as serious as I should. Prayer is an important part in cultivating our relationship with God. It can be done communal, but it is also a deeply personal experience. This is why it saddens me when we cheapen prayer. We do it in plenty of ways. Sometimes we focus to much on using the “right words” rather than just communicating with God. We can care more about what others around us think rather than our own creator.
There is one bad habit of prayer that has become very heavy on my heart. It is the “praying at” style of prayer. It is the kind of prayer where you are raying at someone else rather than raying to God. It’s a bogus form that defeats the purpose of prayer. It has two major devastating effects. One is on the relation of the person you are praying at, and the other is on the relation with God.
Have you ever been prayed at? It’s not a very pleasant experience. Often the desired result of raying at is to make the victim feel guilty. It is saying that you feel the need to take over the conviction job of the Holy Spirit and add a few extra jabs to make sure that you hit close to home. This is bad for many reasons. First, you are trying to take over the job of the Holy Spirit. You are essentially saying that Gods conviction is not enough on this person. Let us be very clear, God does not need our help in conviction. Sometimes he compels us to confront someone on their sin, but God is the one who brings about true conviction.
Another danger is you might well be wrong. You might be dumping needless guilt through prayer for a bad reason. This happens because we once again have felt the need to take on God’s job in deciding what an individual needs to feel conviction about. Praying at is not lead by the hoy Spirit. it is lead by our own opinions and desires.
It breaks down the trust with the person you are praying at. It does not take a rocket scientist to know when they are being prayed at. I’m not talking abut the kind of prayer for someone where you ask for God to gives them strength and courage. I’m not talking about the prayer where you ask God to help someone be able to listen to His voice. I’m talking about the kind of prayer that demands the person follow strict standards developed by you in order for them to feel like they are listening to God himself. It’s the kind of prayer that when you take say all of the flowery speech says, “Dear God, help this person to realize that everything I am telling them is really coming from you.” You may truly have words of wisdom for the person. Those words may very well be form God, but you have now removed the opportunity of choice and personal discernment for the individual You have just told them that failure to agree with what you s a fallible human being say is direct disobedience to God.
There is one extra aspect to the personal relationship I wish to bring up. It is bout the type of prayer that intends to bring guilt to a person. That’s just wrong. When Christ gave examples on praying it was always so entirely focused on God. It was never used to bring about our own agenda. It was never used to test whether or not someone is being truthful. It was always meant to be a personal link in your relationship with God.
This brings as to the biggest problem with praying at prayer. We spit on God. We take an incredible gift of prayer and abuse it. We use prayer to pray at others, and in the process we ignore God. Doesn’t that just sound disrespectful? Whenever we use prayer for our own agenda on others we are disrespecting God. The irony of this is we often use it because we believe others have been disobedient to God by our own personal standards.
In honesty, this post is jumbled up. It really could be multiple posts. I felt the need to write on it because it has been on my mind now for months. I have been guilty of the praying at method. I never just realized how messed up it was until I found myself being the person being prayed at and saw it from an outside perspective as other feel victim to its practices. Since then I find it has become such a common practice that we often forget how damaging it really is. We think we are helping God along in His work. We have taken a gift form God and used it for a purpose it was never intended for. In the process we destroy the relationship with those we pray at. Is that really worth the potential reward?