Here are a few public prayer gaffs we have noted over the years. Laura tells me I am chronic on a few of these. I will not tell you which.
Be warned in advance that reading these might stilt your first few public prayers afterwards.
Luke 11:1 (KJV) ... "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."
JUST inJUSTice:For some inexplicable reason, the word JUST shows up a lot in prayer. "Just" is used for pausing, for filler, as an adverb, for rhythm, and, well, to underscore that this is just prayer and not talking in general. Since this is not normally the case in human dialog, it is hard to explain why. This is also known as the JUST'n MARTYR PRAYER.
"Lord, we JUST pray that you would JUST like, JUST really JUST totally..."
THE GOSSIP:"Lord, please forgive Pam [not present] for her sexual lust towards George [who is present]."
THE THEOLOGIAN:Here the person feels led to lecture God on various--usually obvious--points of theology, as if God needed reminding. While the words of such prayers can be valid enough if said in a spirit of praise, THE THEOLOGIAN gives you the distinct impression that he/she is praying to ideas rather than God; or perhaps trying to impress the rest of us.
"Lord, you are God. You are the Triune, Immutable, Omniscient, Revelatory, the First Principle. You even know what I am going to pray next!... [etc. etc. etc.]"
THE OPPORTUNIST:For someone who would never get a word in edgewise in a normal conversation--because what they want to say is inherently boring or unedifying--prayer can be an opportunity to "seize the floor" and speechify at great length without fear of rebuttal or interruption unless something really awful is said; and perhaps not even then, as social convention says it is very rude to interrupt while someone is praying.
"Lord, I just want to pray for my stamp collection. I know nobody here cares about it, but I know you do. As for that manager at Philately's that wants to charge me too much for that display-book, I pray you would soften his heart to give me a discount. And those stamps I need in the 40's collection, you know those rare pieces that I missed on eBay last month... [on and on and on]."
THE LECTURER:Similar to THE OPPORTUNIST, but here the motive is to harangue someone else--or the group--by sermonizing in general. Also known as THE SERMON PRAYER.
"O God, forgive those among us who do not understand the need to... [fill in the blanks]."
"Lord, forgive the congregation for their continued failure to tithe. For 'The tithe is the Lord's', and 'Test me in this' saith the Lord... [and on and on]"
CALLING DOWN FIRE:To rant or vituperate in a prayer. Basically, to ask God to send down a lightning bolt of judgment. (Often aimed at ungodly politicians.) Such prayers seem to beg for the response: "You do not know what Spirit you are of". (Lk 9:55-56)
"Lord, that lady who gestured rudely to me in my car today, I pray that you would slap her silly with your scorching judgment. Teach her not to treat your children that way, with a scathing rebuke from on high. Amen."
CRUTCH WORDS:Same as JUST'n Martyr / JUST inJUSTice, but instead of "JUST" we have an overuse of another word or phrase like "FATHER", "REALLY", "O GOD", "LORD GOD", etc.
"Lord God, we just really, Lord God, really, just, Lord God ..."
"Father, we ask you, Father, to just, Father, really just, O Father..."
THE KING JAMES ONLY PRAYER:As the quotation goes, "If King James English was good enough for Saint Paul, it is good enough for me." For these people, prayer just seems more "holy" if spoken in a 300-year-old dialect, as if God were somehow nostalgic for such ornamentation.
"We beseech Thee, in Thine tabernacles, O Lord. Ye forgiveth the bowels of iniquity as an ensample..."
PRAY WITHOUT CEASING:To "pray without ceasing" is generally understood as an admonition to not neglect our prayers, or for us to maintain an attitude of prayer in all that we do. Not so with these people, they take it literally. They seem to think that prayer is to be preferred over all other activities in Christian life; and if you do not agree, well that is too bad since they are praying just now. Also known as THE ETERNAL PRAYER, or THE PRAYER THAT NEVER ENDS. Those who do this should never be asked to pray before a meal.
"Lord, we pray for the believers in China. And, Lord, we want to mention each one by name..."
PRAY WHAT?When asked to pray for a certain purpose, to pray about everything but that.
[To give thanks at dinner:] "Lord, bless Joey in his job search, and grandma Higgins as she visits her daughter Louise, and the building fund at the church, and... and... and... Amen!" (Never gets around to the food.)
THE UNSPOKEN REQUEST:Php 4:6 (NAS) ...let your requests be made known to God.
THE SATANIST:While Christians have debated over the millennia over whether prayers should be addressed to Jesus or the Father, this person avoids the issue entirely by directly addressing prayers to the devil. This is also known as the DEAR DEVIL prayer, or PRAYING TO THE DEVIL.
"Devil, I am sick and tired or your slewfoot shenanigans. I put you on notice, you liar, you!"As a footnote here, beyond not having a single example of anyone praying to the devil in scripture, we are specifically warned in Jude 1:9-10 that prayers in this venue are typical of false prophets.
"Satan, I'm talking to you! Now listen up. I take authority over you..."
THE HERESY PRAYER:A public prayer, however sincere, that is just plain wrong.
"Father, we know that you would never correct your children. No, you are too good for that. For you promised us in the Holy Bible that you would never punish anyone, not even the littlest flea, and we take your word on this matter as the very gospel! [etc. etc.]"
REVERSE HUMILITY:Rather than show personal penitence, this perpetrator seeks to slam or insult the group he/she is in via prayer. Also known as THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN.
"God, you know this dog-brained group of ours has about zero spiritual wisdom..."
"Lord, I pray you would forgive the leaders of our fellowship for their ignorance and laziness..."
THE ANNOUNCEMENT PRAYER:"Dear Lord, please be with next Sunday's potluck, which will be at Amy and Arthur's home on 333 Mockingbird Lane. The Cape Cod with green shutters and 2 ferns on the porch. Dear God, help us all to remember that all families last name A-L need to bring sandwiches and families last name M-Z need to bring dessert. And Sovereign Lord, please don't let the person who is supposed to bring the drinks forget again, like last time. Amen."
Any we have missed? Email us with your suggestions.
How Then Should We Pray?