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Size doesn’t matter

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Seriously. At least in terms of prayer.


Photo: Scott Akerman, re-used under CC license.

Long prayers are not more powerful than short ones.

I’ve heard prayers that sound like an auction, with as much as possible crammed into them. Tons of words, no breathing space, and oh so much mumbling. I don’t think that’s what Paul had in mind when he talked about groanings.

If you’re trying to make your prayer longer, you will be likely to repeat yourself, to forget who you’re praying to and therefore repeat it every other second. Worse, you are likely to switch who you’re praying to, from a simple “Father” at the start of your prayer to a “Lord Jesus” in the middle, to finish with  a hesitation between “In Your name” and “In the name of Your Son”.

Remember: whether to the Son or to the Father you are praying to a God who knows you intimately and who does not need you to justify your prayers. Being thorough in your prayers is not necessary.

Short prayers are not better than long prayers

Being concise is neither a sign of holiness, nor a sign of a Spirit-inspired prayer.

God is alive. The Spirit is alive. If you’re afraid that your prayers will go on for too long, and deny the Spirit a breathing space (pun intended), you may not allow yourself to be transformed by prayer. You may end up simply going through the motions of liturgical prayer without meaning any of it, because these prayers have been crafted through the ages and better than anything you could produce. Or you may end up not praying at all, because prayer becomes a perilous exercise in brevity and precision.

Remember: God is eternal. He has all the  time to hear and listen to your prayers, so don’t rush it!

Silence is okay, too

Prayer meetings have a tendency to bring pressure onto individuals to pray out loud. If in a meeting there’s, say, five prayer topics, and by the end of the fourth round, all I’ve said is “Amen”, it feels like I ought to say something.

But if I say something for the sake of saying something; if, to phrase it differently, my spoken prayer is directed to the people around me rather than to God, I might as well not say anything.

Remember: We are instructed to be slow to speak and quick to listen.

So what’s the score?

Long or short or silent/contemplative, all prayer is good, and no type is better than the other! If you’re praying long prayers to look holy, stop! If you’re praying short prayers to look intellectual enough to make them concise, stop! For your own sake.

But. If everyone in your prayer meeting tends to pray long prayers, it is likely that your short prayers will stand out. The converse also holds. If your prayers stand out, it is likely (though by no means automatic) that you are continuing to do them out of misplaced pride; and it is likely (though again by no means automatic) that it disrupts your friends’ prayer by being surprising.

So… adapt. For their sake. And maybe for your own, as you may find you like a new approach to prayer. But not out of a misplaced notion that one type of prayer is more effective than the other.

6 ways to become bolder in prayer


God longs to be asked for what he wants to give. And God’s riches for us is infinite. Therefore, we should pray with boldness, whether for others or for ourselves.

Image credit: detail from J. Hannan-Briggs, reused under CC license

Praying with boldness is not simply praying for extravagant things.

I could see a dead body and pray that it come back to life. I could equally pray for peace in the Middle East. But unless I have faith, not only that God can do what I ask, but also that he will, then my prayer is that of a hypocrite.

For that reason, bolting onto prayer coping mechanisms for when prayers might not be answered can be a very bad idea. Because if I pray, thinking “if it doesn’t work, then it will all be put to right when the Kingdom comes”, then I am not expecting an answer to my prayer.

For that reason too, I limit the content of my prayer to what I believe God will do, and try to push those boundaries, rather than the boundaries of what I pray for.

So how can we increase real boldness in prayer?

1. Pray with others. Chances are, other people in your group, will have boldness in some areas where you.
2. Wait on the Spirit to inspire your prayers, and trust that he will lead you well in prayer (how to increase your trust in the Spirit is another matter, though!)
3. Hear “success stories” of prayer. This has its converse, obviously, which is to tell people about your success stories. Careful, though, as keeping a prayer diary may soon turn in “checking whether God is answering my prayers” – which is a sneaky way of doubt to be instilled into your own prayer practice.
4. Offer to pray for others when you see something is up with them. I have found it easier to believe God will help others, rather than help “unworthy me” (though there is no truth in that belief, sometimes you can’t help feeling that way!)
5. Be ready for the consequences. Think what will happen when you pray for patience. Or for your heart to be opened up to be able to love more. Just in thinking about what your prayer will do, its reality will hit home and you will be more confident to pray (or realise you didn’t want what you were going to ask for).
6. Pray for more boldness.

Anything to add to the list?


the opening sentence is paraphrasing from Forsyth’s Soul of Prayer, quoted in another very good piece here.
you may also want to read my older post on prayer, which I’ll soon move to this blog along with the comments here.