19 Misconceptions About Prayer That Might Surprise You

You may have spent your whole life up until now thinking prayer wasn’t for you, but you’ve probably been praying this entire time and just didn’t know that it counted. Here are 19 things people think prayer is supposed to be—but nothing says it has to be that way.

“Prayer must be long or elaborate to be effective.”

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“Jesus warned us not to pray with excessive wording or empty phrases.” Crosswalk says, “Prayer is to be sincere, with more attention given to the condition of our hearts than the length of our words.” Short, sweet, and to the point is all you need for a prayer. A simple “please help me” works, when God already knows your heart.

“Prayer must contain certain phrases to ‘work.'”

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This isn’t a magic spell, where if you don’t say something exactly correctly, you accidentally turn someone into a toad. You don’t have to quote a certain pre-written prayer for your prayers to be heard. It’s about coming to God with pure intent in your heart and with love and gratitude toward Him.

“I must pray through a saint, a priest, or the Virgin Mary to reach God.”

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This is a long-held belief among those brought up in the Catholic Church, where you pray to different patron saints for different reasons. Scripture teaches that “anyone who is in Christ is a saint” and can pray directly to God. We all have a direct path to the ear of God without a middleman, but if you feel more confident praying to your saint of choice, please continue doing so.

“Emptying your mind is a necessary part of Christian prayer.”

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Karl Vaters teaches, “The idea of emptying your mind as a prayerful or contemplative process has ancient roots. But it has no foundation in Scripture. Christian prayer is not about emptying your mind.” Even meditation isn’t about emptying your mind, but becoming intentionally aware of your thoughts. Prayer is also about being intentional with your thoughts and words.

“Prayer is about getting what I want, rather than aligning with God’s will.”

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Most people are disappointed by prayer because they believe it is all about getting what they want. Prayer is actually about aligning with God’s will and path for us. Though we have free will, there is still divine timing and a plan for us all.

“I’m too sinful to pray.”

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You have to pray to ask God for forgiveness, right? There is no one excluded from being able to pray; from the sinner to the priests, everyone is allowed to do it.

“I’m too insignificant for God to listen to my prayers.”

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This is not true, as God hears all sincere prayers. We all can feel like little dots in this big world; why would God listen to us? Well, God can’t listen if you don’t try, right? God has an open ear for everyone.

“Other people have more faith; they can pray for me.”

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If you have a prayer team or know “prayer warriors,” that is absolutely a blessing. But going to church every Sunday does not mean your prayers carry more weight than the prayers of those who don’t follow traditional paths to spirituality. So by all means, ask people to pray too, but don’t leave yourself out of the mix.

“God is like a genie who should grant whatever I ask.”

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If you think God is a genie in a bottle and has to do something just because you asked, you will be highly disappointed in prayer. Prayer isn’t designed to manipulate God but to create a relationship with the Spirit. If every prayer was answered, we would all be winning the lottery every day.

“The more I pray, the more God answers.”

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“God answers every prayer that aligns with His will.” Sometimes that will be the first time you pray, possibly the 50th, or never. All things are in God’s timing, and some things are not meant to be. Please don’t let this deter you from praying, because if you never ask, the answer is always no.

“You have to pray in groups to make it work.”

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“There is nothing in Scripture to suggest praying in multitudes [is] more powerful or effective in moving the hand of God than individual prayers,” writes Insight for Living. This misconception may come from the concept of gathering in a church to worship and pray. People feel that when they are in groups of fellow believers, God is more present.

“Prayer is merely a first-aid kit for emergencies.”

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Prayer often becomes something we do when we are in crisis mode instead of a regular habit. A relationship with the Divine is like any other relationship; it needs to be nurtured. Though God will still pick up the phone if you only call when your life is falling apart, it’s better to also talk when things are going well.

“Prayer is solely a religious duty.”

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Prayer is also about developing a relationship with God, like a good friend or counselor. Prayer is not something you do just out of duty or because your religious leaders tell you to.

“Everyone else is good at prayer, and I am not.”

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There is no grade for how “well” you pray. There isn’t a correct way to do it or some secret cheat code to make your prayer better than someone else’s. Prayer is about sincerity. It’s about saying what is truly in your heart.

“God is not too pleased to hear from me.”

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God desires communication with His children. He isn’t rolling his eyes when certain people start to pray. In fact, hearing from the ones who have a heavy heart could possibly bring Him more joy. Don’t let your anxiety and insecurity stop you from praying.

“Prayer is a performance where eloquence is required.”

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Prayer is about the heart, not eloquence. You do not have to be a top-tier public speaker to pray. You can mumble and fumble through the whole prayer. Repeat yourself or skip around, and God will still listen and get your message.

“If prayers are not answered, it means a lack of faith.”

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Unanswered prayers do not necessarily reflect a lack of faith. Prayers never really go unanswered; sometimes the answer is “no” or “not now.” Again, prayer isn’t about ordering up whatever you need from God like it’s Amazon; it’s about creating a connection with the Divine. When your prayers align with Spirit, they will come to fruition.

“Prayer is only for asking things from God, not for thanksgiving or praise.”

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We often get caught up in what’s going wrong in our lives, what we need, and what those around us need. We forget that prayer is also for expressing gratitude and adoration for God. When a prayer is answered, never forget to say thank you.

“You need to be in a special place or position to pray effectively.”

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You don’t have to be in a church or at an altar to pray. You don’t have to be seated, kneeling, or standing to pray. You can pray while driving in your car, while walking down the street, in the shower, or anywhere you are when the desire strikes you.

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