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A Case for Short Prayers

When it comes to prayer, less can be more.

A few words expressed from the heart, can be far more meaningful and timely than an hour spent covering a long list of praises, confessions, requests, and intercessions.

Who hasn’t been bored to death by long prayers that are less than heart to heart communication?

We’ve been told otherwise. Many have won our silence and envy by saying that the busier we are, the longer we need to pray. They imply that if we are serious with God, we will show it by the amount of non-negotiable time we spend every day in prayer.

OK, then show us. Show us from the Bible that we really draw near to the heart of God by spending  3, 7, 10, 30, 60 or 90 minutes in prayer a day.

Don’t get me wrong. The Scriptures tell us to “pray without ceasing” (1Thess 5:17). But does praying for 90 minutes a day equal “praying without ceasing”? Or, could it mean that throughout our day we continue to breathe from our heart, expressions of gratefulness, dependence, and urgent requests to our ever-present Father?

Part of our religious culture ennobles and advances itself by calling us to pray all night, or for some other maximum or minimum amount of time.

But I’m guessing such voices are often playing to the crowd.

Paul prayed a lot. But any prayer we have of his is as short as it is inspired.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he did not give them reason to believe more time is better.  He told them not to adopt the pagan thinking that if we keep repeating our words– we’ll win God’s attention or approval (Matt 6:5-8).

Jesus taught us to pray from our heart, without trying to impress others, and to do so secretly… so as to come to terms with…Our relationship with him, and our interest in what is important to him.

How else can we explain his instruction:

“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Your’s is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matt 6:9-13).

Am I saying that this is all we should pray? What about prayers of thanksgiving, intercession, confession, and need? What about public prayer? I’d be a fool to discourage any honest expression of heart whether private or public.

But what I’d like to see us consider together is the kind of prayer that is far more about honoring our Father and loving others than it is about burdening one another with “weights and measures” of our prayer life that express far more “law” and “performance” than “grace”, “love”, and “relationship”.

If you disagree, I’ll listen… I don’t have prayer all figured out and certainly want it to be more of my life rather than less… which is one reason I think Jesus showed us that less can be more… If through considering this together, it becomes apparent that I’ve just expressed heresy– I’ll hit the delete button on this post tomorrow– or else let your corrections speak louder than my words…

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23 Responses to “A Case for Short Prayers”

  1. BruceC says:

    I love talking with my Lord. To the One that loves me and understands me more than any other. Sometimes it’s thankful, or it may be confession, or seeking guidance, or for help with a need, or for healing. Whatever it might be I know He listens; even if the prayer seems absurd at times. He knows my heart, but wants to hear it from my lips or in my thoughts. I talk with Him during the day all the time. Most of my prayers are not all that long. He just wants to talk with us and hear us because He loves us.

  2. xrgarza says:

    I agree with you I will add my personal experience to prayer. Years ago I heard that the average Christian spent less than 5 minutes a day in prayer. As a single parent my life was so busy I had no additional time for anything let alone “prayer” but I knew the importance of prayer. So I went to the Lord and asked Him, if it’s important that I spend 1:1 quality time with Him, then I need His help to prioritize my day and help me arrange it in such a way that there will be time for Him. Or just wake me up early and rested so that I can spend time with you. The results were incredible, every morning that I ask He continues to wake me up early and rested Praise God!

    Mart, however, as much as I enjoy spending time in prayer.and in His presence, the bible tells me that the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective, Mart more than anything I want my prayers to be powerful and effective.

  3. FishingSI says:

    Mart, I agree with your post.

    Oswald Chambers described our approach to prayer well, “We tend to make prayer the preparation for our service, yet it is never that in the Bible. Prayer is the practice of drawing on the grace of God. Prayer is the most normal and useful thing; it is not simply a reflex action of your devotion to God.”

    It is easy for me to be caught up on the repetition of when I pray, instead of praying as a natural occurrence. This is probably due to the ‘pray before meals and just before you go to bed’ thought of yesterday. I need to spend more time praying not to complete my laundry list but to spend quality time with my Creator and Saviour.

    In response to the comments of how much time we need to pray each day, how often, etc. my initial response is found in Titus 3:9 “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”

  4. hal.fshr says:

    I have responded in the affirmative to so many of your recent articles, it is not surprising that I would come across one that I don’t agree with. Well today’s article has a number of weaknesses to which I need to respond. It felt like you were setting up a straw man of more lengthy prayers being motivated by impressing others, playing to the crowd or following some legalistic code. Toward the end you commented: “But what I’d like to see us consider together is the kind of prayer that is far more about honoring our Father and loving others than it is about burdening one another with “weights and measures” of our prayer life that express far more “law” and “performance” than “grace”, “love”, and “relationship”. It seemed you were defining for me “the kind of prayer that is far more honoring our Father and loving others than it is about burdening others.”

    Not long ago I took a course on line featuring Dr. Larry Crabb, a biblical counselor. I was surprised that his discussion of SoulCare was actually speaking to my heart in a special way that got me praying more and trying to yield more intentionally to God through out the day. Dr. Crabb’s intent was not to burden me, yet the affect was to cause me to pray more often. I can’t remember the last time I told anyone to follow my example of prayer nor do I feel proud of praying more. Its something that God seemed to lead me into quite unexpectedly. I appreciate your gracious heart and kindness to people, but placing authentic prayer (shorter because it is real) versus longer times spent in prayer (because of implied legalism) may not be to every reader’s benefit. Please forgive my tone if I have come across with passion but it is a private matter that is close to my heart as of late. Thanks.

  5. poohpity says:

    I was also wondering about the Lord’s prayer after 12-step meetings? It was often confusing because when one would talk about how the Lord had change a life it was poopooed yet they pray the Lord’s prayer.

    I think it is confusing because we use the word “PRAYER” it has a connotation of piety rather than communication with God. Have you spoken to your Father today, your friend, your provider, your strength, your counselor, your safe place, your comforter, your wisdom and/or your creator. I believe if we consider all He is to us it will open the door to a constant dialogue because we need Him through out everyday. It would be nice to keep the door open constantly whether it is short blurbs or long conversations. Now I do want you to know when you walk around talking to God people will give you strange looks and point alot LOL.

  6. bamatex says:

    Mart, I find your post refreshing. If there is anything in my Christian life that I have berated myself for over the years, more than any other, it is about not spending enough time in prayer. It is easy to get the impression from listening to the beautiful prayers of others, spoken publicly (in Bible study or at church), that all of my prayers should be just as eloquent. And, at times that has actually interfered with my prayer time. But, in truth, if we study the Bible closely, there are numerous examples of short brief prayers. Certainly, we need to set aside time for prayer and study – but short prayers throughout our day are also important.

  7. desert rose says:

    “The prayer of a righteous man, availeth much.” “Pray without ceasing.” I believe our lives should be saturated in an attitude of prayer. When you are driving, and you pass a car, do you consider the occupants; or if you pass someone on the steet do you offer up a prayer on their behalf.

    “We have not because we ask not.” We can also ask amiss to consume it upon our own lusts.

    What is needed, I believe, is a broken and contrite spirit by all of us and a renewed reminder that every one needs to be prayed for.

    God may gift one person with the gift of help, a gift of praying but the responsibility still remains ours. How much time we spend would be dependent upon the burden we carry. We must uphold others in prayer when they are not able to do so themselves.

    So are you right or wrong? I don’t know, but prayer is needed and is commanded.

  8. desert rose says:

    I would like to add a second comment. Possibly some Christians lives have not been full of problems and concerns – circumstances may be a lot different, maybe they don’t feel the pain of others or have experienced traumatic heartaches. Which if they haven’t that is great and exceptional. I would just hate to see Christians becoming complacent. Pray without ceasing, is just that – don’t stop praying – so prayer is vital and important. It is the attitude God looks at not the words necessarily and we are always to be in an attitude of prayer.

  9. Mart De Haan says:

    hal.fshr, Am sorry I left the impression that I would discourage an honest, heart-felt, “long” prayer. That wasn’t my intent.

  10. daisymarygoldr says:

    Mart De Haan, it is not heresy and you don’t have to delete this very important topic although sometimes, in fact many times I wished I had access to the delete button to withdraw my foolish comments made in hasty response to your several posts:(

    Today, I hear you v-e-r-y loud and clear and do agree with you about shorter prayers. Whether it is talking to God or with people, it is wise to listen more and talk less because too much talk leads to sin (Pro 10:19). My Dad’s preaching and prayers are always short and to the point and he also encouraged us to be brief while praying in public.

    However, with personal prayer I choose to differ in my opinion. In certain seasons of life we just want to pour out our hearts and souls to God and during those moments time becomes irrelevant. Therefore, it is up to the individual as to how they want to converse with their Heavenly father and OBTW, men do not like to talk as much as women do…so you might want to keep that in mind while considering the length of prayers.

    Personally, I’m terribly challenged in this area and really desire to change for the better. So, in response to your plea to not bore you to death, I will zip my lip to TRY and keep this short and sweet:) “Let your words be few…too many words make you a fool.” Ecc 5:2-3

  11. drkennyg says:

    In response to poohpity I would like to add that while many 12-step meetings are ended with a link of hands and a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer some are not. However, I think that the Lord’s Prayer is not just for Christians but for everyone. Also someone once told me that I should only pray for something or somebody once because if I repeat it I am implying that God didn’t hear me or answer me “right”. This is not what I believe because I often pray for my adult children who are not believers yet I still love them dearly. I pray that God will touch their hearts somehow and bring them closer to Christ. I pray this almost daily. It certainly doesn’t feel like a pagan ritual to me. I also belong to a weekly prayer group at church where we study from the Bible some passage, try to understand it, and then offer up prayer requests that we each have. We are a small group of about 4-8 and most of us pray out loud. I do think it is important for me to keep my prayers as short as possible in this endeavor.

  12. Gena says:

    “Am I saying that this is all we should pray? What about prayers of thanksgiving, intercession, confession, and need? What about public prayer? I’d be a fool to discourage any honest expression of heart whether private or public.”

    Yes to all above and why not?! I consider myself prayer challenged. I want to be an effective prayer person to especially when it comes to praying for others. I don’t recall Jesus teaching about how to pray for others, does anyone know? Like right now, I’ve got a friend who lives 18 hours away and could use a good, effective prayer of help his way – but I feel inadequate in my efforts. :(

  13. rootsman486 says:

    Mart, thank you for your insight in opening this question… I hold that what you were doing was asking us to be in a question about prayer rather than providing a solid answer that prayer should be a certain way. I also hold that answers tend to shut me down but questions tend to make me look at all possibilities. The thing I really like about our creator is the remarkable diversity that is present in everything even the responses of this group. I do agree that his instruction was a succinct one but his examples were always ones of great length as in John, all of chapter 17. I love that you raised the issue because I am never clear how I should pray although I truly feel that there are times when I AM PRAYER! Okay, that sounds a little crazy but I am heading to a place with the Father that suggests that we are His Israel when we operate in faith. One subject I would love to hear you touch on someday is the Holy Spirit Living In Us. I think if we operated out of that distinction, our discussions would be very different. Finally, verse 20 of chapter 17 says that Jesus prayed for all BELIEVERS!! I want to live my life in the knowledge that Jesus has prayed for me already. Wow!

  14. lilu1314h says:

    I agree with BruceC, He just wants to talk with us & hear us because He loves us. In the same manner, we would like to talk to God because we love Him.

    The concern about prayer during our busiest moment is to draw our attention back to God to check whether we are engaged our schedule according to His will? As scripture says His thought is higher than our thought. e.g. if one of our children has been packed with all kinds of school / church activities, I would like this child to talk to me & how I can help him/her to plan the schedule. I think our Heavenly Father would like us to do the same.

    It’s not the length of prayer that counts, it’s the heart of the prayer count as God searches the heart.

    We love God by building stronger relationship with Him through prayer.

  15. bookbuff1629 says:

    I agree with Mart. Some times I have a problem with prayer and wonder if I’m doing it right. I don’t know if there’s a wrong way if it is heartfelt. I ask the Holy Spirit to intercede and straighten it out if I haven’t said it right.

  16. Becky M says:

    desert rose said, I believe our lives should be saturated in an attitude of prayer. Attitude-synonyms are:mental attitude,position,posture. Since God already knows our needs before we ask them it seems to me that he is pleased if we just work on our postures. The Holy Spirit relates what we ourselves can not express because our attitudes,positions,and postures in prayer are weak. Our weakness is God’s strength thru us to work His will. Why not our strength in our weakness in prayer at those imperfect times we can not think to say what we want or feel we need to say to God.

    Ok, I think that every thought throughout the day that we knowingly say to God counts as prayer and sometimes just our emoitions spoken tru the Holy Spirit count as prayers. So if we work on our prayer attitude we need not worry or wonder if God is listening to us. Since he reads our hearts we need not be repetitious but He understands our weaknesses if we do feel the need to repeat ourselves because we need to reassure ourselves.

    I think that because we are imperfect and weak in our inperfectness, that we don’t have the faith which our Lord is teaching us to have in our spiritual walk with Him,that He asks us to pray perpetually to help build up our faith in Him to hear & answer it.

    I personally talk to God like He is right there beside me because He already knows my feelings and if I feel the need to bring it up again in a longer presence with Him later or even another day He understands and is pleased to see & hear how important it is to me. He has said to keep knocking(keep asking)as in the parable of the neighbor who had a visitor at night and asked his neighbor for bread after he and his household already had turned in for the night. So, to me that means that He will not refuse us asking over again because we feel the need and because we may think that maybe He dosn’t realize just what it means to us.

    Thank you again Mart, and I’m not saying that spending a long time in prayer is better that short prayers but, it does pertain to the relationship we have with our Lord and is a personal choice.

    Those people that watch over Jesus’ flock represent the whole and are apt to make long prayers in edification to the flock. We do say Amen at the end of public prayers agreeing with what was said, do we not? I think we do it personally,too. I know I do.

  17. Mart De Haan says:

    I appreciate so much the conversation we’ve had over the last couple of days. Am also changing the title to something that more accurately reflects what many of us are saying. None of us would discourage long, from the heart, honest prayers. The issue is more “a case for short prayers” than “a plea for shorter ones” :-).

  18. tallmark says:

    Just read through everyones thoughts on prayer… Long or short it is good to be able to talk to the Father. Amen

  19. Brother Larry says:

    I thank God for the ability to pray. For there are individuals that have not yet come into the the knowledge that it is important to pray. God knows our thoughts, heart, and needs; however, to acknowledge in pray puts him where he should be in our lives, first and in control. For through the Spirit God is the breath of life we live.

  20. geremyian says:

    I agree totally to what you are saying. I know of churches where certain ministries are required to pray in public each Sunday. The prayers are lengthy and often times repetitive from Sunday to Sunday. Individuals must learn to pray from the heart whether long or short.

  21. wayne52 says:

    I do not think much about prayer being too long, too short or just right. I do consider that it does need to be precise. If we pray for a need for example, we do not need to flatter God or pray longer to ‘dazzle’ Him with our expertise. Our Father wants to hear from us. He wants us to communicate with Him and He with us. If it is a need, cut to the chase and ask. If it is communication, just talking with Him, we need to talk and also listen waiting for Him to talk to us. We would not talk to our friends in the length or flowery way we can talk to God.

    When I talked to my earthly dad I could just say what was on my heart that I needed to say and I waited for him to respond. We need to talk to Go in the same manner. When I talked to my dad I knew he heard me. If it was a need I knew I would get it as long as it was good for me. I had faith in my dad so I can surely have faith in my heavenly Father.

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