Principles of Prayer
by Francis Foulkes ©

Chapter 7 ATTITUDES IN PRAYER (Continued)

Attitudes not commended in prayer

Over against the right attitudes in prayer might be set the wrong ones. Many of the prayers in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, have the merit of frankness but display attitudes which have no rightful place in prayer. Much could be said about these wrong attitudes, but briefly three such attitudes can be noted.

There is the attitude of complaint, as Elijah's in his depression when Jezebel sought to kill him, and he asked the Lord to take his life. (1 Kgs.19:10-14). Like Elijah, we in complaining often fail completely to see our circumstances as God sees them. Rather than complaining we need to ask the grace of patience and wisdom to discern the mind of the Lord.

It is also unacceptable to God when people draw near to him with their lips but their hearts are far from him (Isa.29:13, quoted in Matt.15:7-9). Praying empty words is condemned by Jesus in Matthew 6:7-8. There must be sincerity in the prayers we offer. Similarly Jesus speaks of not praying to be seen by other people, but rather praying in secret (Matt.6:5-6).

There are also prayers for the judgment of one's enemies that, in the New Testament more than in the Old, are shown to be improper prayers, as when James and John asked whether they could call down fire from heaven on the Samaritan villages who refused to receive them (Lk.9:51-56). We have a gospel of mercy and reconciliation to present even to the most stubborn enemies of the Lord, knowing his patience, "not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2 Pet.3:9).