Prayer Thought: No More “Fake It Til’ You Make It” Praying
“The tendency of these times is to an ostentatious parade of doing, which enfeebles the life and dissipates the spirit of praying. There may be kneeling, and there may be standing in prayerful attitude. There may be much bowing of the head, and yet there may be no serious, real praying. Prayer is real work. Praying is vital work. Prayer has in its keeping the very heart of worship. There may be the exhibit, the circumstance, and the pomp of praying, and yet no real praying. There may be much attitude, gesture, and verbiage, but no praying.”
We’ve all heard the phrase before. In fact, my guess is we’ve all said the phrase before at one point or another. And in all reality, we were probably attempting to be encouraging to a fellow brother or sister in Christ when we did it. It’s an old phrase with a familiar ring to it…almost friendly if it wasn’t so positively annoying. What’s the phrase, you ask? “You just gotta fake it til’ you make it, my man, fake it til’ you make it.” Which, in all fairness, was originally meant in society to look like you knew what you were doing even if you didn’t have a clue, until you got a clue!
But what does this phrase mean in the realm of the Christian life? More often than not, all of us who take our Christian walk seriously have had some, shall we say “dry seasons” as it relates to the spiritual disciplines; mainly prayer and the study of Scripture. When one of these dry seasons comes along and we’re around like-minded believers, many will encourage us to keep at it, stay the course, don’t give up, a breakthrough will come, persevere even when it seems to be drudgery to do so etc. While these are well-intentioned and a few even somewhat helpful, I fear that many of them could be harmful to our genuine desire to connect intimately with the Lord. Before you stone me for that last sentence, I DO believe that these words (not “fake it til you make it,” but the others) can be encouraging, and also that even merely reading Leviticus can bring about joy amidst the driest circumstance. And I also believe that the discipline of prayer is one of intentionality, which is why this quote is so important.
In the exercise of prayer (yes, I chose that word, exercise, carefully), we can say all the right things, we can act the right ways, we can raise our hands or kneel down, we can even speak with conviction in our voice, and yet through all this, miss the heart of worshipping God through prayer. This is what the pharisee did who was praying out in the streets for all to see and hear, with his big fancy words and fake reverence (Matt. 6:5; Lk 18:10-12). Recall the tax collector, however, who wouldn’t even raise his eyes to heaven and said he was unworthy to be in the presence of God; pleading with God to turn His wrath from him- a sinner (Lk. 18:13-14). Jesus declared that the tax collector was the one who went back to his house justified because whoever exalts himself will be humbled. But whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
The real question is, “How do we KNOW when we’re truly engaging in REAL prayer?” You know, the kind that is vital work, the kind that gets at the heart of worship, the kind that is reverent, focused, intimate, filled with joy and delight, the kind that you can know and experience God’s presence right then and there!?!? The answer might be simpler than we think.
We need to clear our hearts and minds of the 284 distracting actions we think we need while praying. Get rid of the “ostentatious parade of doing” while giving yourself to the Lord in prayer. Let me put it this way. I would rather have each of us spending 5 minutes in undivided, worshipful communion with the Lord, than 60 minutes that is jumbled with a mere “attitude, gesture, and verbiage” of going-through-the-motion-praying. This is why I don’t think the concept of “fake it til’ you make it” works when it comes to our lifestyle of prayer.
We all know we should pray. We all know how to pray. We all can gather prayer requests and answer the what we should be praying. The hardest part of praying, if you ask me, is focusing every ounce of who we are and who we were created to be into the very nature/fabric of our praying to our Heavenly Father. It takes time, energy, focus, support, discipline, contentment, intimacy, and a host of other things. But I know we have all experienced such prayer. So, let’s continue to do it even more. And the next time you get to talk to someone, saaaay one of our missionaries, struggling in a “dry season” encourage them that the Lord would welcome their heart for 5 minutes of real prayer more than an hour of merely the act of doing prayer.
This week spend concerted time focusing on HOW you come to the Lord in your times of prayer. Focus all of your intentions and actions on BEING in His presence. Spend even the first 5 minutes reveling in silent joy that you have the freedom to come to the Lord with all distractions wiped out for that allotted timeframe.
Clayton J. Elliott, Kontaktmission USA
Director of Pastoral Ministries and Prayer