Not serious. Ignorable. Online prayers.

So it seems. When we see people who own websites about prayer or who offer online prayers, we tend to think they’re not as serious as people who do real Bible studies or write theological treatises.

After all, they can plop down any group of words and call it a prayer. They’re not tied to a scriptural passage or a socio-historical context. People who pray online go straight from the heart to the keyboard.

So we think. And that may well be true for many online prayers.

But prayer is a hard discipline, when done right. It must respect the parameters of Scripture. It must also respect the moment of the reader — and that’s a tough assignment for publishing online prayers.

Surfers can never be sure of what they’re going to find in a prayer. They seem sloppy, unorganized, maybe even embarrassing. It’s hard to create any type of expectations, so we tend to shy away from them.

Online prayers can be rote, just like prayers led in church assemblies. They may lack form, direction, and, yes, purpose. As an outpouring of the heart to God, all prayer may well have justification, if it is private, between the person and God.

But when we pray for others, the story changes.

A prayer must catch the intent, interests and needs of the one listening, or reading, in the case of print and the internet.

So just here may be the largest problem of all. We find private prayers in a public venue. So we don’t take such people seriously who expose what ought to be private.

Or maybe we’re just moderns who value practical personal action over asking God for help.

If that’s the case, then the problem lies with us: we need repentance. And that ought to lead us, again, to prayer.

Randal publishes and writes on the website BelievingPrayer.com.

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