by Skye Jethani

The use of pre-written prayers carries many benefits, as we’ve been exploring over the last few days. They guide our often wandering minds to focus on God. They instruct us to think rightly about our Lord with a depth we often lack. They can also remind us that communion with God is never to be a flippant, irreverent act but one that embraces the paradox of his proximity and distance.

There is, however, one significant error using written prayers can provoke. Those with a highly transactional view of faith sometimes engage written prayers as incantations; magic spells that when spoken force God to act on one’s behalf. Of course, the error is not with the prayers themselves but with the view of God carried by the person using them in this way.

God is not a divine vending machine in the sky that merely requires the exact change to dispense our desires, and prayer is not how we control God or win his favor. This is what differentiates Christian prayer from so many other forms of religious expression. Most religious practices approach God mechanically like a machine to be operated or a natural force to be harnessed, but we who belong to the Living God approach him as our heavenly Father.

If your tendency has been to see prayer as a mechanical or magical form of divine control, then it may be best to avoid written prayers entirely or only utilize those that will dismantle this consumeristic view of God.

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