Help! I Have Prayer Envy!
I never was the pray out loud kind of girl. I felt like if God doesn’t speak audibly to me, then I probably shouldn’t speak audibly to Him. I figured it was talking to yourself if you’re talking out loud, as opposed to talking within yourself as a spiritual channel accessed solely by the Father.
So the first time I was asked to pray, I’m pretty sure I uttered the words, “Out loud?” Praying out loud terrified me because I knew I would be viewed as a lesser Christian who had no real value. Nothing to bring to the church. Just useless. Probably not even a real Christian. Just some fake, fraudulent facade of a Christian with no prayer life and no power. A nightmare happening before my very eyes.
I had been found out.
I retreated and hung my head in shame, while I listened to the next lady called on crushing prayer. She clearly had a prayer life that was on fire. I was devastated. My prayer life was nonexistent. On life support. In dire need of a heart transplant and a few blood transfusions. And what’s worse is that I was upset about how powerful all these other women’s prayers seem to be. I’m not typically a jealous person, but there was something crawling around inside of me that would well up every time someone prayed an eloquent, thorough, Scripturally astute prayer.
Yep. I had prayer envy.
I also observed that people work hard and become good at what they do only out of mutual envy. This too is pointless, like wind chasing.
Ecclesiastes 4:4 CEB
I desperately wanted their prayer lives. One I assumed was full of praise and worship to God, a special relationship that I was far from having with my Father. One that was full of prayer closets and prayer journals and had much to do with the continuous striving of this feeling that I prayed well, in excellence, and with power.
I know prayer is part of spiritual development. The more you pray, the more prone your spirit is to receive the help the Holy Spirit offers. The kind of help we need on a daily basis. The kind of help that keeps us from doing the very things we know we shouldn’t do. But what place does prayer envy have in spiritual maturity?
Is there something wrong with being envious of another’s prayer life?
Maybe not. Honestly, it did stir me to pray more. It did help me realize how much I wanted to be closer to God. It did create a sense of accountability for my spiritual development, realizing that I couldn’t just leave it up to chance and circumstance. If I wasn’t going to do the usual nursery rhyme prayers, how was I going to pray?
I had to start somewhere, and it took hearing others pray to really stir me to pray more passionate, fervent, heartfelt prayers. I know we’re called never to do anything out of selfish ambition or wrong motives. Our prayers can actually be hindered that way. But prayers are for ourselves and others. So is it self-centered or self-seeking to want to pray better? Or is it service rendered for the Kingdom?
There’s a key difference…
Wrong motivation. Wicked motive.
Right motivation. Righteous motive.
Also when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward in full already.
Matthew 6:5 AMPC
If my prayer envy leads to the desire to pray in front of others more so that I can be recognized as spiritually elite, then yes, my prayer envy results in absolute wickedness, because I’m only developing my prayer life to be a spiritual sideshow. The pressure to perform in prayer cripples its power, and the encouragement to be eloquent in prayer frustrates the flow of the Spirit. Prayer is not performance-based, prompted to draw theatrical acclaim for stage presence and Shakespearean speech. Our clever wordplay is foolishness to God. Nothing will hide our hearts away from Him.
And when you pray, do not heap up phrases (multiply words, repeating the same ones over and over) as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking.
Matthew 6:7 AMPC
But if my prayer envy leads to the desire to pray and seek God’s face more regularly so that I can be recognized by Him as one who has a relationship with Him, then my prayer envy has been beneficial to my own spiritual development and hopefully to cultivation of others’ prayer lives, whether they witness me pray or not.
But when you pray, go into your most private room, and closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open.
Matthew 6:6 AMPC
Prayer is a private conversation with God. It is intimate. It is sacred. It is unique. Each person’s prayer life will look different based on individual relationships with God. I don’t need to have prayer envy if I have my own personal relationship with God. But if I’m counting on others to talk to Him for me or if I’m stuck in a holding pattern of pat-a-cake prayers and memorized incantations, it makes sense that I would develop some level of prayer envy when witnessing those that have a desirable relationship with the Almighty.
Christ included these instructions on prayer in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. And for good reason. We need to know that eloquence counts for nothing before God. Intimacy with Him is everything. This passage of Scripture gave me spiritual clarity that washed away my prayer envy. Praying isn’t about how well the speech flows or how enamored others are by my use of Scripture or how animated I am to stir up the emotion of my sisters in Christ. Prayer is about God. Period. It’s just me, Lord, standing in the need of prayer. That’s all. It’s just Him, me, and all my brokenness. And if I pray from that place each time I come before the Throne, I never have to worry about prayer envy, because my own prayer life is being guided by my Father’s Spirit.
Have you ever had prayer envy? What was your reaction to hearing others pray eloquent prayers? Did you ever desire for your prayer life to be better than what it is, based on witnessing the prayer life of others?
Share your revelations below.
In this month’s issue, let’s strengthen our relationship with God by focusing on our petitions, pleas, and praise through the series, How to Get Your Prayer Life.