This past Sunday’s sermon, “Following Jesus in Prayer” has generated no less than a few questions from people who attended church or watched online, which is great! I am so thankful for your questions and engagement with the message because it means you are listening and trying to consider how it might apply in your lives. As I engaged in some of these conversations, I thought that perhaps others could benefit from some of the questions and some answers I would give to them. Of course, these are not the absolutely perfect answers to your questions, but a way, perhaps, of continuing the conversation. Below is a list of those questions (in no particular order) and a response to each.

I will say this, though, that a year-long series on prayer alone could hardly do justice to this incredible gift and responsibility we have to pray as followers of Jesus Christ. As I said at the beginning of my message yesterday, my bookshelves are lined with books on the topic, and it is the one aspect of my own faith journey that excites and ‘frightens’ me the most. As an aside, this might become a more regular practice for me on Mondays if people continue to raise questions about the messages.

Were You Suggesting that Everyone Should be Comfortable Praying Publicly?

In a word: NO. What I was saying is that people should not never pray publicly (I realize that’s a double-negative, but I’m not sure how else to word it). What I have seen all-too-often with people is that, out of a fear of being guilty of “praying for show” as Jesus condemns in Matthew 6:5-6, they figure it’s better not to pray in public at all. In ways, this makes sense. Pride is one of the most powerful temptations we face on a daily basis, and it is so easy for it to creep in without us even being aware of it. Thus, we tend to treat it (rightly so) like any other temptation of excess (e.g. addictions): the best way not to give in is not to be anywhere near a place where opportunity presents itself (e.g. the recovering alcoholic would want to stay away from bars). Believe it or not, this can, in itself, be an occasion for pride. We can take pride in the fact that we never pray publicly or “for show”. However, if we make it a habit to never pray publicly, we are depriving our brothers and sisters in the faith of the knowledge of our intercession for them. How often do we say to someone “I’ll pray for you” and never follow through? There are times in our lives, I’m sure, where we have both needed and wanted the prayers of others because we just couldn’t find the words to pray ourselves. If others refused to pray for us, or even with us, for fear of pride, then we are being deprived of both their prayers and someone to stand in the gap between us and God in prayer. Of course, the temptation of pride is always there, but we shouldn’t let our fear of it prevent us from saying to someone we love who is in need of prayer: “Can I pray for you right now?”

Should Our Public Prayers be Short and to the Point?

This came out of a question about the anonymous quote I put on the screen and some of my comments on Matthew 6:5-6. The quote said: “A man who prays much in private will make short prayers in public!” The idea behind this quote is that when our personal prayer lives are vibrant and active, we would naturally develop a more humble view of ourselves and greater view of God. So, if we were ever called upon to pray publicly for any reason, we would not even have the inclination or thought of putting forth ‘showy’ prayers. “Showy” prayers show a shallowness to our faith, while a deep faith results in sincere and humble prayer. This doesn’t mean that our public prayers would then always be ‘short’, but that our words would be intentional, and come forth from a place of deep and abiding relationship with God the Father through Christ.

You Read Something from the Catechism that Says ‘Thankfulness is the Most Important Part of Prayer’?

When you have as much information as I often do that you’re trying to cram into a 25 minute talk, it’s easy to see how a question like this comes up. The wording of the Catechism is similar, but different. The Catechism states that “Prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us”. This isn’t saying that we should always be thankful, or that thankfulness should be the first and most important part of our prayers. What it is saying is that, once we grasp just how much God has done for us through Jesus Christ, and how God hears and answers our prayers even though we don’t deserve it, how could we NOT pray? As I mentioned above, prayer is the most amazing, terrifying, and powerful gift and responsibility we have as followers of Jesus. Because of Christ, we have direct access to God (Hebrews 10:19-23) through prayer. Another thing I I also wonder that might be confusing about the language is whether it is thankfulness or prayer that God “requires of us”. I believe it is the prayer that is “required” of us, but as the relationship to God is the core and foundation of our ability to pray, I would suggest this is more common sense than it is an obligation. It would be odd, for example, to be married to someone, but not be expected to ever spend any time talking to them. It is “required” in the sense that it is just what you do, not in the sense that it is a demand or obligation to be met (if we think this, then we probably need to go back and read Matthew 6:5-8 again).

What About Unanswered Prayer?

It would be easy to just point you back to the beginning of this post by reminding you that a 52-week series on prayer would probably barely scratch the surface of its depth, meaningfulness, and understanding. This is not always an easy one to tackle, but I’d like to try and suggest and answer from 2 sides, one much easier than the other. The first perspective is this: there really is no such thing as unanswered prayer. Everything we pray for gets an answer in some way, shape, or form. It is either ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘later’. Yet, to leave it at that would be to oversimplify an incredibly complex question. Which brings us to the second side of the “unanswered prayer” coin: what about unanswered prayers that are clearly in line with God’s will? We have to admit, on the one hand, that we don’t have a full or accurate grasp of God’s will at all times. For example, if we think it is God’s will that we be in a relationship to a certain person, but then we break up, clearly we misunderstood God’s will. In the same way, if we ask God to be wealthy, famous, and good-looking, that is not necessarily in line with what he would want for us (it might be, but I think it is more unlikely than it is likely – but I digress). Where this becomes more of a challenge is, say, in the case of a broken relationship, or perhaps a wayward child or sibling. It is hard to imagine a world where it is God’s will for someone to walk away from the Faith or where a relationship to remain in a permanent state of enmity. Clearly, God is not willing to lose any that belong to Him, nor is He wanting us to live in a world of anger, hatred, and unforgiveness. Where the challenge becomes here is where our free will and God’s sovereignty and providence meet up. God, in His infinite love and wisdom, and in the power of His Holy Spirit, can move in people’s hearts to call them back to Him, or encourage them to forgive, but He can never force them to do so. God’s will can’t necessarily be done in the life of someone who does not desire His will to be done in it. Certainly there are stories of “divine intervention” because of which we should never lose hope and never give up praying (think: the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8), but sometimes, we don’t see the response to those prayers in our lifetime. Somebody else shared a story with me about a grandmother who fervently prayed for 2 wayward grandchildren, but never saw them return to the Lord before she died. Since she has gone to be with her Lord, both of those grandchildren are once again walking with the Lord. Which brings me back to the simpler point: there’s no such thing as unanswered prayer.

In Closing …

I thought I’d reproduce for you here the Reflection Questions and “Homework” from the sermon. If I get more questions, I’ll try to add them here.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Would we generally consider prayer to be “the most important part of our thankfulness” to God for what He has done for us in Christ? Why or why not?
  2. How would you describe your motivation(s) for prayer?
  3. What might it look like for prayer to become a more central practice for us as a church?


  • Read and pray through the “Disciples’ Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) at least 4 times this week
  • Use it as a framework to build on and add your own requests