Your Best Life Now

Your Best Life Now

What’s Wrong with Our Prayers? Here’s What’s Wrong…

What’s wrong with our prayers? Here’s what’s wrong…what we often call prayer isn’t prayer at all.

Let me explain it this way…

I do not pray to be healthy; I pray for wisdom to make healthy choices.

What's wrong with your prayers?

What’s wrong with our prayers?

I do not pray for healing; I pray for strength to endure the suffering that comes to me.


I do not pray for success…for work…for finances…for abundance; I give thanks instead, that I can dream and make plans and take risks and pursue my dreams. Then, I rejoice for all I do have, however great or small, none of which I may deserve anyway, but all of which is a gift from the Unseen hand.

I do not pray for long life either; I pray instead that I may live into the life I have. And, all I have is this moment…even as I write, I cry now…but not with sadness but joy for I am alive. I am living. How could I not be glad? How could I not rejoice? For now, that is…this moment…for this is eternity in an hour, is it not?

I think we’ve got this thing called prayer all wrong.

Why would I pray to be healthy when I innately know whether I’m taking care of myself or not…whether I am resting properly, or eating healthy, or exercising regularly?


I know what I’m doing. Or, better, what I may not be doing. Why would I degrade prayer by praying about such things I know the answer to already?

Why would I pray, for example, to be healed of sickness or cancer or some other disastrous and unexpected illness that attacks me out of the blue? What makes me special that I should not be subject to becoming ill or growing old or getting sick?

Does it irritate you, as it does me, when people send out the call for “prayer warriors” when someone has fallen ill? They sound an alarm, a kind of call to arms as it were, asking for as many people to pray as possible – as if, by getting more prayers they have a greater chance at being heard or getting healed. As if, by having many people praying, their army is consequently bigger than whatever may be resisting the answer they seek?


What nonsense! What a prostitution of prayer, too! To think, God only gets turned on to my needs, and so responds, when I get enough people praying for help. It’s absurdity and it has nothing to do with spirituality or real prayer.

I must, if I wish to move beyond merely calling myself a “believer”…I must stop this childish way of thinking and believing that the more prayers I can get to “go up to God” the better my chances of averting disaster, either for myself or those for whom I am praying.

That’s the stuff the charlatan preachers on television promote and to everyone’s peril.

But it ain’t so! And, it’s time you know.

Every day, millions of people suffer and die all over this planet, some from starvation, others from violence and bloodshed, still others from disease, aging, and a host of other natural causes.


How many of them, do you suppose, call out in prayer to be spared? And yet, they are not. So, why would I, or you, believe that, when we call out to God…when we plead, beg, offer incense, or amass an army of prayer warriors, that we are going to persuade the gods to look more favorably on our condition, or that of the ones we love? What makes any of us think our incessant begging is going to overcome the odds – whatever their cause?

Is it an attack from Satan we are experiencing? That’s what the Kenneth Copeland’s on television and the Benny Hinn’s of this world will tell you. Satan is often the scapegoat for those who don’t want to attribute suffering and illness to God. “No,” they say, “God wants you healed…it’s the Devil who’s trying to kill you!”



Well, if you call aging and sickness the attack of the Devil, so be it. But the day will come when we’ll all finally grow up and realize the Devil can be blamed for many things, but the fact remains, we are going to get sick, age, and eventually die, with or without any help from Satan.

Think. Think. Think about this.

Our theology so often is so limited. Our view of God is too frequently distorted, warped, and just plain spiritually immature.

You and I are born and we will die. Period. No one can be “healed” every time from every illness. Tell that to Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. Look at how they’ve aged over the years. In spite of their rants, they grow old, too…and get sick just like the rest of us…and, one day, they, too, will die.


It’s part of what it means to be human.

We must stop blaming Satan or our circumstances for the common cold. To do so makes the spiritual life the laughingstock of the world.

We must grow up in our faith instead. Pray…yes, of course, pray…but let prayer be without the begging, pleading, the believing that we are more special than others and so should not have to suffer like the rest of humanity. We must stop the incessant bastardizing of God. And, we must let go of such childish ways of thinking about God as if he were some kind of Cosmic Santa Claus who gives goodies to the good folks like you and me…who gives health and healing but only to those of us who “have enough faith”…or, who rescues from the jaws of death those “whose time to go is not yet.”


To believe and act in these childish ways does not “prove ones faith.” It undermines it instead. And, furthermore, it’s so unlike the Christ who walked into his own suffering, not away from it…who, yes, in a moment of weakness, prayed, just as we sometimes pray in weakness and fear, “Take this cup from me…” But, once he voiced that weakness, once he embraced his fear, he was able to step beyond both, just as the Buddha counseled all of us long before Jesus ever showed up: “Resist not what is…for, to do so, is to suffer all the more!”

In so doing, Jesus was able to pray the genuine and perfect spiritual prayer, “Not my will, but thine be done.”

When we can pray that prayer, spiritual maturity will have arrived.
Until we can pray that prayer, however…well…the Copelands, and the Hinns, and those of immature faith like them, will have to do, I suppose.


If you find the things I write about the spiritual life to be meaningful to you, would you share them with your family and friends? Visit my website too for more like what you’ve just read. Walk with God. But then, of course, you do. How could you not? You were born to do so.

  • Dr. Steve McSwain

    Thank you for reading and responding Rhiannon. Wishing you well.

  • Dr. Steve McSwain

    You have given much thought to this. Best wishes for your prayers to come true. Thank you for your reflections.

  • Dr. Steve McSwain

    Thank you mcatlett – appreciate your response.

  • Dr. Steve McSwain

    What beautiful words you’ve shared Matriarch. Thank you. I wish you well and will remember you in my prayers.

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  • Rhiannon McDonald

    Hey, thanks for telling me how to pray. Wow, I’ve been hoping to meet someone like you. Now please, tell me how to love God? I must be doing that wrong too.

  • skcomment

    You article even with its conclusion showed how narrowminded and limited the understanding still as a human can be which is very ironic as the article initial goal was to be just the opposite:

    First off, u underestimate the power of prayer in mass numbers.
    For this u gotta understand what prayer is and what the power of thought and mind is.
    its the ultimate union of science and religion and perhaps on of the the very subtle ways to show how science is a subset of the rules of God.
    What u call nonsense is infact more that a limited belief. Ure intention was good in evoking the reader to THink think and think about it, but the paragraphs that followed lacked any logical thinking or explaination but rather a defeat and leaving the reader rather confused whether its even worth praying or not. Which is just thrown in with a line” Pray, yes ofcourse pray’ because u seem to still not understand the meaning and significance of it

    1) starrting with prayers in huge numbers: if u would know the brain is system of neurons which mainly work by electrical activity. Thoughts therefore are a form of energgy. Energy =mass. and Mass the greater it is, the greater gravitational pull it has.
    Think of it like a moon, which is a big mass, and hence can bring about the gravitational pull on the ocean creating ocean waves. Similarly if u pile up tiny small particles of sand into huge ball equivalent to size and mass of the moon, it too will exert same gravitational pull . This is the idea behind mass prayers in every religion.Science is merely a rule of God, God is more clever than u when he has asked to pray in mass numbers. thats why in every religion in every church,mosque etc mass prayers are practiced. All the enerrgy /thought/prayer of people focused on one prayer.

    2) secondly, U have limited the idea of prayer to asking from God for gifts. Prayer is NEVER always asking! prayer is more than asking. Prayer can be of thankfullness, to be thankful to u having eyes and not blind, u having food today while a poor man doesnt so ure thankful for all the blessings u have. So if u have this idea of prayer,
    u should be praying 24/7 as the blessings u have, from the way ure heart beats, to the way ure eyes see, to the way u can walk , ure nothing but blessed. And u will only realize this when u see others who unfortunate.
    Prayer is also about saying thankful to when ure in loss. Because it COULD BE MUCH WORSE.
    Prayer when falling sick, is realzing and accepting the fact that nothing in the world works without the instruction of God, the planets stay in their axis because of GOD, not a single thing can go against the permission of God. So who can change ure current position? its GOD….and God keeps saying to Ask him, to Pray to him, not because HE needs our prayers its because WE NEED HIM.

    3) Thirdly regarding begging to pray and how u ridiculed it . it just shows a sign of weak faith , a sign of exhaustion, giving up. Infact one of the criteria of prayer to be answered is that it be asked with sincere devotion . Have u ever apologized to someone u did terribly wrong? do u say “i dont really mean it , but im sorry”.
    And this is GOD ure creator, and ure like “i dont wanna beg for my forgiveness but so heres my prayer “…
    Its funny still, how a human will never forgive u, but GOD still will.

    4) Fourthly, every bad thing that happens to someone, whether illness, or loss of family member, failure in business, any thing, is way of TESTING FAITH. it is what differentiates a true believer and his firm believer and from a person who just is doing what others are doing. Its just like sitting for an exam, the tougher questions will determine who is an Above average student and the ones who cant pass those questions would still pass the exam probably, but they wont be awarded or considered that smart.
    To me , a person who befalls the worst is probably much more loved by God than a person who hasnt. And this may be the Biggest difficult idea for many to grasp but thats the key to life. When someone is sick or faces a tragedy , thats infact what brings him/her close to GOD. Tragedy and sickness, is not always about punishment. U are right we should stop blaming sins and satan. but ure mind got limited again. When ure helpless all of a sudden, who is the only one who can help u? the Creator of the universe right? So thats where u turn to . It brings closer to God, it strengthens faith.
    ure right about one thing. We all die. this life is temporary. None of the riches matter, ure not taking ure car,house and money into ure grave. What u have left is what good deeds u did, and for this above average people who earned some extra score for having strong faith in God even in time of despair. those God considers as his True friend..

    Unfortunately those who lay importance of prayers dont know themselves why.
    Leading to much confusion, despair, and a total lack of confusion. But God has made it easier , for people who are just average, for them the instruction is to pray as they Dont know the importance of it, but God knows best, so by doing what God says, they are automatically doing whats good FOR THEM. And for those who are the thinkers and above average thinkers, who are never satisfied , for them there is a deeper logic only if they are willing to find, be patient, and “pray for guidance” :)

  • mcatlett

    Excellent writing. The angst of phrases such as “prostitution of prayer” and “charlatan preachers” – evoking! Regarding your point, though, there is also peril and judgment inherent in thinking that one’s own relationship to the divine is the only “proper” relationship – but that without disagreeing with you in the slightest. Blessings.

  • Matriarch

    I love your columns. You express so much the same understanding I have reached in my spiritual search. I became very ill 12 years ago with an autoimmune disease that has left me with chronic pain and exhaustion and …. stuff. I no longer work, don’t do much of value beyond being a friend. Before she died, my mother begged me to pray constantly for ‘forgiveness and healing.’ I have had others urge me to seek prayers for healing and yet others tell me that if I would pray and have enough faith I would be cured. Sigh. I pray all the time. For peace. For self-forgiveness. For strength to keep on. For wisdom to learn the lessons I have been forced to confront. For enough. And I constantly give thanks for everything around me. It all seems so much dearer now. I take very little for granted. And oddly enough, as I confront a disease that could shorten my life considerably, I am no longer afraid to die. I don’t want to die, but I no longer lie awake at night terrified at the notion of the end of this physical life. I cannot bring myself to beg God to single me out among all the suffering in the world, to intervene in what is a natural process. I am sustained by the love and care of Creation. I feel the Spirit move within me, around me. Be right here, right now. Who could ask for more?

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