What We Should Not Pray

Text: Luke 11:1

Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. We usually think of this in terms of what we should pray for. Yet there are also some things we should not pray for. We will discuss these in this lesson.

For Anything That Is Contrary to God’s Will

  • When we pray, we are to pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15) – Jesus’ example in the Garden (Matthew 26:39)
  • We are certainly to pray and make our requests known to Him (Philippians 4:6) – but praying for something does not mean God will answer how we want Him to (2 Corinthians 12:7-10); we must always pray for His will to be done (Matthew 6:10)
  • Is there a way for us to know His will? – yes, as must as He has revealed in His word (1 Corinthians 2:10-12); so we must pray for things that are in harmony with His word (Matthew 6:11-13; 1 Timothy 2:2)
  • Some things may be beyond what has been revealed (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29), but are not in conflict – ex: prayer for one who is sick; pray (Philippians 4:6), but do so in faith that God’s will be done (Matthew 6:10)
  • Other things are in direct conflict with God’s word – ex: pray to win the lottery, prayer of one who was unfaithful to his spouse to find a new mate; do not pray for such things (cf. Jeremiah 14:10-12)

For What Is Rooted in Our Lusts

  • James talked about those who asked with the wrong motives (James 4:3) – they asked for what was rooted in lust, what they were enslaved to (Titus 3:3); these were the types of lusts that led to sin (James 1:14-15)
  • Already noticed the fact that we are to pray for God’s will to be done (Matthew 6:10) – these prayers have no concern for God’s will, only our own will; we must learn to conform our will to God’s will (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:5); accept His will (2 Corinthians 12:10)
  • We often will pray for what benefits us – food (Matthew 6:11), peace (1 Timothy 2:2), etc.; but these are in harmony with God’s will; if something is just what we want, it is not something to pray for

For What We Do Not Believe God Has the Power to Do

  • James said we are to ask in faith without doubting (James 1:6-8) – context of God’s promise to give us wisdom (James 1:5); He would not give this miraculously, but through the word (1 Corinthians 2:6-13; Colossians 1:9; 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:15); we must certainly pray for wisdom, but we must gain knowledge of God’s word to obtain it.
  • Praying “in faith” does not mean that God will do anything, as long as we believe He can do it – He will still only answer according to His will (1 John 5:14-15)
  • But we must pray, recognizing God’s great power (Ephesians 3:20) – if we do not believe God has the power to do something, it is useless to pray for it

For God to Do What He Has Told Us to Do

  • Jesus taught His disciples to pray for their daily bread (Matthew 6:11) – but this does not mean they could be lazy and not work and expect God to provide; those who are able to work must be willing to do so (2 Thessalonians 3:10; cf. Ecclesiastes 9:10)
  • We do what we can do – pray for God to provide what is beyond our control (cf. Acts 14:17); prayer is not a substitute for personal responsibility

For Salvation Apart from Obedience

  • It is common for people to pray a “sinner’s prayer” in order to be saved – they misunderstand what it means to “call on the name of the Lord” (Romans 10:13; cf. Acts 22:16); one can pray fervently and be sincere and still not be a Christian (Acts 9:9-11; 10:1-2); those who will be saved are those who obey the Lord (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Hebrews 5:9)
  • We can certainly pray for people to be saved (Romans 10:1) – but they must still obey (Romans 10:3)
  • We can and should teach others (Acts 8:4) – but they must choose to obey (Romans 10:16)


  • Prayer is a great privilege we have as God’s people – but we must learn to pray as we should
  • Avoid praying for what we should not pray for – must learn to conform our will to God’s will

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