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6 Harmful Myths about Prayer (vs. the Truth)

Child's Hands Clasped In Prayer, Resting On A White Blanket
February 19, 2021

Free yourself from these self-harming myths
that block the peace and power
God wants to give you through prayer.

Let’s take a look . . .


  1. I’m too sinful to pray.
  2. I’m too insignificant.
  3. I’m not eloquent enough.
  4. God won’t answer.
  5. Other people have more faith; they can pray for me.
  6. God is my personal genie in a bottle. He should give whatever I ask.

Most often, we belittle ourselves with the first five myths. But we may also aggrandize ourselves, thinking God should simply do whatever we ask!

Let’s untangle this web of lies one myth at a time.

Myth #1:  I’m too sinful to pray.

Truth: We are all sinful, yet God wants all of us to pray. The more sinful we are, the more we need to pray. If we have ignored or rebelled against God for a long time, we will feel far from Him, that’s true.

But as Jesus Himself taught in the parable of the prodigal son, as soon as you make the slightest effort to return to God, He runs to you! (See Luke 15:11-32.) I love that great and beautiful truth! Any effort or spiritual turning of mind to God is accepted with an eager, loving response from Him, illustrated here:

Illustration of running father of the prodigal sonWhat God has told us“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). As long as we are sincere and “call on him in truth,” the Lord will draw near to you. Honesty and sincerity are keys to drawing near to God.

Why this myth is so tempting: It’s easier to just throw up our hands and say we’re hopeless. It doesn’t take any effort. We stick with the status quo and bury our hopes for a better life—a life that’s closer to God and free from our sins. But God wants all of us to pray even though we all sin.

Myth #2:  I’m too insignificant.

Truth: We are created in the very image of God. We are the highest of His creations. The very earth was created for you to dwell, learn, grow, and prepare. He wants you to happily live with Him in eternity. (See Genesis 1:25-26; Revelation 21:3-4)

What God has told us:  This famous verse is so important. Consider how it exposes the falsehood of the myth: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Man, insignificant? He gave His Son! Then why fear God? “God is love,” wrote the apostle John. (1 John 4:8.) See also this beautiful collection of 19 scriptures.

Why this myth is so tempting: It fits the fear and negativism that pervades today’s culture. It fits the existential message of modern nihilism perfectly, saying, “You don’t matter and if there is a God, He’s mean and doesn’t care anyway.” By embracing this myth, we slip into worldly thinking and behavior.

Myth #3:  I’m not eloquent enough.

Truth: Even bumbling, scattered words, and sincere thoughts directed toward God are respected and accepted. Learning how to pray more effectively is also important and will lead to greater blessings and peace. Homeless man praying - poor in spirit - beatitudeBut even if we “crouch like a helpless beggar,” we are blessed, as Jesus taught in the Beatitudes. Be bluntly honest, even if you’re angry. Have it out with God. He respects honesty of heart. It’s okay. “Pour out your whole soul” to God in whatever language you’re comfortable with, as David frequently did in the Psalms.

What God has told us: Fancy words don’t matter. In fact, they are offensive to God if they’re just used for show. (See Matthew 6:5.) To help us pray more effectively, Jesus taught the Lord’s prayer, which should become our model:

  • Address God as your heavenly Father.
  • Show respect (hallowed, holy is His name).
  • Ask freely for things you need, even mundane things.
  • Ask for forgiveness for sins while promising that you are willing to forgive others.
  • Praise and thank God for His greatness and kindness toward you.

Why this myth is so tempting: Prayer takes time and spiritual effort. This myth gives us a reason not to pray or even attempt it, which is precisely what the devil wants (and he is very real and actively striving to harm you). Prayer is one of the greatest tools against evil in our lives. We are promised deliverance from evil when we resist the devil. See James 4:7.

Myth #4:  He won’t answer me.

Truth: God always answers sincere prayer. Always. Here is a fabulous resource with lots of examples of the different ways that God answers prayers. It’s an R. Christian Bohlen original! 🙂 It’s a free 20-page colorful PDF that you may share freely.

What God has told us: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).

Note that worthiness (1 Thes. 2:12) and striving to follow God improve the outcomes of prayer as well as our feeling of closeness to God.

Happy girl with hat with sunflowers
Photo by DesignEcologist

So, while God does always answers prayer, it is clear that improving our relationship with Him increases the degree to which our desires are aligned with His, and therefore the frequency of requests granted in the way we hoped for. But he will always answer in a way that is best for us. Always.

Why this myth is so tempting: Similar to Myth #3, believing this myth discourages us from trying. It leads to taking the easy way out instead of being humble, having faith, and sincerely taking time to pray.

Myth #5:  Other people have more faith; they can pray for me.

Truth: You are responsible for yourself. God expects each of us to pray. Nowhere in scripture does it even imply that we can rely solely on the prayers of others. The leader of your faith community or congregation is not the only one who should pray. The prayers of your more “righteous,” faith-filled friends are no substitute for your own prayers, nevertheless, we are commanded to pray for one another too.

What God has told us: “In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). And that means each of us.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail” (James 5:16, BSB).

Why this myth is so tempting: This myth shifts one of our God-given responsibilities to others. It encourages a lazy spiritual belief that others are responsible for our wellbeing. Believing this myth says, “I am what I am and I’ll never be a person of faith.”

Myth #6:  God is my personal genie in a bottle. He should give whatever I ask.

Truth: God is the ruler of the universe but also our Father. He decides the manner in which He answers our prayers based on what He knows is best for us. God should be treated with respect and humility, not arrogant, selfish, presumptuousness. While He always answers prayers, it’s not always in the way we asked. (Learn more about the different ways God answers prayers with this free 20-page PDF.)

What God has told us: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3, NIV).

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11, NIV).

Why this myth is so tempting: As humans, we are prideful. We like to think we are running the show and calling the shots. Believing this myth allows us to maintain our delusions. Over time, however, we learn our proper relationships to God and we defer to His power and wisdom. We work with His plans instead of resisting them or insisting that He do things our way.

Related Posts and Resources

How to Get Answers & Guidance from Prayer

A Surprisingly Liberating Truth: Slave of Christ

Why Surrendering to God Makes So Much Sense (and How to Do It)

9 Relationships with Christ (to Deepen Your Joy)


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R Christian Bohlen with bookstore owners at a recent Christian book conference

R Christian Bohlen with bookstore owners at a recent Christian book conference

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Estimated Reading Time:
4 -5 minutes

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