Are There Good and Bad Prayers?

A Genesis church involves everyone in the congregation in interceding for the needs of its community and the world.

Let’s play a game.

What do the following things have in common?

Aunt Edna’s big toe

A sick cat

A fourth luxury car

Destruction of a boss

A big-screen plasma TV

A hurricane

Did you guess correctly?

All of the items in the list above are actually prayer requests that I personally have heard shared by different Christians during a Sunday School class or church service.

Yes, a big toe that had been stubbed and a cat that had thrown up earlier in the day both make the list.

Yes, wealthy believers have asked for designer TVs and multiple luxury cars.

Yes, a teacher who had experienced constant conflict with her boss requested that God destroy the principal of the school.

Oh, and yes, a child asked that a hurricane hit his country so that he could get out of school the next day.

Maybe you are like me – you don’t know whether to laugh or cry!

Now we have to admit that Christ-followers – just like people in general – come in all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and personalities.  So prayer requests are going to be odd sometimes; in fact, I am sure that I have had a few through the years!

The Bible itself also exhorts: “Cast all your anxiety on Him, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  So aren’t all of the above prayer requests at a basic level just children casting their burdens on their loving Father? A related question could be: are there bad prayers and good prayers, and who decides which is which?

Let’s look at this another way.  Prayer reveals our biggest priorities.  What we pray for strips our theology, our worldview, and our very selves down to the core. 

And many times we are left naked, requesting our own comfort instead of the salvation and well-being of those around us.

The eighth characteristic of a Genesis church is that it involves everyone in the congregation in interceding for the needs of its community and the world.

If we say our biggest priority is reaching our community, why do we always pray for ourselves? If we say we have a global mindset, why do the majority of our prayers deal with current church members’ needs and wants?
What if our longing were for our community to know and experience Christ? What if our deepest desire were to see the entire world transformed by the love of Jesus? Wouldn’t that show up in the way we pray?

But there is another component to this.  A Genesis church involves everyone in the congregation in interceding…


How many of us include our children and youth in the key prayer strategies of the church? Is prayer focused primarily on the retired saints of the church who have more time to spend on such matters?

What if we invited kids and teens to be a vital part of interceding for our community and world because we believe they are just as effective as anyone else at talking with God? What if we could not even imagine them excluded from the most mountain-moving, kingdom-advancing endeavor that we engage in as a church?

This will require vision.  This will require patience and creativity.  But if all ages of our congregations fervently pray for the salvation and restoration of our communities, we will truly see revival take place in every one of our nations!

Aunt Edna and her big toe are part of your community.  So pray for her – and that.  Just make sure that you and your congregation are praying a whole lot more for the transformation of families, cities, and the world than for your personal comfort – or theirs for that matter.

A Genesis church involves everyone in the congregation in interceding for the needs of its community and the world.

--Scott Armstrong, missionary in the Church of the Nazarene