Why Bad Prayers Glorify God

Josh Buice

I recently returned from a trip to Ecuador to preach, evangelize, and train leaders in our church plant in the Andes mountains.  After six years of traveling to this remote mountain village, I always return overjoyed about how our sovereign God is working out all things for His glory—even in a small and relatively unknown part of Ecuador.  During my trip, I heard many different prayers by different people.  Some of the people prayed during worship while others offered prayers of repentance.  In each case I heard prayers that were shallow, not theologically precise, and often very short.  However, I believe God was honored with the prayers of His people.

Prayers of New Believers

As we met with people in small homes and discussed the gospel, a couple of times we witnessed people come under the conviction of the Lord and ask how they could repent and be saved.  We explained the gospel to them, explained repentance, and they responded with a desire to call upon the Lord for salvation.  This is a rare thing for us over the years since we don’t engage in high pressure sales techniques in our mission trips.  We teach the truth of the gospel as we begin with the Law of God and move to the hope of salvation through Christ alone, but we never engage in manipulation techniques.

There were other times where we heard people pray who were young in the faith and didn’t have a fully developed theology of the Trinity offer prayers to God.  In such cases, we heard prayers that were offered from the heart, but they weren’t organized properly nor were they filled with theological precision.  No matter what, I truly believe that God delights in the shallow prayers of new believers.  Just as a father or mother delights in the immature cries of their baby, so does our heavenly Father delight in the prayers of babes in Christ.

Prayers of Growing Believers

Through the years in our ministry in Ecuador, I’ve heard prayers from growing, but still immature believers in the church.  Some were teenagers while others were men who attended our training sessions out of a desire to grow in their walk with Christ.  Not one time did I listen to a prayer and think it was profoundly deep or theologically precise.  Most of the prayers were short, shallow, and childlike.  In all cases, I think God was honored.  I never felt as if the people were praying in order to impress the ears of the people in the congregation.  They were praying from a heart of devotion to God and a desire to know Him more intimately.

We can all learn a profound lesson from the prayers of new believers and growing believers alike.  Although they pray with language that’s often childlike and shallow, their prayers are offered from a heart of love and praise to God.  When we call on the Lord and engage in a time of prayer to Him, not only does He hear us, but He delights in such sincere childlike prayers.  God loves to see our dependence upon Him and rejoices in the praise of His people.  Even when people have limited knowledge regarding the absolute sovereignty of God, a simple, short, and childlike expression of dependence honors God.  Jerry Bridges once said:

Prayer assumes the sovereignty of God. If God is not sovereign, we have no assurance that He is able to answer our prayers. Our prayers would become nothing more than wishes. But while God’s sovereignty, along with His wisdom and love, is the foundation of our trust in Him, prayer is the expression of trust. [1]

Over the years through my Christian life and pastoral ministry, I’ve repeatedly heard pastors, church leaders, and fellow Christians pray to impress others as opposed to communicating to God.  When praying, they suddenly speak in the language of the King James Bible praying long circular prayers filled with theological accuracy.  However, I often end such times of prayer feeling as if the individual was really seeking to impress me rather than praise God.

We need more simple prayers from the children of God who have a proper perspective of their ultimate dependence upon the God who saves sinners.  Just as baby talk delights the father as he hears his son learning to speak, so does the immature prayer of an immature Christian delight our heavenly Father.  Sometimes bad prayers can be good prayers.  Sure, our prayers will get better over time, but I’m certain that the bad prayers of new believers are a delightful sound to the sovereign God who rules the universe.

Psalm 102:17 – he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.

  1. Jerry Bridges, Is God Really In Control? Trusting God in a World of Hurt, (Carol Stream, IL: NavPress, 2006), 69-70.
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Author Why Bad Prayers Glorify God

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.