5 Wrong Ways to Pray

5 Wrong Ways to Pray

Prayer is one of the most important ways of building a relationship with God, it’s the way to have a direct conversation with Him. It is a time to build intimacy with the Creator, the Savior, the Comforter. Once someone repents of their sin and begins to pursue that relationship with the Lord, they learn that being in fellowship with Him means having good communication. Sometimes the flesh still exerts power over the believer, even in their prayer life. There is a right way and a wrong way to approach the throne of God. While the Bible does say the Holy Spirit can translate our groanings, it does not say the Spirit will make bad intentions, inappropriate requests, or an unfaithful heart seem right to the Father.

Here are five wrong ways to pray.

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Prideful man pointing to himself

1. Do Not Pray with a Proud Heart

One of the most common ways to create a barrier between oneself and God is to be prideful. When someone is proud, he or she is putting faith in their own goodness, their own achievements, and their own abilities. The Bible makes it clear that no one is righteous, and that it is better to rely on God, rather than oneself.

Pride exults oneself, rather than God. Praying with a prideful heart does not allow someone to lift up the Lord, to thank God for everything He has done, or to repent, since pride makes it harder to see one’s own faults. 

Relevant Verses 

“The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate” (Proverbs 8:13).

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6).

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Blocks with colors and faces on them, gauging emotions

2. Do Not Pray with False Emotions

Sometimes when someone is feeling hurt or injured, they may still not take their problems to the Lord; instead they act as if everything is fine. Other people pray as if they care about a problem, but deep down they really do not. God sees the heart, even if man sees the outside. God knows if someone is sad, hurt, angry, elated, resentful, or any other state of mind and heart.

Going to God with false emotions does not fool Him. It is better to go in earnest, to either pour out one’s heart or admit one’s indifference to a situation.

Relevant Verses

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).

“Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly” (Proverbs 26:24-26).

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6).

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Two people praying

3. Do Not Pray without Expecting an Answer

In the western world, we have easier access to resources and people are often taught to do everything within their own power, so it can be hard to pray expecting God to miraculously work – or even that He will answer. Many people lift up prayers to God, say amen, and then turn around and try to solve the problem themselves.

God always answers prayers. He may not say yes, He may not answer right away, but the Bible encourages believers to pray confidently knowing that God will answer in His perfect will.

Relevant Verses

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” (Psalm 37:7).              

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:7-8).

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woman lifting hands up in worship with little lights sparkling

4. Do Not Pray for Your Own Will

We all have wants and desires, and it is not wrong to ask God for things. The Bible says that God will bless according to His riches in glory, but that may not always mean riches and success. It does mean that God will act in accordance with His will.

When someone prays, they should always pray for their needs and even their wants, but they should also just as earnestly ask for God’s perfect will to be done in their lives. Being submitted to God’s will in this life will create a stronger relationship, lead to a more spiritually fulfilling life, and to eternal blessings. Even the Lord Jesus set this example in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Relevant Verses

“Then [Jesus] said to [the disciples], ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:38-39).

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:13-15).

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Happy young woman looking thankful

5. Do Not Pray with Ingratitude

There will be days where things will seem so bleak that all we can do is cry out to God in anguish. And that is not a bad thing – it means we are relying on God.

The Bible says to cry out in distress. However, it can become a problem if the only time someone prays is when they want or need something from the Lord. If prayer is not also a time of worship, of conversation, and of expressing thankfulness, there may be a problem with the heart of the Christian. God does not exist just to grant wishes or make human problems go away. He is the reason all of humanity exists, and is worthy of exultation, praise, and thankfulness.

Relevant Verses

“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalm 95:2-3).

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17).

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit…” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19a).

Every day is a new day to pursue God and grow deeper in that spiritual walk with Him. Christians should always seek to pursue God with the right heart, not requesting evil to be done, not asking God to approve of sin, and with eternity at the forefront of their minds and hearts. As someone deepens their walk and prayer life, it will become easier to pray rightly and to be more like the blessed Savior.

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13).


Bonhoeffer,Dietrich. Psalms The Prayer Book of the Bible. Minneapolis: Broadleaf Books, 2022.

Lockyer, Herbert. All of the Prayers of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959.

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Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer who uses her passion for God, reading, and writing to glorify God. She and her husband have lived all over the country serving their Lord and Savior in ministry. She has a blog on graceandgrowing.com.