During our recent Sunday morning service, the pastor – as many pastors do – decided to preach on something different from what he had planned. In other words, his series on Job was being interrupted because he felt God leading him to speak about other things. That’s all well and good and I appreciate a man’s candor about that. Although I suspect that God lead him to do the series on Job, so why God would change his mind in order to change the pastor’s mind is befuddling – nevertheless.
Apparently, what prompted the change was a realization that the pastor had been praying for the wrong things. That in some regard his prayers were self direct and somewhat selfish (anyone identify with that?). Now it is not unusual for all of us to pray wrongly at times. We think we understand needs and pray accordingly. There are times when we pray from the center of God’s will and sense it deeply. And of course there are times when we pray by simply uttering words with little thought to whom we pray or the content of our prayer.
Now here’s the rub from this whole thing. Multiple times the pastor referred to his misdirected prayers as “sin”. Perhaps he prayed with a wrong understanding, but to refer to his prayer as sin seems a bit of a stretch. I’ll admit, my reaction to this may be a direct response to the fact that I suspect many times, much of the time, a great percentage of the time, my prayers are not always in synch with God’s will – or even my understanding of God’s will. Now if that’s sin, I’m guilty. However, I think we all pray wrongly at times. We think we know how to pray when in reality we know how to say pertinent words, but not necessarily principled words. We know how to seek out but are not that good at soaking in. We know how to petition but are not that good at penitents. But is any of that sin? Perhaps if willful, but who of us enter into prayer with an intent to deceive, mislead or bamboozle God? If we do, then indeed, SIN is the word. However, I suspect that is seldom, if ever the case. Yes, sin can inhibit prayer, sin can negate prayer, just as prayer can inhibit sin and prayer can help us overcome sin.
Prayer and sin have a relationship. Nevertheless, we might be cautious about how we relate prayer to sin and sin to prayer.