Is it wrong to pray written prayers?

In general, there is nothing wrong with praying written prayers. Written prayers can be helpful in a variety of ways—from calming nerves before praying publicly to giving us an example of how to pray. Some find that writing their daily prayers down is a helpful way to fully express themselves and to maintain a record of God's faithfulness to past prayers. While there are benefits to written prayers, there are also some cautions to consider.

When praying publicly in a more formal setting, like a service, event, or dedication, some find it helpful to write out their prayer beforehand. Spending time to truly consider what you are saying to God to His glory and the edification of others is never a bad thing. Writing out one's prayer before praying it can help ensure you pray what you intend, and it can also help eliminate awkward pauses or wording that could distract the others praying with you.

As long as the prayer is biblically sound and the person praying it truly means it, it's also not wrong to pray a prayer someone else has written. For example, there are many devotionals that include written prayers to help you respond to what you have learned about. We also have records of prayers written by Christians who lived in the past. Such written prayers can serve as useful guides in learning and applying God's Word.

The Bible has examples of written prayers. These demonstrate that writing one's prayers is not wrong; they also serve as guides in how we pray. As Scripture acknowledges, "we do not know what to pray for as we ought" (Romans 8:26). The Psalms are helpful as we navigate through very deep emotions of pain or joy, they help us know how to express those things to God, and how to turn our hearts towards the truth in the midst of our own confusion. Psalm 51 is helpful to pray through to repent of sin in your life, Psalms 42 and 73 are helpful prayers when you are depressed or discouraged in the faith, Psalm 34 is a prayer of praise to the Lord. The New Testament epistles have multiple examples of what to pray for fellow believers, others, and ourselves (Ephesians 1:15–23; 3:14–21; Philippians 1:3–11; Colossians 1:9–14; 1 Thessalonians 3:9–13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 2:1–4).

Likely the most famous written prayer was given to us by Jesus Himself. He said, "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). This is known as the Lord's Prayer. Jesus gave His disciples a model to follow. His example begins with reverencing God and acknowledging that He and His will are greater than us. He teaches us the importance of asking God to fulfill our daily needs and the importance of forgiveness. Without this written prayer to guide us we might put a lot of things out of order in our prayers to God.

Along with the caution that any written prayer be biblically sound comes the caution that praying a written prayer is of little value if it does not come from the heart. The same two cautions apply equally to our silent or spoken prayers. Right before Jesus gave a model for prayer, He said, "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6:7–8). Prayer is not some form of incantation where God hears us only if we repeat the right formula. It is also not meant to be rote and meaningless. God is more interested in our hearts than our actual words. When praying we should be careful that we are truly communicating with God, not merely reciting words.

The purpose of prayer is having a relationship with our Creator. This means that we should approach Him with awe and respect, yet also understand that He wants to know us intimately. We are granted the privilege of prayer through Jesus Christ. It is by His work on the cross that we can have access to God, by His grace and received through faith (Hebrews 4:14–16; 10:19–23; Ephesians 2:8–10). Whether praying verbally, in thought, or through writing, and whether praying our own words or those written by someone else, we must remember to whom we are praying. We should pray in honesty, with hearts genuinely set on God.

Written prayers can be useful in multiple ways. But written prayers should not be our only means of praying to God because we will never have an intimate relationship with Him through a script. Whether we are repeating the "Our Father," or our own repetitious prayer that we pray more as a reflex than anything else, a prayer without our heart and our honesty behind it isn't worth much of anything. Why hide or breeze over what you are truly thinking and feeling? He already knows. If a written prayer helps you to communicate better with God, then use it. Above all else, pray to God honestly and continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

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