How Not to Pray: Examples of Misguided Prayer

Today, we’re talking about how not to pray. In this post, I share some examples of misguided prayer. Read on to learn what to pray instead.


Have you ever wondered how not to pray? The only way to communicate with God is through prayer. We all have ongoing prayer requests, and prayer is the conduit by which we access God’s power. However, knowing what to pray in response to those requests makes a big difference.

My big kids and I used to spell pertinent words in order to avoid their little brother catching on and wanting what we were trying to spell at the time. For example, one big kid would say, “Mama, may I go o-u-t-s-i-d-e?” If he had said the word “outside” in front of his little brother, we would be dealing with a headache. 

My then three-year-old, in his naivety, thought that was the way to communicate, “Mama, b-e-a-e-b-o?”

He had learned all the letters, but he hadn’t learned how to put them together to spell all the words yet. He tried to ask me for something this way, but I didn’t know what he wanted. 

As humorous as it was for him to try to copy his older brother, it reminds me of the way we sometimes pray in an unbiblical fashion. 

Why It Matters What You Pray

When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband drove me to my obstetrician appointments. Now something you learn when expecting is that it’s not so easy to hold your bladder. On the way, I brought up my struggles to my husband and asked him, “Should I tell the doctor about my incompetence problem?” He busted out laughing and let me know one of the definitions of incompetence is mental deficiency. 

I had the wrong word. The right one is incontinence—the word used to describe my problem. He’s told that story too many times. I guess it’s my chance to be humble now and tell you. Oh, and yes, he told the doctor about it when we arrived. I definitely learned the correct definitions of those two words that day!

God’s Word can be misguided the same way I used the wrong word in my story above. That’s why it’s important to study the Bible and use an applicable verse. When you do, you will see results. Notice the conditional sections of the following passage:

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 5:14-15 ESV

The key is asking according to God’s will.

How Not to Pray: Examples of Misguided Prayer

The Bible talks about praying amiss in James 4:3 (NLT) which says, “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” 

The following are some examples of misguided prayer:

Example #1:

A wife notices the family’s finances are tight, and she wants her husband to get a second job. Her husband is reluctant, however, since he’s already physically doing what he can handle. After praying about it, he is at peace with keeping the same job and waiting on God before making any major decisions. 

The wife, however, is worried to no end. She won’t nag her husband because she doesn’t want to be that contentious woman Proverbs warns against. Instead, she prays and PRAYS her husband would get a second job. 

Why is that misguided prayer? That’s praying her will instead of God’s. She’s not trusting in God’s provision; she’s worried.      

Example #2:

To this day I dislike a thick beard on a man. (If you do, no offense. I’ll pray for you. Just kidding! lol) My husband loves them. I used to pray that God would place the desire in my husband’s heart to either go clean shaven or wear it really thin, claiming John 14:14 (ESV), “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Why is that misguided prayer? That’s manipulating Scripture. There is no verse that says it’s a sin for a man to wear a beard. 

Example #3: 

A couple of friends told me a story of how while they were attending a school, some of the students would be late, etc. After scolding them, the teacher would use the prayer time to shame the students for their conduct, saying prayers like, “and that all would realize that they should BE ON TIME.”

Why is that misguided prayer? That’s using prayer as an agenda to publicly shame others.

Ever wonder how not to pray? Click to see some examples of misguided #prayer. #ThrivingInChrist Click to Tweet

What to Pray Instead

Now that we’ve covered how not to pray, here’s some ideas on what to pray instead. Below is a practical list of biblically based prayers for you to use to pray for others. Praying the Word, correctly applied, always works. 

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21 ESV

That is certainly a powerful verse! I can’t see into the spirit realm, but what I say goes into the atmosphere and there is either life or death in the power of what I speak. So I need to speak truth.

Praying the following verses will cover the entire canvas of someone’s life. Pray that that person would:

  • Grow in grace. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” 2Peter 3:18 NKJV
  • Clearly discern the voice of God. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3b ESV
  • Obey God’s commands. “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” 1John 5:3 NLT
  • Shine the light of Jesus. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14 ESV
  • Be holy in conduct. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” 1Peter 1:14-15 NASB
I can’t see into the spirit realm, but what I say goes into the atmosphere and there is either life or death in the power of what I speak. So I need to speak truth. #prayer #ThrivingInChrist Click to Tweet

A Battle of Wills

You might be asking the question, “Doesn’t God want me to have the desires of my heart?” The thing is, the desires of your heart can easily be turned into an idol if your focus is on what you want, instead of pleasing God. Psalm 37:4 tells us the key to receiving the desires of your heart is through delighting yourself in the Lord. 

Always pray what you know God’s Word to be according to His will, and God will answer you (1 John 5:14-15). When you aren’t sure what God’s will is, go back to Jesus’ instructions in the Lord’s Prayer and pray, “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). That way, your will isn’t battling for first place over God’s will.

What else would you add on how not to pray?

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8 Comments

    1. kellyrbaker says:

      Thanks so much, Patsy!

  1. I loved this post! And I needed to hear this…I have been struggling with growing my prayer life and this gives me some practical ways to adapt my prayer to God…instead of trying to adapt Him to fit what I want.

    1. kellyrbaker says:

      So glad to hear that, Ammie!

  2. PATSY L WHALEY says:

    Kelly, thank you so much. I’m striving to be focused on Jesus and His word. I’m striving to be more consistent in my quiet time, reading the word, and praying on a daily basis. Thank you for inspiring me. God bless you.

    1. kellyrbaker says:

      Oh, I’m so glad to hear that, Patsy! God bless you, too!

  3. Tumu S Newell says:

    Great post! I love your site and getting your emails.

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