What Prayer ISN’T – Manipulative

Disclaimer: This is one of my soapbox topics – I hate manipulation and it upsets me when things of God are used to manipulate others. I am acutely aware of manipulation because it’s a very easy trap for me to fall into, I have to constantly guard myself against it. So, if at any point you feel guilty and realize you’ve used prayer to manipulate – I’m glad! It’s an opportunity for you to call out to God, repent, and change your ways.
Know that you are not alone in this, I’m right there with you. 

Have you ever heard someone offer up a prayer request that was used as gossip?  “Pray for Sister Tina (I feel like women do this a lot more often than men) and her family. Her husband just left her and she and the kids are having to stay with her mom for a little while, etc. etc.” It sounds good and like the Christian thing to do, but if it devolves into talking smack about that woman and her family, that’s not honoring to God.

Or what about manipulation? Have you ever heard someone pray in the presence of someone whose behavior they wished to change? 

Yesterday we talked about prayer not being a way to obligate God into doing what we want (if you missed it you can read it here), today I want to talk about not using prayer to obligate someone else into doing what we want.

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” 

John 17:6-11 (NIV)

I encourage you to read through Jesus’s entire prayer, it’s amazing! He prays for the disciples then all believers which means Jesus prayed for you and me! How cool is that?

Think about what was happening in this story: Jesus is about to go to the cross and die, fully knowing that his followers would be scattered, and then they would take the Gospel all over the world. Their task was not an easy one and these flawed men were less than qualified for the job.

Jesus could’ve prayed a thousand other things: “Lord, help these knuckle-heads do better. We know that you haven’t called us to argue and be in competition with one another,” at this point he’d throw a little side-eye toward James and John, “but you long for us to love everyone. Father, help these men to keep their mouths shut when they need to,” a snicker could be heard from a couple of them in the back, knowing he was talking about Peter, “and open their mouths to boldly proclaim your words as revealed through me your Son,” knowing that Thomas and company would have their fair share of doubts.

Jesus could’ve used prayer to manipulate the disciples into being better followers but he didn’t. He trusted God to change their hearts. The language in John 17 isn’t directed toward us but to him. Jesus’s focus was on God as ours should be. Throughout this series there will be times when I encourage us to pray with others in our community, use these corporate moments of prayer to honor God, not to sway others. Prayer is a powerful tool and an immense privilege; we’ve been given direct access to God! Let’s make sure we’re using this time well to honor the one who has done so much for us!


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  1. I often pray for my niece Whois on drugs to find the strength in Jesus to be set free. I often pray for sick friends and family to be healed. I also pray daily for my unsaved friends and family to be saved. I am praying prayers that do supersede their individual wills but are in line with Gods ultimate will that all should be saved and none should perish. 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance…I don’t think praying someone who is addicted to behaviors that are destroying their lives and separating them from the life God wants for them would be manipulative. I think the key is knowing that people see what we do…but God knows WHY we do it. If we are praying for selfish reasons sure but if our motive is to see Gods will be done I think it’s not manipulative but a requirement of discipleship.

    Liked by 1 person

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