Prayer Is Worth Doing Badly | Influence Magazine

Over at, I have an article on the Lord’s Prayer entitled, “Prayer Is Worth Doing Badly.” Here’s the introduction:

Several years ago, I went to lunch with friends after church. When our food arrived, all of them turned to me for a blessing on the meal. (Being called upon to pray in restaurants is a hazard of my profession.) Instead of praying myself, however, I looked to the woman on my right and said, “Tricia, will you say grace?”

Then I closed my eyes and bowed my head. Several awkward seconds of silence followed until Tricia let out what I thought was a perfectly adequate blessing. She disagreed — violently. After saying, “Amen!” she hit me on the arm and exclaimed, “Don’t ever do that again! I’ve never prayed in public in my life!”

Now, many Americans fear public speaking. Was that why Tricia was so upset? I doubt it. Her public only consisted of 10 or so friends, after all, and she spoke easily enough with them throughout the remainder of the lunch. No, I think Tricia feared praying in public because she feared saying something to God that was wrong or trite. She feared praying badly, in other words.

Many of us have the same fear. We do not pray as often as we ought to because we do not think our words are eloquent enough or our thoughts elevated enough or our spiritual state pure enough to talk to God.

Consequently, we need to remember G.K. Chesterton’s advice: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” Even if we stumble to our knees and mumble through our requests, even if we talk to God inconsistently or incoherently or inconsiderately, it is better that we pray badly than that we not pray at all. Of course, it would be best if we prayed well, but that takes a lifetime of practice, and all of us must start somewhere. So why not start where we are, wherever that may be?

The most liberating truth of the spiritual life, you see, is that God does not want us to be perfect so that we can come to Him. Instead, He wants us to come to Him so that He can make us perfect. We think that God is interested in spiritually finished products: happy, healthy, holy Christians. And He is — but not only in them.

God also is interested in the process, in manufacturing saints out of sinners, believers out of skeptics, good prayers out of bad ones. That is why prayer is worth doing badly. Only by starting where we are can God take us to where He wants us to be.

Read the whole thing!

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