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March 27, 2020

How Praying in the Wrong Way destroyed my Faith

Nneka Ruiz Montalvo

I’m sharing with you an account of how I completely lost my faith in God by praying in the wrong way. I was facing some severe problems and began to pray in earnest.

Old Approach to Prayer

Below is list of the advice I followed during that period of my life:

  • I sprinkled my entire house and all of my possessions with holy water and blessed salt.
  • I said dozens of novenas. I bought a book of novena prayers and each one said at the bottom “This is a very powerful novena that has never been known to fail.” I said novena after novena expecting and hoping for some change and things only got worse and worse.
  • I was told to buy a particular type of cross and get it blessed by a particular monk and place it over the front door of my home.
  • I went to church more than once a week, expecting that God would be obligated to obey me because of that.

Bad Advice

Everyone I went to for advice suggested a different prayer or ritual. No-one advised me to check my own heart and clear it of any pride, anger, unforgiveness, selfishness or idols. The more I prayed, the worse things got and I ended up completely heartbroken, bitter and angry at God. I hated God and wanted nothing to do with Him for almost 10 years…until I had a stranger approach me on a beach and led me to pray and give my life to Christ.

When I started to rebuild my relationship with Christ, I prayed very hesitantly and with a lot of fear. I was terrified of getting my heart broken again. I wanted more than anything to preserve my relationship with God first and foremost, regardless of how other aspects of my life were going.

Red Flags for Prayer

Because of my horrific experience, I would like you all to be aware of these red flags that you may be praying in the wrong way:

  • Do you want your prayer request more than you want God? If you do, that is idolatry. Your idols will always destroy you spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even physically. Set Jesus alone on the throne of your heart.
  • Do you trust the words of the prayer itself or the rituals you are participating in more than you trust God? No prayer is powerful and fail-proof. Only God is powerful. No prayer should be trusted. Only God deserves your trust.
  • Are you hanging on to any anger, unforgiveness, revenge or hatred? God is more concerned with the condition of your heart than whatever prayer you are saying. He will not answer our prayers if we are harbouring sinful anger and hatred in our hearts. (Ps 66:18)
  • Are you ignoring your God-given role? Husbands are advised to fulfil their role to love their wives so that nothing will hinder their prayers (1 Peter 3:7). Similarly, children should fulfil their role to honour their parents and married women should respect their husbands so that nothing can hinder their prayers.
  • Are you attempting to manipulate or force God to do what you are asking Him to do? God is not a genie in a bottle who submits to us. We are meant to submit to Him. If we treat God like some sort of cosmic genie and think that if we do/say the “right words”, He will be forced to obey us and give us what we want, we are praying with very sinful motives.
  • Are you praying for others in an attempt to control them or force them to change their ways to suit you? God does not allow us to have ultimate control and authority over anyone.

Green Flags for Prayer

I have learned a lot about prayer and God over the past few years and I would like to share with you some green flags that prove that you are praying in the right way:

  • Wanting God’s will more than your own (Lk 22:42)
  • Humility before God (Phil 2:5-11)
  • Love, mercy and forgiveness towards others (Mk 11:25)
  • The understanding that God is in charge, not you (Prov 19:21)
  • Denying yourself and following Christ (Lk 9:23)
  • Faith that God loves you and will work everything for your good (Rom 8:28)
  • The understanding that God uses our trials to help us grow in spiritual maturity and that we need to be willing to endure hardships and difficulties to grow. (Rom 5:3-4; Jas 1: 2-4)
  • Depending on the Holy Spirit to move and change people rather than me trying to take the place of the Holy Spirit in someone’s heart.
  • Holding the outcome of any prayer loosely. The only thing you should have onto tightly is God Himself (Habukkuk 3:17-19).

If we pray in this way, we will be standing on the Solid Rock and we will have hope and joy even in the midst of great trials, whether God gives us what we want or not. 

Nneka Ruiz Montalvo is a married mother of one son. She is an active member of St Anthony’s parish and is involved in the parish’s Sunday School ministry to children.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed belong solely to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Catholic News, the staff of Catholic Media Services Ltd or the Archdiocese of Port of Spain.