A friend recommended I read the book, A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World by Paul Miller. I have it in Kindle and audio format and I have gone through it about three times now.
One statement the author makes is: Personal prayer is the last great bastion of legalism.
Legalism is a Christian term that means trying to save (aka justify or redeem) one’s self through personal effort. Another way this is expressed is by the phrase “salvation by works” in contrast with salvation by God’s grace alone. Legalism is antithetical to the Bible’s teaching of salvation; both Old and New Testaments make it clear that salvation is based on God’s grace and cannot be accomplished by human effort.
So how does this apply to prayer? Often when we prayer, there is a sense that we have to do it the right way, say the right words, or have ourselves together. If we aren’t “righteous” we think that God won’t hear our prayer or respond in the way we hope he will.
This is legalism. It’s also fake. God desires that we come and talk with him – period. Messy, disjointed, sad, angry, questioning; in other words, helpless.
Helplessness is how Christian life, and prayer, is lived.