Around the circle the 6th-grade girls went, taking turns praying for each other in the Bible-study group. “Father in heaven,” Anna prayed, “please help Tonya not to be so boy-crazy.” Tonya added with a giggle, “And help Anna to stop acting so horrible in school and bothering other kids.” Then Talia prayed, “Lord, help Tonya to listen to her mother instead of always talking back.”
Although the requests were real, the girls seemed to enjoy teasing their friends by pointing out their flaws in front of the others instead of caring about their need for God’s help. Their group leader reminded them about the seriousness of talking to almighty God and the importance of evaluating their own hearts.
If we use prayer to point out the faults of others while ignoring our own, we’re like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. He prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). Instead, we’re to be like the man who asked God to be merciful to him, “a sinner” (v.13).
Let’s be careful not to let our prayers become a listing of others’ flaws. The kind of prayer God desires flows out of a humble evaluation of our own sinful hearts.