I heard it again, just a few weeks ago. A serious, sincere leader of a Bible study said he was learning more and more that he was not accepted on the basis of what he did, but on the basis of who he is in Christ. As the Bible study drew to a close, I heard the usual prayers—the "help me’s" and the "strengthen me’s", the "be with me’s" and the "forgive me’s". Then followed a prayer by the leader to help him become more righteous, more peaceful, more patient and kind. These were experience-oriented prayers. Granted, it is the most natural thing in the world to pray for help when we feel inadequate, for strength when we feel weak, for God to be with us when we feel alone, and for Him to forgive us when we feel wicked.
But wait just a minute. A feeling-based prayer may not be a faith-based prayer. If I understand Scripture correctly, we have been given everything necessary for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him (2 Peter 1:3).
Do we believe this Scripture, or don’t we? If I have everything necessary for life and godliness through the knowledge (or indwelling) of Christ, do I still lack power, peace, patience? Am I complete in Christ, as Colossians 2:9-10 says, or am I still incomplete, separate from Christ, without hope in the world (Ephesians 2:12)? Colossians 2 states, without debate, that all of God is in Christ, and Christ is in me, and I am complete in Him.
Granted, we may feel weak, feel helpless, feel alone, feel unacceptable. But the Scripture says just the opposite. When the Scripture tells me something very opposite to what I am feeling or experiencing, I have to make a choice. What am I going to believe: what I feel or experience, or what I know?
When I am listening to a prayer, I can tell in a very few minutes whether the person operates by faith, believing the facts, and prays a prayer based on fact, or operates by feeling, believing those feelings, and prays a prayer based on feelings. The prayer will change dramatically when it is based on Scripture.
Following are some contrasting examples of "feeling prayers" and "faith prayers":
Instead of: "Help me."
It becomes: "Thank you for giving me all the help I needed when you gave me Christ."
Instead of: "Strengthen me."
It becomes: "Thank you that the same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in me (’...the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe…in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead…’—Eph. 1:19-20). I am willing to be weak in myself so I can be strong in the Lord—in my spirit (’...I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.’—2 Cor. 12:9)."
Instead of: "Be with me."
It becomes: "Thank you that you will never leave me nor forsake me (Heb. 13:5). Make me more aware of your presence."
Instead of: "Forgive me."
It becomes: "I thank you that all my sins were forgiven the day I came to Christ (‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses…’—Eph. 1:7; ‘in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’—Col. 1:14; ‘...having forgiven us all our transgressions’—Col. 2:13)."
Instead of: "Make me acceptable."
It becomes: "I thank you that in Christ, I am totally acceptable (’...Christ also accepted us to the glory of God’—(Rom. 15:7), righteous and holy (’...the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.’—Eph. 4:24). I thank you I am no longer in Adam, where I had to achieve my acceptance."
Do words matter? A better question is this: Does faith or belief in God’s word matter? Our prayers will often indicate our position on this question.