These rules for prayer are the doctrines and commandments of men. They are nowhere found in the Bible, and the attitude they teach is one of constant judging, because you supposedly have to know whether someone else’s prayer is being heard by God before you can acknowledge their prayer by bowing your head or closing your eyes.

  • You can’t pray for anyone NOT in the church, with some exceptions (if it’s a child, or if you’re praying for an unbeliever’s salvation)
  • No holding hands during prayer (is this a church-wide prohibition, or something individual congregations adhere to?)
  • One must say “in Jesus name,” not “in our Savior’s name,” not “in the name of our Lord,” not “in your son’s name,” etc. If you don’t say “in Jesus name” it isn’t heard.
  • If someone is praying and they aren’t part of the church, you must do one or more of the following:
    • Leave the room
    • Keep your eyes open
    • DON’T bow your head.
    • Say your own private prayer (and typically make sure your prayer lasts a few seconds beyond the end of the “sinner’s” prayer)
  • You must say a prayer before all meals. I used to do this “religiously” with my family, even at restaurants, but I came to realize that there are times when we seem like Pharisees on the street corner saying “look at me.” There’s something to be said for praying privately sometimes. If we always have a heart of thankfulness to God for our blessings, verbalizing a prayer does not need to be a rule. After all, we’re to “pray without ceasing.” Now, I take public prayer at restaurants on a case by case basis, because I know there is no “rule” binding it one way or another. I am “unceasingly” thankful to God for my food and other blessings.
  • If the person praying forgets a prayer request, they say another prayer to include the forgotten prayer request. This is especially true in the prayer following the public confession period.
  • You can’t say a prayer if you have a “sin you haven’t taken care of.” If someone calls on you for prayer, you need to pass.
  • I don’t know if it’s a specific rule, but chain prayers (prayers where multiple people contribute out loud) are looked down upon because they’re not serious enough.
  • Praying in 17th century English is encouraged (using “thee” and “thou” in particular).
Many of these rules illustrate that, like good Pharisees, they are more concerned with the optics of prayer than with what’s in the heart:

Luke 18:10-14 – Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Does God really expect us to judge someone else’s standing before Him before we can dare to even be respectful of their prayer, let alone say “amen” to it? The most frequent disrespect I’ve seen during a non-member’s prayer is keeping one’s eyes closed for another 5 to 20 seconds beyond the end of it. I know of situations where members of the church have kept their eyes open and even chit-chatted during a non-member’s prayer. That is the height of rudeness.

The Lord knows those who are His, and we surely don’t. When I say “amen” to someone’s prayer (which simply means “so be it”), I am simply endorsing the words they are saying, not their religious beliefs, their personal sins, or their life choices.

What I find interesting about this is that so much emphasis is placed on the idea that “God doesn’t hear the prayers of a sinner.” But do you know that it was not even an inspired person who said that? The person who said those words was a man Jesus healed who was defending Jesus before the Pharisees using their own logic.
They were accusing Jesus of being a sinner, and the man basically says “that can’t be true, because we know that God doesn’t hear the prayers of a sinner.” There is nowhere in the Bible that asserts that to be true; it comes from the Pharisee’s traditions. He was turning their own traditions on their head and showing them using their own logic that Jesus couldn’t have been the evil person they were claiming him to be.
As for the idea that one must say “in Jesus name” for a prayer to be heard, that is a little silly. Consider this scripture:

Colossians 3:17 – And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Everything we do–not just our prayers, everything–is to be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” So when I bring a meal to a sick person do I need to say “in Jesus’ name” when I hand it to them? When I give my little girl a big hug before bed at night, because I love her with the love that God put inside of me, do I have to say “in Jesus’ name?” When I show kindness, compassion and forgiveness to people who have done me wrong, do I have to tell them “in Jesus name” that I’m being kind to them?

Of course not. The point Paul is making, and the point Jesus was making when he instructed us to ask everything in his name, is simply a timeless piece of wisdom from Solomon applied by Jesus for the Christian era:

Proverbs 3:6 – In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

In everything we do or say, whether it’s our prayers or our actions, we should acknowledge and give honor to Jesus. Words are optional, in fact, sometimes words get in the way of our message. Hence the old adage that “actions speak louder than words.”

h/t to Andrea, Mckenzie and anonymous contributors for this list