My son loves robots. He sleeps with his robot toys, he pretends to be a robot and when he grows up, he wants to be a robot doctor.
The other night during prayer time, he got his Wall-e robot, tilted it's head down and put it's hands as close together as they would go. He wanted Wall-e to join us in prayer time. After our prayer time, my son looked at me and said, "Mommy, when I grow up, I want to make robots that pray to God all day long since praying makes God happy."
I smiled, kissed him on the forehead and turned off his light, but that got me thinking about prayer. Would our God be pleased if we created a bunch of robots to pray to Him continuously? Would God even listen to a prayer said by a robot?
Of course, God is interested in human hearts and He would be interested in the human heart that created the robots, not the robots themselves. But what about the times when I pray like a robot? The times when I whip out a pre-programmed prayer? What about the times when I link a bunch of impressive sounding phrases together so that the people listening think, "What a beautiful, eloquent prayer!" while I give little regard for what message my heart is sending? What about the years I spent spitting out pre-written prayers, treating them more like an incantation than a true communication with the Almighty?
In Matthew 6:7-8, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us, "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Certainly, a room full of robots speaking pre-programmed prayers would be akin to babbling pagans. But have you ever been in a church or a prayer group that has been like babbling pagans as well? Have you ever been a babbling pagan?
So what do we do to combat this? Ephesians 6:18 states, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." That means we must make a connection to the Spirit if we are going to pray in the Spirit. Making that connection implies a mindfulness, an openness and a focus that puts us in the presence of the King. And if we are that mindful and have that sort of focus and openness, it is far harder to fall back on a robot prayer.
Lastly, I want to address the idea that there is a right way and a wrong way to pray for things. Recently, I asked some people to pray for me that something would come out in my favor and one of the people replied back to me, "I'm going to pray that God's will be done, since God knows better than you what you need." While there is some legitimacy to that idea, I have seen many instances where people are hesitant to pray for things because they feel like what they ask for is going to be insulting to God.
Don't forget 1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." It doesn't say, "Cast all your JUSTIFIED anxiety on him", it says ALL your anxiety. God wants you just as you are. He doesn't want the censored version. He doesn't want the prettified version. He doesn't want the fake Christian version. He wants you. Now, there may be times in your prayer life where you get to the point of saying, "God, I don't know what to pray for anymore, so I just pray that Your will be done." That's fine if that is what is really on your heart. But if a specific outcome is on your mind, PRAY FOR IT. You can use Jesus' model in Gethsemane, if you like. He prayed for the outcome He wanted, but acknowledged that God's will be done. But I believe with all my heart that God would rather us not pray to Him at all than to take a forced, insincere prayer and place it at His feet.
As for the praying robots....maybe my son will study engineering and theology and find a way to have robots pray that pleases God. Or maybe he'll abandon that and just make a robot that picks up toys. Mommy would be thrilled with that!