Lionel O'Neal was a great man of prayer and one of those giants of faith that I have been blessed to know. I still remember the eloquent and passionate prayers he offered for the Green Lawn church when I was a child. He wrote a rather thorough curriculum on prayer. In it he offers this listing, "What Prayer Is Not."
1. Prayer is not a means of informing God and scolding men. We need not, in our prayers, to try to tell God all about the universe. He knows all we know and more than we shall ever know.
2. Too, we should not be scolding men while we pretend that we are talking to God. Prayer is too sacred to be abused in such manner.
3. Then, too, we should not feel that prayer is a means of ministering to our selfishness. James said, "Ye have not because ye ask not." Then, the reason we do not receive when we ask, is because we are selfish in our petition. "Ye . . . receive not," says James, "because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it is your pleasures." God has not promised to answer our selfish prayers. It is very difficult for us to spearate our selfishness from our requests.
4. Prayer is not a means of getting out of doing what God requires of us. Prayer will not set aside God's laws. God's laws are immutable. The laws of God cannot be changed by calling upon Him. God requires his servants to obey. Many attempt to use prayer as a means of getting out of doing the will of God. In the Great Commission, Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," yet many will try to avoid being baptized by falling down on their faces and praying. Prayer will not set aside the command to be baptized. The Lord says, "Belive and be baptized" and ye shall be saved. Some preachers say, "Belive and kneel down by your radio and TV and pray" and ye shall be saved. Prayer is not a substitute for baptism nor for any other direct command of our Lord. Prayer does not supplant giving. Prayer is not a substitute for the Lord's Supper. Jesus demands that his disciples meet upon the first day of every week to break bread. For us to fall down on our knees and cry out in prayer will not change this law. In fact, Jesus will not hear the man who fails to meet his requirements. Our Lord said, "Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" That is, "Why pray and do not do what I say?" God will only hear the man who hears him.