The Worst Prayer Request in the Bible

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3 ESV)

Although Jesus said, “ask, and ye shall receive,” God does not always answer all prayers. As the Apostle James notes in James 4:3, some prayers are wrong because the motive is wrong. However, scriptures recorded a prayer that is worse than asking for the wrong reasons—this is Peter’s request to Jesus when he saw a miracle Jesus performed:

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8 ESV)

Overwhelmed by the miraculous catch of fishes, Peter asked Jesus to depart from him because he was a sinner. Peter acknowledged he was a sinner but begged Jesus to go away from him. This request is not only wrong, nor is it just bad, but if answered, it is an irreparable eternal catastrophe. When Jesus heard Peter’s plea, He immediately recognized it was an innocent unthoughtful error prompted by fear; therefore, He did not answer Peter’s prayer request. Instead of granting Peter’s miscalculated petition, He said to him:

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10 ESV).

Why is this prayer such a dangerous request? Because the one thing or one person the sinner needs is Jesus. Asking Jesus to depart from a sinner spells eternal doom for that sinner. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 ESV). Had God departed from us because we are sinners, we would have been lost for all eternity.

Contrast Peter’s prayer request with the prayer request of the sinful tax collector in Luke 18:13. If there was ever a sinner in the Jewish community, then tax collectors, or publicans, were considered the worst of the worst sinners. When this sinful man came into the Temple to pray, according to this parable, Jesus said: 

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13 ESV)

Peter, a religiously pious Jew, asked Jesus to depart from him because he was a sinner; in contrast, the sinful tax collector asked God to be merciful to him because he was a sinner. 

Although Peter’s request was primed by fear, it was, nonetheless, shaped by his religious background. He was conscious of his sin and the reality of God’s judgment, just as any other Israelites under the Old Covenant—he did not know God’s grace and mercy revealed in Christ as we do today.

Peter’s horrible prayer request teaches us at least two simple lessons. First, we get into trouble when we remove our eyes from Jesus and fixate on ourselves. I once met a Christian sister who rejected the idea that she has been made holy and is now a saint in Christ. She insisted she was a sinner. She thought that was probably a form of religious humility but did not know it was not only a rejection of God’s grace but an ignorant religious voiding of Christ’s death on the cross. We must, at all times, persistently reject this pervasive and destructive religious spirit. I have written multiple times about this dangerous attitude I have called Christian religion. If we keep our eyes on Jesus, we will never find it difficult to know why scripture generally calls the believer a saint and not a sinner.

Besides the exhortation to beware of  Christian religion, the second lesson is that God wants us to run to Him in our sins, not away from Him. This lesson is valid for believers (the saints) and the lost (sinners). God wants sinners to come to Him irrespective of their sin. Sin has an inherent characteristic of inducing shame, self-condemnation, and guilt, making the sinner run away from God. It began with our first parents, Adam and Eve. God’s message to the dying world is not for them to depart from Him but to come to Him. For believers, the saints in Christ, God also does not want us not to run away from Him or build walls around our hearts when we sin. Think of how sin in our lives can make us avoid Church services, distance ourselves from other believers, especially leaders, slowly stop praying or reading the Bible, etc. We must not repeat Peter’s mistake of putting God far from us when dealing with sin.

In conclusion, the worst thing we can ever do is to protect ourselves from God when dealing with sin. Rather than ask God to depart from us, we must turn to Him for grace, the antidote to sin.

Meditate

Why did you think Peter asked Jesus to depart from him?

Apply the Word

If you are not yet saved, God’s command is simple: come to Me. If peradventure, you are a believer on the run from God because of sin in your life, the Father is asking you to come home; do not let sin separate you from the solution. Come to your Father.

Pray

Ask the Father to help you see Jesus at all times and not yourself.

Read & Watch

How to Receive Grace
Ask, Seek and Knock( A.S.K.)
What I Call “Christian Religion”
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