"Our Lord, you said the poor in spirit are blessed. Give us that humility and childlikeness that you value so much and forgive us for our pride."

"Our Lord, you said those who mourn are blessed. Give us a heart broken for the needs in the world around us and forgive us when we close our eyes to them."

"You told us the gentle and meek are blessed. Give us that tenderness and gentleness that we see in Thee, and forgive us for our anger and self-centeredness."

"You assured us that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are blessed. Give us a hearty appetite for Thee, and forgive us when we fill our souls with the junk food of this life."

The greatest resource book for effective praying on the planet is your Bible.

7. Cleanse your prayers of those dead, pet phrases.

I apologize in advance to the deacons who read this, but somewhere there seems to be a school of prayer for deacons only, where they learn to include the same dull phrases over and over again in their prayers prior to the offering. Two aspects of these prayers in particular I find fascinating and a little exasperating.

In the typical prayer before the offering, the pray-er seems more intent on telling the Lord to use the offering wisely than in asking that the church members may catch the divine vision, open their wallets, and give generously. We get the impression the deacon thinks God may spend it foolishly if He's not careful.

The other is something that amazes me every time I hear it. The deacon will pray that God will use this offering "for the betterment of the Kingdom." I want to interrupt, "Wait a minute--what in the sam hill do you mean by that? How are you going to 'better' the Kingdom of God?"

I know what happened; the deacon heard someone else saying it and thought it sounded good and added it to his prayers. Bad mistake.

Pastors do it too, although not with those same phrases. I'll not elaborate on this point since it seems each pastor has his own variations on this theme.

The best way I know how to purge our prayers of these meaningless, lifeless phrases is to turn our Sunday prayers into genuine conversations with a loving and holy God. And for that, we'll need to do the hard work of repentance, commitment, prayer, meditation, Bible reading, and drawing close to the Father during the week. This is not something that can be done on Sunday morning.

Our prayers on Sunday are a fallible reflection of the fellowship we have maintained with the Heavenly Father that week. If our weekday devotionals were lifeless and dull, our Sunday worship leadership will carry the same qualities. If we had a great private devotional time with the Lord each day this week, if we thrilled at our Bible studies and were touched in our prayer times, then the congregation will pick up on that special something in what we say and how it is uttered when we stand in the pulpit.

Joe PewSpud knows that, pastor. He hopes you do too.

Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at joemckeever.com/mt. Used with permission.