Why We Don't Pray, Part 2
It's been much longer than I anticipated, but here, finally, is part 2 of this blog post.
In our last post, I mentioned 4 reasons/excuses people might give for why they don't pray. In this post, I'll finish off the list.
Sometimes people say it out loud, and sometimes they just think it: "I've tried praying about it, but it didn't work." How can we respond to those kind of statements?
For starters, it helps to realize that prayer accomplishes something, even if we don't see any changes in our circumstances. Prayer humbles us. It draws us near to God. It extends His sustaining grace in the midst of our circumstances. It increases our heavenly reward (Matt 6:6).
In Luke 11:5-10, Jesus teaches His disciples to persevere in prayer. He speaks of "impudence" or, what the NIV calls, "shameless audacity." So keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking. God hears, and the prayer of a righteous person has great power (James 5:16-18).
A second thing to consider, if it feels like there is some kind of barrier in your prayers, is the possibility of sin in your heart that has not been addressed. (See, for example Psalm 66:18; James 4:3; 1 Pet 3:7). Again, God's promise is that when our hearts are pure, we can confidently go to God in prayer, and He will answer (1 John 3:21-22; 5:14-15).
This is a very relevant idea for our culture today. Many people don't pray because they never plan for it. It's the same reason people will eat less healthy food and more fast food even if they say they don't want to. The disorder of their life crowds out what wasn't planned, and the result is another trip to Burger King. The same will happen with prayer. If there is no specific plan for prayer, life's disorder will crowd it out unless we set aside time for it.
Daniel was thrown into the lion's den because he prayed. And he prayed because it was his normal practice (Daniel 8:10). He had built the habit into his life, and not even the threat of death was going to change it.
Although Jesus spoke against the way the Pharisee's practiced prayer (Matt 6:5), it wasn't the habit of prayer itself that He condemned. In fact, Jesus Himself had a custom of prayer. It was built into His routine (see Luke 21:37; 22:39 and Mark 1:35).
Do you have a plan for prayer? Do you have specific times or places set aside for prayer? Do you have a list of people of items you know you will pray for? Those are part of having a plan for prayer.
You may never pray as much as you want, but you will pray much more with a plan than without one. Having a plan for prayer grows us in diligence and faithfulness, and it builds a habit that can change your life.
This final reason is really what a lack of prayer boils down to. When we fail to pray, we are being disobedient to the commands of Jesus Christ.
Consider the following commands to pray:
- Pray for your enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:28)
- Pray privately before God (Matt 6:6)
- Pray for God to send workers into the harvest (Matt 9:37-38)
- Pray for brothers in the faith (Eph 6:18-20)
- Take your worries to God (Php 4:6; 1 Pet 5:6-7)
- Pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:17)
- Pray for leaders and the spread of the gospel (1 Thes 5:25; 2 Thes 3:1)
- Pray for the salvation of those is our government (1 Tim 2:1-4)
- Pray to God in good times and bad (James 5:13-14)
So, what excuses do you make for not praying? What underlying issues might be keeping you from drawing near to God in prayer regularly?
Inability, competence, sovereignty, complacency, ineffectiveness, disorder, and disobedience—all of these can become enemies to our prayer lives. Recognize the potential for these in your heart, and take specific steps to address them. By God's grace, we can grow in prayer, and then we will praise God all the more for the ways in which He responds!