For most believers, difficulty praying is not due to ignorance. We know prayer is important and that it should be a priority.
Verses like the following are written as commands, not suggestions:
“Devote yourselves to prayer.” (Col. 4:2)
“Pray continually.” (1 Thess. 5:17)
“Always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Eph. 6:18)
For most believers, difficulty praying is not due to lack of benefits. Listen to the testimonies of those who have fervently prayed and you will know its value. Prayer is powerful:
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16-18)
So, why do we find difficulty in praying?
We underestimate the work involved in praying: (Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2; 1 Pet. 4:7; Lk. 11:1-8)
- We need to be active — alert, clear-minded, self-controlled, persevering.
- We can’t be passive or lazy about praying. It’s too easy to lose focus or even fall asleep.
We underestimate the role of the Spirit in helping us pray: (Rom. 8:26; Eph. 6:18)
- We need to be consistently walking in the Spirit – dependent and yielding.
- We can’t be making excuses that we don’t know what or how to pray. We have a Helper.
We underestimate the enemy and consequently don’t pull on God’s mighty power as needed: (Eph. 6:10-18; 1 Pet. 5:8-9)
- We need to be proactive – “put on” the armor.
- We can’t be unaware of the devil’s schemes, letting ourselves believe his lies about being too busy to pray, that it doesn’t really matter, etc.
We over-estimate our own ability to deal with life: (Prov. 3:5-6; Jn. 15:5)
- We need to be abiding in Him, letting Him have control – humble and trusting.
- We can’t be serving two masters without neglecting one over the other.
We know we should pray, that God commands it. Could it be because we don’t think it’s beneficial?
Can We Really Claim Prayerlessness is Due to a Lack of Benefits?
If we don’t pray because we fail to see its value, or benefit, then we have to reconcile the following:
1. God’s Word clearly promotes the benefits of praying: Read the following verses for just a few of the many specific benefits of praying we find in Scripture:
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Ps. 34:4)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16… and more in verses 13-18)
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
Some of the benefits will be outward demonstrations of God’s power and grace. Others, equally if not more potent, may be internal results affecting our heart attitudes and perspective. There’s definitely something beneficial about prayer if we have a God who keeps His promises.
2. Many believers testify of answers to prayers, attesting to the benefits of praying: Read through the Psalms for the psalmist’s testimony of God responding to his cries. Listen to fellow believers who have personally experienced God not only hearing but responding to their prayers(Jn. 14:13; 1 Jn. 5:14). There must be something beneficial about prayer or these people are either liars or the exception.
3. Even non-believers seem to value people praying for them: If nothing else, many non-believers derive comfort and encouragement, a blessing, when a Christian says they will pray for them. There must be something beneficial about prayer for that to happen.
Prayerlessness Because of What We Underestimate
Why, then, don’t we pray more? Perhaps it’s because we fail to accurately or wholeheartedly grasp certain factors that will help us pray.
What We Might Underestimate that Leads to Prayerlessness
- We might underestimate the work involved in praying.
The following Bible verses show how we need to be actively engaged when it comes to praying — alert, clear-minded, self-controlled, persevering. We can’t merely coast. We can’t be passive or lazy about praying. It’s too easy to lose focus or even fall asleep.
“With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Eph. 6:18)
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Col. 4:2)
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.” (1 Pet. 4:7)
- We might underestimate the role of the Spirit in helping us pray.
We need to be consistently walking in the Spirit, depending on and yielding to His work in our lives. On our own we might lack the self-control we need to consistently pray but the fruit of the Spirit includes self-control and perseverance (Gal. 5:22-23). We might not know what to say or how to pray, but we have a Helper in the Holy Spirit.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Eph. 6:18)
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Rom. 8:26)
- We might underestimate the enemy and consequently don’t pull on God’s mighty power as needed.
God has a formidable foe who doesn’t want us praying. Satan knows the power of prayer. We must be aware of the devil’s lies and schemes to get us to doubt God hears or cares, to believe we’re too busy to pray, or that it doesn’t really matter. We must be proactive, putting on the armor God provides, resisting the devil, replacing his lies with truth.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” (1 Pet. 5:8-9)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:10-18)
When we underestimate any of the above factors, we will tend to find it harder to “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17) and to be devoted to prayer (Col. 4:2). But, prayerlessness can also result from what we overestimate — the topic of the next post.
How Can We Not Pray?
As we consider the condition of the world today, how can we not pray? Let me encourage each of us to make prayer our first response. Let’s turn first to the Lord before complaining or giving in to fear or despair. And, let’s continue in prayer.
Bible Verses about Prayer to Help Us Pray
If we as Christians would practice the truths in even the following six verses on prayer, we would see such difference.
- Be devoted to prayer: When you are devoted to prayer, things happen. Pray and then watch for what God will do. And, be sure to thank and praise Him for it.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Col. 4:2)
- Be willing to sacrifice in order to pray: The psalmist likens prayer to a spiritual sacrifice when he refers to it as incense. As such it rises up to heaven and fills the throne room of God.
“May my prayer be set before you like incense.” (Ps. 141:2a)
- Fully trust God as you pray: If you feel safe and secure with Him, such confidence will take you beyond the rote or token prayers to spilling out your guts to God.
“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. Selah.” (Ps. 62:8)
- Be in a constant attitude of prayer, praying for fellow believers everywhere: To have such a perseverance and passion in praying, you need help. Look to the Spirit of God who lives within you.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
- Go on the offence as a prayer warrior: You cannot be pulled in so many directions that you fail to pray. Instead, purposefully plan to pray. Prioritize it into your busy schedule.
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so you can pray.” (1 Pet. 4:7)
- Don’t get discouraged if you can’t see results: Notice the small but encouraging word “is” in the following verse. Your prayer “is” effective — present tense. It doesn’t say might be or will be but “is,” right now, powerful and effective.
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b)
If the truths in these verses take root in your heart and are put into practice, you will begin to notice a difference in the way you process life. Even if the world around you doesn’t change the way you wish it would, you will be able to cope and be at peace. You will find renewed purpose as you work in cooperation with a Sovereign and Almighty God through prayer.