Along with one of the elders from Watermark Community Church, I’m in the middle of leading a discipleship group of 10 single men. A few are engaged, a few seriously dating, and a few are among Dallas’ most eligible bachelors (email me and I’ll set you up, single ladies!). They are 10 men who love the Lord and are serious about their faith in Christ and their desire to grow into godly men.
We are currently reading through Donald S. Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Each week we read a chapter about one of the spiritual disciplines (i.e. bible reading, worship, journaling, etc…) and discuss together.
A few weeks ago we read the chapter on prayer, and every man in the room talked about his desire to faithful and fervent in prayer. Yet every one of us shared how we wished we spent more time in prayer. This is the cry of singles as well as married couples. The excuses are plentiful and the time scarce.
Below are nine reasons why we don’t pray. In part two I will share a few simple applications to improve your time in prayer with the Lord and a simple tool I have used to help me in my own prayer time.
9 Reasons Why we don’t pray:
1. Because all of our needs are already met. For many of us, we live in a very affluent, performance-oriented culture. We work hard, we achieve, we buy stuff, and we have pretty much everything we want or need. Sure we wouldn’t mind a nicer car or some new clothes, but for most of us, we have food in the pantry, more clothes than we need and even a house for our car! We believe we have no need or place for God so we don’t pray to Him. We have elevated the physical over the spiritual.
2. We live in an Instant gratification culture and we are not used to waiting for anything. For example: instant message, Instagram, fast food. Remember dial-up internet? I. Would. DIE. Please don’t make me go back. If prayer worked like the State Farm “Can I Get a Hot Tub” commercial, then we might pray. But God does not typically work that way and He is not a “vending machine God” who immediately gives us what we want, when we want it.
3. We don’t believe prayer is effective. We are not sure God hears us, and even if He does (which He does), we believe He won’t give us what we want.
- Speaking of which, I am thankful God doesn’t give us what we want. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Sometimes we remember part two of this verse and forget part one. When we become more and more like Him and when we delight ourselves in Him, then we will delight in the things He delights in. Then He will give us the desires of our heart because our heart will be like His.
- My friend Jim Wimberley is a prayer warrior. I want to be like Jim when I grow up. The guy has journal after journal filled with prayer requests and responses from The Lord. One of his famous lines is, “When man works, man works. When man prays, God works.” I believe we miss out on God’s work because we don’t turn to the Lord in prayer, in large part because we don’t believe prayer is effective.
4. Similar to #3, we don’t believe God hears us. We think He is too busy to hear our petty prayer requests. I picture Jim Carrey from God Almighty with God at the keyboard, rapidly checking his inbox of all the prayer requests that come in. The movie shows that there are so many requests that even God can’t keep up (not true, by the way).
5. We forget to pray. We don’t think to pray because we’re so busy. Tyranny of the urgent reigns and we don’t often make time for the things that really matter. I get caught up in obligations, commitments, schedule, sports and my own selfish agenda. Jerry Bridges calls this the sin of ungodliness, when we live life as if God doesn’t matter or like we don’t need Him or make time with Him a priority.
6. We are overwhelmed by the messiness of life. We don’t know where to start. I remember my pastor from Atlanta, Andy Stanley, describing a scene where a jar of salsa fell in their closet, with glass and salsa splashing everywhere. The mess was so huge that he just wanted to close the closet, walk away and never come back.
- We feel the same way when we look at our lives and the world around us. The mess is so big that we don’t even know where to start. So instead, we just want to close the door and pretend the mess doesn’t exist.
- I think sometimes we view prayer in the same way. There are so many needs in our lives, let alone our family, street, city, state, country and world, that we don’t even know where or how to start praying.
7. We are prideful. Ouch. We think, “I got this and I can handle it on my own, with my own strength and my own resources.” Again, this is the sin of ungodliness where we think we don’t need God. Sometimes we rely too much on our own resources and we don’t even think to turn to the Lord in prayer.
8. We are in the midst of a very real battle (Ephesians 6:11-12). Satan doesn’t want us to pray. Every time we pray, we take a step against Satan. I don’t know exactly how spiritual warfare works, but I do believe God wants us to pray, and Satan will do whatever he can to keep us from praying and building intimacy with the Lord.
9. We don’t know HOW to pray. We listen to others pray, we compare ourselves to them and we become insecure. Maybe prayer was never modeled for you. Or maybe you just don’t want to mess it up.
The good news? We can address all of these reasons why we don’t pray. Come back for Part Two.
- How about you? How’s your prayer life?
- With which of the above reasons/excuses to you most resonate?