After several minutes of crying and screaming, my two-year-old son asked, “Daddy, will you help me get my shoes on?” I gladly knelt down and helped him. He had been struggling and frustrated because he couldn’t do it, yet in his desire to be self-sufficient he didn’t want to ask for help. I was there the whole time willing to help, but if you’ve ever tried to help a two-year-old who does’t want it, you know it can be a battle. So, I just watched him and waited until he realized he could not do it on his own. Then, when he asked, I gladly stepped in to meet his request.
Our Father longs for His children to make our requests known through prayer. Yet, many of us would say we don’t spend enough time in prayer. We are often self-sufficient or simply too busy to pray.
Today, we are continuing our study of the Spiritual Disciplines. So far, we’ve looked at reading and studying Scripture and our need to memorize and meditate on Scripture. Today, we’ll consider the discipline of prayer.
Prayer Is Expected
Colossians 4:2 teaches us to “continue steadfastly in prayer” and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to “pray without ceasing.” While Jesus walked the earth, he often began His teaching on prayer by saying, “And when you pray…”
Regarding the prayer life of Christ, Tim Keller writes, “Jesus Christ taught his disciples to pray, healed people with prayers, denounced the corruption of the temple worship (which, he said, should be a ‘house of prayer’), and insisted that some demons could be cast out only through prayer. He prayed often and regularly with fervent cries and tears (Heb. 5:7), and sometimes all night. The Holy Spirit came upon him and anointed him as he was praying (Luke 3:21-22), and he was transfigured with the divine glory as he prayed (Luke 9:29). When he faced his greatest crisis, he did so with prayer. We hear him praying for his disciples and the church on the night before he died (John 17: 1-26) and then petitioning God in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally, he died praying” (Prayer, 27).
With that said, we may know we’re supposed to pray, but we need to ask ourselves if we are truly doing so.
Reasons We Don’t We Pray
Knowing prayer is so vital and powerful, what keeps us from praying like we ought? Probably one of the most common excuses is that we are too busy. While it’s true we are busy, perhaps that is just a symptom of a deeper heart issue. Here are a few reasons we may not pray:
- Our view of God is small– This one can be convicting and hard to swallow, but our prayer life gives us a glimpse into how big our view of God is. Donald Whitney says, “When our awareness of the greatness of God and the gospel is dim, our prayer lives will be small” (70). If we are not beholding the beauty of Christ, it will show in our prayerlessness. If the cry of our heart is not “show me Your Glory,” then our prayer life will suffer.
- We don’t feel near to the Lord– There are times in our life when the presence of Christ feels so near, then there are other times where we feel nothing. Our time in the word seems mundane, and our prayers seem to fall flat. This can discourage a diligent prayer life. This is why it’s so important to fill our minds with truth. Feelings can be valid, but they cannot be trusted. There are times when we may not feel God’s presence, but does that mean He’s not there? No. One of the most beautiful promises of Scripture is that “He will never leave us nor forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5). As we go through life, we hold on to that promise and continue to pursue the Lord through His Word and prayer…even when we don’t feel it. If there’s a reason we don’t feel God’s presence (sin, quenching the Spirit, etc.) we ask God to reveal that to us.
- We don’t discipline ourselves to pray– We should be praying all throughout our day, however, we also plan times to devote ourselves to prayer. If we don’t plan these times, they often will not happen as our lives continually get busier. For some, the idea of planning prayer may feel forced, and you’d much rather let it happen naturally. If you are able to do that and be consistent, then go for it! However, for many, this simply will lead to prayerlessness. Much like a married couple planning date nights (or they simply won’t happen), so too we plan time to commune with God through prayer.
- We don’t believe prayer really works– Most of us would never say it this explicitly, but we must ask ourselves if we truly believe that prayer is powerful. How could we be so undisciplined in prayer if we really believe prayer moves mountains? Do we really believe that God can save a rebellious heart? If not, we won’t pray for the salvation of others. Do we really believe God can heal? If not, we won’t ask.
- We are not aware of our need– If we are walking in pride and self-sufficiency, we will not pray. Why should we ask God for something if we think we can do it ourselves? Jesus teaches us in John 15:5: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Can you imagine if we lived every moment believing we could do nothing apart from Christ? Surely that would stir in our heart a constant desire to pray! We would pray through every situation, every decision, and every circumstance because we see how much we need Him!
The Lord desires for His people to pray, and prayer is one of the most powerful things we can do. One writer put it this way: “[Satan’s] one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
If we find we are not praying regularly, may God forgive us and enable us by the Holy Spirit to be a praying people!
- Which of the above reasons most resonates with your lack of prayer? What can you do to battle against that (memorize scripture, find accountability, etc.)?
- What’s one practical thing you will do to fight prayerlessness this year?
The next post will examine the next spiritual discipline: evangelism.
Sources: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney.