5 Reasons You Don’t Pray Like You Should

Prayer is to Christianity like popcorn is to movies: two things that are supposed to go together. Even if you’re not a Christian you probably have an understanding that Christians are supposed to pray. It’s what we do, or at least what we’re supposed to do. But that doesn’t mean that we do it. For many Christians, it means that we intend to pray, we feel guilty about not praying, but we still don’t pray. Why is that?

1 Thessalonians 5:17 couldn’t be clearer, “Pray continually.” The Old Testament talks about prayer, the New Testament talks about prayer, Jesus himself taught about and modeled what our prayer lives should look like. Think of prayer less as bringing your Christmas wish list to the cosmic Santa Clause in the sky and more like sitting down with your closest friend for a leisurely conversation in your favorite coffee shop. Think of prayer as a vibrant, life-giving, on-going conversation between you and your Heavenly Father. So why don’t we pray like we should?

We’re too Busy

Prayer takes time. Prayer takes intentionality. Prayer takes stretches throughout the day when we’re unhurried, when we’re not running late, when we don’t have a million other things on our mind. That’s not often for us. Prayer flourishes in stillness, quietness, and serenity, three things that are becoming endangered species in our world. For some of us, prayer is something that we’ll really lean into if we’ve got nothing else going on. The problem is there’s always something else going on. Technology has become a serpent that steals even our few quiet moments away from us. Prayer never happens accidentally. You have to be intentional about it.

We Don’t Think it Works

Most if not all of us would say that we’ve prayed at some point or another, but maybe deep down we don’t think it works, or at least it doesn’t work the way we think it should work. Maybe you were raised thinking that prayer is where we ask God for things and he gives us whatever we ask for. That works until you actually try it and realize God doesn’t give you everything you ask for any more than your parents gave you everything you asked for growing up. But if that’s all that you think prayer is, a cosmic drive-thru window where we pop in and order something and God is the great cook order chef in the sky that gives us whatever we ask, then we’re always going to be disappointed. Some of you stopped praying because God didn’t give you what you asked for and you don’t think it works.

We Don’t Know How

Related to that is the idea that many of us don’t feel like we know how to pray. Perhaps the only time you really saw other people praying was in church, and wow, did they know how to pray. They prayed for five minutes straight, and threw in so many big churchy words that you never really knew what they were talking about but you never wanted to admit it. So perhaps you grew up with this idea that you have if you didn’t have a seminary degree and couldn’t pray in flowery, ornate language for five minutes straight, you shouldn’t pray.

Jesus shoots this myth down when he says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)

We Don’t See What is in it for Us

Now, we’d never come out and say this, but many of us think this. What’s the point in us praying? Maybe we don’t think God hears us, maybe we don’t think he cares, maybe we think God is going to do whatever he wants anyways, so why waste our breaths? We don’t see the rewards. We don’t see the incredible life change that happens when we make a habit of prayer. Some of us think prayer is only for when we have health needs or when a loved one is in danger. Most of the time, our lives are fine. We have a steady paycheck, a roof over our heads and food in the fridge. We don’t need to ask for our daily bread, because the grocery store is just down the road. We’re good. We’re not really desperate for anything, so why bother God?

We Don’t Feel Worthy

This hampers more Christians than we would care to admit. We know we should pray, and maybe we made promises to God that we’d pray more, but then we never followed through so we feel guilty because it’s been so long. It’s like when you promised your mom you’d call her once a week, and then life gets busy and you realize that it’s been a month since you called your mom, and you feel bad, and you know that when you call she’s going to get onto you because you haven’t called. Does that make you more motivated to call her because you want to get chewed out and hear how disappointed she is in you? Just the opposite.

We postpone the phone call because we dread the guilt trip and verbal tongue lashing that we assume is waiting for us on the other end of the line. For many Christians, it’s been so long since we’ve talked to God, and we’ve screwed up our lives so royally in between, we’re convinced that the moment we check in we’re going to have all of our mistakes shoved right back in our faces. So we avoid God out of guilt.

God Wants to Hear From You

When you get a chance, read the story in Luke 15 of a broken relationship between a father and a son. The son makes a complete mess of his life, burns every relational bridge with his father, and throws his life away for a few fleeting moments of pleasure. When he finally hits bottom and comes crawling home, the father is outside waiting for him, but he’s not waiting to judge his son. No, “his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and embraced him.” (Luke 15:20) When you finally decide to come home, when you finally decide to pray, you’ll find a loving Heavenly Father waiting for you, arms outstretched, ready to embrace you.

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