Reasons I don't pray
Eating and praying. I’m noticing some similarities.
There are days and weeks I eat well - I prepare healthy meals, I plan what I am going to eat when and I buy in healthy foods. I make the effort to prepare something to eat in the evenings (our main meal is at lunchtime here) and I feel energized and good about my body. Other weeks I get distracted or bored and eat badly in spurts of hunger because I need to eat something right now and the easiest thing to eat is not the healthy option. Those weeks I feel tired and dissatisfied with my body.
It is similar with my prayer life. If I don’t pray then my soul begins to die. If I snack on prayer - catching in irregular moments of desperation with God - my soul still feels unhealthy and I feel anxious and lacking peace. Jesus said that man doesn’t live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. When I fail to hear His words because I haven’t taken the time to pray and listen, I can feel my soul floundering and weak.
Many of us find it difficult to pray - if not all the time, at least in different seasons of our lives. The enemy knows how effective and important prayer is to our souls, our relationship with God, and the advancing of His kingdom, and so the number one thing he wants to stop is: prayer. Just try saying you are going to set aside a specific time to pray - I can guarantee you the enemy will try one form of resistance or other - sickness, distractions, discouragement etc. etc. He will try whatever he can to stop us from praying.
When I look at my own prayer life, I can see different seasons when prayer has been difficult or hindered by lies from the enemy. Even when my prayer life is more healthy, I still recognize lies and distractions that hinder fuller spiritual wholeness.
Here are 7 reasons I have identified that hinder my prayers:
1. I doubt whether God will receive me.
There have been times when I have messed up. I have got too angry with Mark or my kids. I have failed to obey God’s voice and suffered the consequences. Shame has overwhelmed me and I believe the lie that God is angry with me for messing up. When I am irritable with Mark, (or he is irritable with me) it is very easy for us to start snapping at one another. The feelings of lack of love and respect pummel us down into defensive irritable spouses, craving love and affection but erroneously thinking our expressions of discontent will suddenly turn the other person into a perfect spouse.
One particular day I got out of the wrong side of bed. I was irritable and I didn’t know why yet, and I was snapping at Mark for no reason at all. This carried on for a few hours until something happened. Mark answered me kindly. He put his arm around me and said calmly: “you are angry at me for no reason, but I love you.” Mark didn’t push me away because of my sin, but instead drew me close.
And that is when I heard God say to me: Anna, I don’t reject you when you have messed up - I want to receive you because I am the One who can actually sort out the mess.
I am learning that God wants to receive me on the good days and the bad days. His love doesn’t change.
2. I feel angry and frustrated and self-righteous. God hasn’t got this, so I have to.
Sometimes it isn’t Mark I am irritable at, it is God. I wouldn’t tell you that it is God outright - I know logically that it is not His fault, but when you really look at it, it is God I am frustrated with - generally because things are not turning out as I wanted them too. For me it usually isn’t the big things like people dying, but the smaller things like people turning up and messing with my neatly ordered plans. Or feeling frustrated about the next steps - feeling like God should already have told me what is going to happen next year and why don’t I know already? Rather than just patiently accept He will give me the grace to embrace the change of plan or that He will show me about the future when I need to know, the temptation can be to avoid prayer because ‘God’s not speaking to me about what I want Him too, so what’s the point?’ Yeah, super attitude I know. Of course, that just reveals my attitude that relationship with God is about what I can get out of it, which is really not a decent relationship at all, is it?
3. I don’t really believe it will make a difference
Sometimes I listen to the lies from the enemy that prayer is a waste of time. Because I don’t want to be legalistic about prayer and I don’t want to use God, I end up swinging to the opposite end and failing to recognize that God wants me to prayer, because He is waiting to respond! He is waiting for His children to come into agreement with Him so that He can bring light and change and His kingdom. But when I look at a situation sometimes I just don’t have any hope that things are going to change. Or worse, I don’t care if they do or not, and so I think that because I am not feeling it, it won’t make any difference.
I have to remind myself that it is the Holy Spirit who will guide me in what to pray and how to prayer and push off the discouragement! We are God’s children and called to be world changers through prayer!
4. I am getting weary of praying the same things and not seeing change
And then there are the situations when I know God wants to change and I do have hope for, but they are long-burners. Like prayers for my character and the character of my family members. It can be so easy to look at isolated events and feel like all those prayers have been a waste of time. I start praying about peace and the kids have the worse week of arguments ever, or I start praying about unity in my marriage and that I will speak kind, life-giving words and then my response to Mark’s defensiveness is much less kind than usual. However, I now see that God uses those events to bring about the change that is really needed in me - greater dependence on Him for help - I have to realize that I can’t do it alone - I can only do it in His strength, and then His power really starts to flow in me. There may be a pitstop in prayer but really it is an encouragement to now pray in His strength not mine and then suddenly there is a shift to a new level of character.
5. Prayer has become boring
Prayer becomes boring for two reasons: we fail to see God answering our prayers (or we fail to recognize His answer) or we fail to hear His perspective on what we are praying about. When we are praying just because, as a task rather than out of relationship with Him, prayer becomes boring quick. Who wants to read out a list of requests to thin air? Boring. Often when I have found prayer ‘boring’ really I have either lacked direction in prayer (because I haven’t allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me or found a good way to pray for that season - like journalling or visual praying or using a prayer guide) or I have been discouraged by the lack of response. It helps for me to take 10 minutes to look at why I feel prayer is boring and then make a plan for change. Do I need to take time at the beginning of a prayer session to ask the Holy Spirit to guide my prayers? Do I need to find someone who enjoys prayer to pray with? Do I need to find a tool to help me pray?
6. I get distracted and don’t make it a priority
I know that the busier life is, the more I need to pray, but sometimes I get distracted. For me now, it is often during the day rather than at the beginning of the day. I have a set time to pray in the morning but then I allow myself to get distracted at other calmer moments. When I have a spare moment it is easy to prefer to check emails or catch up on some quick bit of admin rather than taking a moment to connect with God. I am recognizing during this month that the Holy Spirit is inviting me to be intentional not just about a morning quiet time, but prayer rhythms through the day too.
7. I think I have already ticked off the prayer box and forget it is actually about relationship
The final reason why I fail to pray during the day is that sometimes I can see the time I have in the morning and think I have done my praying for the day. I have to keep reminding myself that having a set time to pray each morning is really important - like breakfast is important - but trying to keep going all day on just a large breakfast is not a good idea. I have to keep reminding myself that prayer is about ‘practicing the presence of God’ as Brother Lawrence put it - it is about calling God to mind and talking to Him and listening throughout the day. This isn’t something any of us are going to do well most of the time, but I am trying to make a conscious effort this month to keep coming back to God and resting momentarily in His peace and presence. To call His presence with me to mind and thank Him for it.
What about you? If you compared your prayer times to the way you eat, what similarities and differences would you find? Are you in a season where prayer is easier or difficult right now? Do any of these 7 reasons resonate with you?
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