I doubt there is any Christian who has not found it difficult to pray. Here are three excuses I’ve discovered that often hinders people from a more effective prayer life.
1. Praying Doesn’t Really Help - There are some who say prayer is simply superstitious. It’s a way to cope with a crisis when we’re too weak to handle things or we when don’t know of anything else better to do. Others say so-called answers to prayer are really nothing more than self-fulfilled expectations. Or answered prayers are simply coincidences that we naively attribute to God.
But we don’t have to be a skeptic to doubt the effectiveness of prayer. Even believers occasionally wonder if prayer really works. Paul Miller has written a helpful book on prayer. Paul is the father to six children. Several summers ago, his family was camping in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. His wife, Jill, stayed home with their eight year old daughter, Kim. They were leaving the campsite to head home in their Dodge Caravan, when Paul’s fourteen year old daughter, Ashley, lost her contact lens. Looking down at a forest floor, covered with leaves and twigs, there were a million little crevices for the lens to disappear into. Paul said, “Ashley, don’t move. Let’s pray.” Before the father could pray, Ashley burst into tears. She spoke these words, “What good does it do? I’ve prayed for Kim to speak, and she isn’t speaking.” Ashley’s little sister suffered from autism and a developmental delay. She was mute because of her health problems. Kim had taken God at His word and asked that Jill, her sister, would speak. But nothing had happened.
Many of us share in Ashley’s cynicism as we’ve prayed and seen little happen as a result. Few of us have possessed Ashley’s courage to voice our doubts out loud. Cynicism throws water on the campfire of prayer. I sympathize with this young’s lady’s struggles. Nevertheless, such doubt hinders the arm of God (James 1:6). To doubt prayer is to doubt God. Don’t stop praying simply because you don’t see immediate results or desired results.
2. I’m Too Busy to Pray - Our American culture is probably the hardest place in the world in which to pray. We are so busy that when we slow down to pray, we feel guilty. Americans prize accomplishments. We feel remorse if we are not busy. Your confidence in your own abilities is among the top “killers” of an effective prayer life. People who are confident in their own abilities often fail at prayer. The very thing we are allergic to – our helplessness – is what makes prayer work.
To be effective at prayer, you must make time. Multi-taskers must quit multi-tasking in order to pray. If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy.
3. I Don’t Feel Like Praying - Our challenge is that we don’t like to come to Christ messy. We wait until we feel “ready” to pray, acting as if we can’t enter the house until our shoes are clean. We think God is like our mother; He’ll be angry with us unless we clean our emotions up before we come before Him.
Instead, God wants the real you, the real messy you. He doesn’t want you to shower before cleaning up. Gunshot victims don’t do surgery on themselves before going to the hospital. Come to God messy. Don’t be frozen by your self-preoccupation. When we wait to pray until we feel certain emotions, we don’t fully comprehend just how unspiritual we really are. Even our best emotions and our best spiritual highs don’t earn us the ability to speak into God’s ear. God listens to us because of God’s grace – not because of our abilities.