All too often it can be easy for Christians to fall into the habit of not praying as we should, and not being persistent in our praying. When that happens, we often come up with ‘reasons’ for our lack of prayer. When considering this in my own heart, I found chapter seven of Don Carson’s Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation particularly searching, as he exposed the inadequacy of six common reasons we can give for not praying.
I am too busy
Lillian Guild tells the story of a motorist who has broken down at the side of the road having run out of fuel. She gives him enough fuel to get to the next service station. However, a few miles down the road, having been too busy to stop at the service station, he has run out of fuel again! We may laugh at this story, but if we’re too busy to ‘refuel’, we’ll soon run out of spiritual energy.
I feel too dry spiritually to pray
Carson highlights that when we think we are too dry spiritually to pray what we are doing is making prayer about us instead of God. God does not accept my prayers according to how I feel. Our prayers are accepted ‘in Jesus’ name’ through his death on the cross, and this acceptance does not depend on our feelings. Similarly, we shouldn’t allow our feelings to determine what we do. The Bible commands us to be ‘faithful in prayer’, and so we must be (Rom. 12:12).
I Feel No Need To Pray
I’m sure Christians never say, ‘I feel no need to pray,’ aloud. Instead, we tend to affirm the importance of prayer (especially for other people), but not get around to it; showing that we do not feel the deep need for prayer in our own lives.
I am too bitter to pray
Sooner or later we will witness or experience something so unfair that it shocks us to the core and leaves us with anger that we need to deal with. All too often we let this harden into bitterness, crippling our prayers as we rage at the lack of justice. Through our prayers we need to bring the matter to the cross of Christ, remembering his sacrifice for us, the just for the unjust.
I am too ashamed to pray
Shame wants to hide us from the presence of God, as Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden. But, we are fleeing from the only one who can help us, while taking our dangerous sin with us. We must remember that God is the God of grace and let our shame drive us back to him.
I am content with mediocrity
Are you content to be a mediocre Christian? Maybe you want enough of Jesus to be called a Christian, but not enough to let him impact on your life? Do you believe the gospel but are unwilling to let the Bible’s teaching transform you? Are you keen to hear great preaching but content with a mediocre prayer life? It’s miserable to be lukewarm, it’s unattractive to the world, and it sickens Christ (Rev. 3:16).
Reasons to pray
Let’s now look at Jesus’ words found in Luke 11 to encourage us in our prayers. Jesus says,
‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’ (Luke 11:9-10)
Keep knocking – your heavenly Father is willing to give
Just before this, Jesus tells a parable about a man who makes an inconvenient request.
Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. (Luke 11:5-8)
The man’s request is inconvenient but reasonable. Before phones or post, someone on a journey might unexpectedly arrive late and need to be fed. Even a reluctant friend will grant a good request eventually, and we have a heavenly Father who is so much more willing to answer our prayers.
Keep seeking – your heavenly Father wants to be found
Have you ever played Hide and Seek with a four-year-old? Do you sneak your passport out of the house, move to a hut in Botswana and change your name while they are hiding? Or do you hide behind the curtain with your feet sticking out so you can be found? God is your loving heavenly Father. He doesn’t hide far away from you. Instead, he calls you to keep seeking him because he wants to be found.
Keep asking – your heavenly Father gives the best gifts
I have four children under nine, and they all look forward to their birthdays. In the past, they’ve asked me for both a leopard and a motorbike! As a father, I chose to give them something better than what they had asked me for because I love them. Jesus also speaks about this:
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:11-13)
Prayer is not like a vending machine, we come to a person who loves us and gave us this world; our Father. He knows what we need, and he loves to give the best gift – his own Spirit. So, as you come to God, know that he loves to come and live with you, so by his Spirit we are:
- able to know we are his and cry out ‘Father!’
- sanctified, so we honour him.
- gifted to build his kingdom.
- sustained by his Word.
- convicted of our sin, so we seek and give forgiveness.
- guided to live fruitful lives.
Your heavenly Father loves you so much and has such a gift to give to you! Don’t let such silly excuses cause you to miss out.