Why I Don’t Like to Pray

Why I Don’t Like to Pray January 2, 2013

I admit it. Sometimes, perhaps many times, I don’t like to pray.

I’ve been a follower of Christ for over 35 years — as far back as my memory will take me. I know what the Bible says about the unimaginable power of prayer. And I believe it.

I just don’t like to pray.

There, I said it.

I know some of you are rushing to click off this post before you catch whatever my spiritual illness may be. But maybe I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I ran face-first into this uncomfortable reality as I read James today, “You do not have, because you do not ask.”  From somewhere deep within me, I reacted with a whine: “But I don’t want to ask.”

Where Did That Come From?

The offending thought came so clearly to me that I had to look around the room to make sure some secret sinner hadn’t said it. You know, some back-slidden loser in need of repentance. That’s not what we’re supposed to say. At least not out loud. We’re supposed to act as if we’ve got this faith-walk thing figured out. Right?

Over the last year, I have had to explore a lot of my own thoughts about prayer as God called me away from perceived safety and security to a path that required more faith than I was used to. I won’t recount it all here. You can check it out more if you want to here. Suffice it to say that God has taught me a lot about prayer as we’ve had to pray for God’s daily provision and direction in a big way.

We’ve seen him do some amazing things. The kind of things only missionaries in Africa tell about. We pray earnestly and the phone rings. We pray expectantly and the answer arrives — just in time. After what we’ve seen God do, I don’t know how I could even think it, let alone say it. But I still don’t like to pray.

Rather than ignore this embarrassing reality, I know honesty and authenticity before God and my brothers and sisters is the only way to grow. So here I am confessing my fault to you and the world along with a few thoughts as to why I don’t like to pray. Maybe you can relate. Maybe not. Maybe you’ve got this one covered.

6 Reasons Why I Don’t Like to Pray

  1. Prayer reminds me of how small I really am. “When I consider the heavens…what is man that you are mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:3-4) Prayer is at its core an admission that I stand ever in need of help. In my post Help! I Need Somebody! I confessed that I don’t like feeling that way at all. I don’t like to pray because I don’t like being reminded that I am but dust that, apart from God, can do nothing.
  2. I don’t really believe God will answer. In spite of all the stories I’ve heard, the plain promises of Scripture, and my own experience in seeing Him answer prayer, I still tend to doubt that He’ll actually come through the next time. Crazy, I know. Yet I keep coming back to this insane desire to protect God from His own failure by not praying in the first place. Albert Camus rightly noted, “Man’s first faculy is forgetting.” Yep, I’m good at that one.
  3. I think I’ve got this one covered. Like an overconfident child, I foolishly think I can handle whatever is coming next in life. Sometimes I wonder if God rolls his eyes at us, like I do with my own overconfident children. As Demosthenese put it, “Nothing is so easy as to deceive one’s self; for what we wish, we readily believe.” James echoes this thought that we are each led astray by our own desires, in this case a desire to lean on our own understanding. Just like Joshua who thought he didn’t need to ask God’s counsel before making a treaty with the deceptive Gibeonites, I don’t believe I really need God’s help. 
  4. I’d rather be doing something. Anything. All too often, I get frustrated sitting still before God, and waiting on Him. Like Martha and Peter, I’d rather be doing something. Something that’s within my power to do. Or so I think. I forget what Richard Cecil wisely said, “Prayer is faith passing into action.” Prayer is in itself the most critical action I could ever take. As Martin Luther noted one busy day, “I have so much to do that I will spend the first three hours in prayer.” Maybe I should quit trying.
  5. I’m lazy. I know you’re not, but I confess that sometmes I just don’t want to pray because prayer is hard work. E. M. Bounds put it this way: “Prayer is the easiest and hardest of all things.” Wrestling with God might cause me pain as it did Jacob. I don’t pray with intensity because prayer, the kind that lays hold of the promises of God and moves them in our direction, is hard work. And I, for one, am lazy to the core. Hence my need to discipline myself to be godly?
  6. I like to sin. As Paul described in Romans, my sinful self has been crucified with Christ, yet still its vestiges remain. And, let’s face it, sin is pleasureable for a season. Bowing before a holy God exposes my sin. And I don’t like it. Not one bit. Confessing my sin just takes me back to my prideful first reason not to pray. But as Philip Henry put it, “The best way to fight against sin is to fight it on your knees.”

So there you have it. Why I don’t like to pray. Can you relate to any of it or should I just start scourging myself now? One thing is sure, no matter what I feel about it, I refuse to give up. I think E.M. Bounds is right:

The strongest one in Christ’s Kingdom is he who is the best knocker. The secret of success in Christ’s kingdom is the ability to pray. The one who can wield the power of prayer is the strong one, the holy one in Christ’s Kingdom. The most important lesson we can learn is how to pray.

Do you struggle to pray or am I the only one with this problem? What reasons do you have for not praying and how have you dealt with barriers to prayer? 

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