There are lots of obvious reasons we don’t pray. We don’t know what to say. We’re too busy. God already knows what we’re going to say, so do we really need to go through the motion of actually saying something? These come to mind when I think of the conversations I’ve had with thousands of pray-ers over the last eight years, but there’s one unexpected reason that I think lurks beneath the surface and gets to the heart of many of the reasons we don’t pray.
We don’t pray because the twenty-first-century Western world has grown pretty comfortable by most standards.
See, we aren’t shipwrecked or beaten like Paul.
We aren’t watching Egyptian chariots pursue us with a sea in front like Moses.
We aren’t hiding in caves as our enemy pursues us like David.
And we sure aren’t sitting in a lion’s den with actual lions like Daniel.
Our relatively comfortable lives have us believing that we’re one phone call or a few bucks away from getting anything we need. So simply put, we don’t pray because we don’t think God can do anything more for us than what we can do for ourselves.
That feels really bold for me to say, doesn’t it?
Performance Can’t Beat Prayer
Of course we know God is more powerful than little ol’ me. But all too often, I’m more inclined to get overwhelmed and feel like the answer is a better to-do list or stronger game plan. I’m even more inclined to conclude that everything must be doomed and I’m better off not trying anything at all.
Believe me—this is easy to do! I may have done it today, in fact. Finding myself completely overwhelmed with our upcoming book launch (ON PRAYER, mind you), it’s been easy to do all the things instead of pray. And at the root of it is the lie that even though I don’t feel like I can do this on my own, I’m supposed to figure it out. I need to pick up the slack and perform before I knock on God’s door.
What a discouraging lie to tell my human self!
Our desperation and need for God isn’t something that should discourage us. Instead, it should propel us into his arms daily. I am a big believer that if we consistently stayed aware of our need for God, that whole praying-without-ceasing concept wouldn’t be as difficult as it sounds. We’d know that we need God’s strength to make it through traffic without getting ugly with the guy in front of us. We’d know that caring for a sick toddler requires everything God could provide. And we’d know that our daily to-do list requires God—and a restful night’s sleep does too.
Take a deep breath, friend.
Living in Relationship
This is the beauty of prayer. The relationship the Creator of the universe has invited us into isn’t about appeasing some angry God who requires a penance of time. It’s not busy work or one more thing to add to your list. It is for God’s glory, but it’s also for your good.
It’s the Sustainer of the universe who’s saying, “I have what you need. Come to me.”
Come to me and I’ll give you rest (Matt. 11:28).
Find fullness of joy in me (Ps. 16:11).
Find perfect peace when you fix your thoughts on me (Isa. 26:3).
Abide in me and bear fruit (John 15:5).
Need a strong tower? Run to me (Prov. 18:10).
Come to me to be satisfied (John 6:35).
If you need wisdom, ask me (James 1:5).
Salvation is found in me (Rom. 10:13).
Everything we need is in him.
So often we spend our days parched and dry and wrung out, and we wonder why God doesn’t dump a load of supplies at our door. Where is he? He must not care about us!
He’s telling us where our supplies can be found and where our needs can be met: they are all in him.
Our Most Foundational Prayer
“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11).
If you’ve read this passage as many times as I have, this idea may have gone unnoticed for you like it has for me. Granted, I think I’d answer correctly for a Sunday school question, but my responses to life tell a different story.
These seven words hold the key for us in our prayer lives. These words assume that we will remember that we need to come to God daily. And I’d even say this represents something even more: a moment-by-moment need for everything our very life depends on.
The reality is, it’s easy to pray like we’re either doing God a favor or like whatever he offers is just something extra. We’ll handle the bulk of things, but let God flex a little when he feels like it.
How to Pray, Starting Today
On those days when I come to God early and often, I’m more aware of how silly I must look exerting untold energy on things that God is simply telling me to come to him for. I also experience what Psalm 23 so beautifully lays out. You know the one. “The LORD is my shepherd….” Truthfully, I’ve wondered why this passage is so popular. I get that it sounds nice, but it’s only once I take into account my own neediness that I comprehend the fullness of what this means. As I consider my own need, I get to see the beauty of what it means to be desperate for the Lord.
As you pray today, consider praying through Psalm 23. Here are a few examples to get you started:
“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Ps 23:1 NIV).
Lord, be my shepherd. Help me to release control. It’s in you alone I lack nothing. Not my money or connections. No human thing. Just you. Help me to fully believe that each day.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Ps 23:2 NIV).
Lord, I thank you for the rest you give me. What a gracious God you are! Help me to surrender all to you.
Perhaps the best prayer we could pray today is also the scariest looking one on the surface: Lord, reveal to me just how needy I am. What joy that we don’t sit in that neediness alone, but that God meets us and fulfills us in ways that are impossible unless we come to him.
Meet the Author:
Valerie Woerner's mission is to help women live intentional lives that are an outflow of a fruitful, focused prayer life. She is the author of multiple books, including her latest, Pray Confidently and Consistently, and the host of the podcast Prayer in a Noisy World. She is also the owner of Val Marie Paper, where she designs prompted prayer journals and other practical products that eliminate distraction and increase focus in prayer. Valerie lives in Lafayette, Louisiana with her husband, Tyler, and their two daughters.