Before we develop strategies to overcome prayerlessness, we must first understand why we face such a struggle to pray. Why does prayer sometimes seem so difficult? For many Christians, the struggle to develop a consistent prayer routine feels insurmountable. Why does prayer appear easy for some and difficult for others?
Perhaps you’ve noticed how new Christians blubber and flounder through prayer and yet often see immediate and incredible answers? Yet, mature faith-filled Christians may labor in prayer intensely without seeing such immediate results. Why?
The foundation of all prayer is based upon relationship — our relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we talk to God, we call it prayer. It embodies worship and thanksgiving, petition and request, soul sharing and questioning, or even stillness. For each of us, prayer will look slightly different, because we are uniquely made.
My relationship with God will not duplicate yours. God loves us uniquely and perfectly, but never forces Himself upon us. He patiently waits for us to communicate with Him.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Satan knows all to well how powerful prayer is against him and his demonic agendas. He makes stopping our prayers one of his primary focuses. When he keeps us from prayer, he keeps us from one of the main avenues of relational growth between God and us. Prayerlessness keeps our primary weapon sheathed and unused against him.
Without prayer we become weak and ineffective. We remain powerless in and of ourselves. Everything worthwhile flows from God. Jesus used the illustration of a vine connected to the main branch to demonstrate the point.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
But even after knowing this truth, we struggle to pray. Why?
I believe one of the greatest reasons we hesitate to pray is because of perceived failure. We look around at other Christians who tell of incredible results through prayer — healing, financial provision, relationships restored, and more. Our own prayers seem meager in comparison.
This discouragement is called Learned Helplessness. When we face a difficulty and experience continued pain in spite of our efforts, Learned Helplessness takes over. We often refer to the condition as resulting from abuse or neglect, where the victim stops trying. But I believe we can develop a type of Learned Helplessness in prayer.
Perhaps we tried prayer. God appeared silent. When we tried to pray again, the answers remained illusive. So, we ask others to pray for us. We call the pastor or priest, the prayer line — anyone we believe might have a direct connection to God. This prayer helplessness blinds us to the reality that we all have a direct prayer connection.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.”
1 John 5:14-15
That one word, confidence, unlocks the door to prayer. Learned Helplessness robs us of all confidence.
God offers solutions to anyone who identifies with this common struggle to pray.
- Return to the basics of our love relationship with God. Notice how Jesus taught His disciples to pray within relationship to the Father,
“Jesus told them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father….'”
- Punt any guilt or shame to the curb. Ask a close friend to hold you accountable to daily times of prayer. It may feel like a struggle at first, but celebrate every success.
- Focus on personal improvement not on answers to prayer. If five minutes is a struggle, then press through for five minutes. As you gain confidence, stretch it to ten minutes, increasing gradually.
- Include worship and gratitude in prayer. God doesn’t need to hear how great He is, but we need to remember.
By starting simple and keeping our focus on relationship with God, prayer will become more joyous. It takes forty days to create a habit. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t immediately achieve success.
Perhaps you don’t identify with Learned Helplessness in prayer. Maybe one or more of these other obstacles relate more to your situation. These are common ones for me.
- Busyness and distraction:
- Do I place work and other obligations before God?
- Do I take prayer for granted because it is always available?
- Santa List:
- Do I value what God does for me more than I value who God is?
- Have I begun to focus on results rather than relationship?
- When God doesn’t respond when or how I desire, do I become impatient?
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.“
We all face seasons when either prayer becomes a struggle or flows as easy as water from a cup. You are in good company either way. God keeps the doorway to prayer wide open for each of us, but He waits for us to take the initiative to walk through the doorway into His Presence. Indescribable power awaits those who come to Him.
I encourage each of us to take a few moments to discover ways to improve and grow in the discipline of prayer. God desires prayer to be a joy rather than a losing battle for us.
To step into a greater level of prayer power:
- First, let’s ask God to help us discover any prayer blocks hindering us.
- Then, let’s verbally renounce or reject any hindrance Holy Spirit reveals.
- Next, ask God for one step to overcome the obstacle He has shown us.
- Finally, let’s move step by step into prayer action from inaction.
Congratulations! If you have followed these four steps you have already begun your victorious prayer walk from Learned Helplessness to prayer power. Celebrate your first win!
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
God alone knows the great harvest that awaits each of us when we overcome the struggle to pray!
I have written two books on developing and increasing in prayer potential: