Why don’t we pray?

I’m sure we have all gone through periods when we don’t pray that much. That doesn’t mean we don’t pray at all, but sometimes our prayer life can become a meaningless round of perfunctory platitudes. Prayer almost seems like a futile exercise. Jesus told us that we “ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1 NASB1), but we often do lose heart and stop praying. What can we do about it? Here are some thoughts on two reasons why we don’t pray (there are many more) and suggestions on what we can do about them.

Lack of time

“You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). In other words, you don’t pray. That is, sometimes we just don’t take the time to pray. Oh sure, we say a rushed prayer at mealtimes, and we might start the day with a short prayer and end the day with a mumble of thanks to God. But too often, we don’t carve out a time and place to pray. We need to look at why that is. Some of us spend too much time on social media, which crowds out time for really being with God in prayer. Or maybe we go to bed too late to get up early enough to pray before things start happening. We need to look at our particular situations and see what we can do to allow us to pray as we should.

One solution is found in Matthew 6:6. Jesus told us to “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father.” That is, we are to choose a time and place where and when we will not be bothered by other things—called distractions. That takes discipline, but a re-energized prayer life is worth it.

Also, as Paul said, we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). That means we are to be in a prayerful attitude at all times. We don’t always have to be in our “prayer closet,” kneeling in prayer. But if our hearts are attuned to God all through the day, we can be in prayer as we do other things.

Lack of faith

Not praying may show us our actual attitude toward prayer. Perhaps we are not praying because we don’t believe God will answer. If that is what we believe, then of course we won’t pray. Just as a little child will run to its mommy or daddy because they believe they can do something, we too must believe that God does hear and answer our prayers.

One reason we lack faith is because we have gotten prayer all wrong. God is not some cosmic vending machine, dispensing what we want at the push of a button. He is “the LORD, the Creator of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2 NET). “Nothing [is] impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). And as such, He is worthy of our faith and our prayers.

One solution to lack of faith is to acknowledge it and follow the example of the father of the demon-possessed boy with epileptic-like symptoms by saying, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Another is to think back on how faithful God has been in our past. As David says in Psalm 103:2, we are to “forget none of His [past] benefits.” “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), so we can trust Him for our future and we can trust Him to answer our prayers.

So let’s pray. Let’s set a time and a place so that we can really pray as God wants us to. Let us, “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let [our] requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). As we do, we will find unlimited riches in following Him.

1. All Scripture quotations from NASB unless cited.

Ken Reddington and his wife, Toshiko, are church-planting missionaries in Kochi-ken. Ken is an MK who returned to Japan as a missionary from the US in 1978.

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