When I don’t pray, why don’t I pray? That is what we’re considering in a short series of articles aimed at not only identifying common reasons for prayerlessness, but also proposing ways to overcome prayerlessness. (You can read the first article here.)
When we don’t pray, it may be because we don’t see the value of prayer. And there are at least a couple of senses in which we may not see its value. First, we don’t see the value of prayer to our own spiritual vibrancy. In other words, we sometimes forget that prayer is one of the three tools that the Lord uses to sanctify us. As we’ve noted numerous times, if we leave out any one of those three tools, we can expect spiritual stagnancy to follow. We must recognize that prayer is vital to our daily spiritual vibrancy.
The example of the psalmist shows that prayer serves to orient our hearts toward the Lord. The Psalms are largely prayers. For the psalmist, prayer so often was simply the act of taking his thoughts and emotions captive and submitting them to the Lord (Psa 4:1; 39:12; 42:1-11;86:1-17; 102:1-28; 142:1-7). The Psalms take human thoughts and emotions of all kinds – thoughts and emotions that easily could have remained focused on the things of earth – and re-focus them on God. In that way, they teach us that if we are having trouble getting into our Bible reading, prayer is a great way to orient our minds and hearts toward the Word (Psa 119:36). If we find ourselves not wanting to go to church or not wanting to serve our friends or family, prayer refocuses our hearts on the Lord and the blessings of serving Him.
As I look back on my own spiritual walk, I find that the more I pray, the more I want to pray. The less I pray, the less I want to pray. This should indicate what a valuable component of my spiritual life prayer is. When we don’t pray, it’s frequently because we’ve lost sight of its value to our spiritual vibrancy.
Second, we may also have lost sight of the value of prayer in the sense of its power to accomplish things. How many of us have thought or lived as if, “God is going to do what God is going to do regardless, so why pray?” But that is one of the most unbiblical things that could ever cross our minds. The idea that prayer is useless because God is sovereign is completely backward thinking. The uniform teaching of Scripture is that prayer accomplishes things because God is a God who is sovereign. He is a God who listens to the prayers of His people and He is an all-powerful God, capable of accomplishing their highest good. The biblical command to pray and the biblical teaching that God is in absolute control of things are not incompatible truths. God’s absolute control is why prayer works. Who else is going to answer prayer so that it accomplishes something?
The Bible is filled with examples of God’s people praying and God answering in mighty ways (Exo 8:30-31; 32:1-14; Num 11:1-3; 21:1-9;Josh 10:12-14; 1 Kings 18:20-39; 2 Kings 19:1-37; 20:1-7). Church history is filled with examples, too. Perhaps if we obeyed the Lord Jesus and prayed with faith, our lives would be filled with such examples as well (Matt 21:18-22; John 14:13-14; 16:23). The fact is that the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (Jas 5:16). When we don’t pray, it’s frequently because we’ve lost sight of the power of prayer to accomplish things.
So how do we overcome this wrong thinking about prayer? A great place to start would be to read, meditate on, and believe the passages referenced above. If we really believe the Bible is God’s Word, we’ll pray in response to the things we find there.