Let’s just put this reality on the table: many church leaders struggle with prayer. We know we should pray, but our “oughtness” doesn’t always lead to action. I’m sure the reasons for our failure are many, but here are a few.
- Nobody taught us to pray. Sure, our churches told us to pray, but they didn’t always teach us to pray – and there’s a big difference between the two. Telling without teaching results only in frustration and disobedience. Even Jesus’ disciples wanted Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1).
- We ignore the reality of spiritual warfare. Our very real enemy, Satan, and his forces don’t want us to pray. The Puritan writer William Gurnall put it this way: “Satan hath such an impression of dread upon him— from the remembrance of what he hath suffered from the hands of prayer— . . . he will turn every stone, and try every way, to obstruct thee in it.”
- We don’t see prayer as part of a relationship. Instead, we see it like a transaction at a candy machine or a cell call to 911: we go to God only when we want something or desperately need His help. By definition, then, prayer is not lifestyle.
- Sin haunts our life. Any time we still have recurrent sin in our life, we won’t pray like we should (and then the pattern just continues, because prayerlessness is itself a sin). A prayer of repentance is in order, but even that’s difficult.
- We can do too much without prayer. I believe this reason is a primary one, so please hear me out here. I know we can’t do anything of eternal significance apart from the power of God. I’m not talking about making an eternal dent in the darkness; I’m talking about living the daily grind of leading God’s church in our own power.
With that in mind, let’s be honest: we can do a lot without praying. We shouldn’t, but we can. We can teach, preach, sing, lead, counsel, visit, minister, serve, care, enlist, train, direct, employ, mentor, guide, organize, envision, study, write, record, build, travel, plant, etc., etc., without praying.
Many of us know we can because we have. Or maybe we are.
Or maybe we pray without really praying, convincing ourselves that this post doesn’t apply to us. Of course we pray, but it’s five minutes before the next ministry activity – and the words sound strangely like every other prayer we pray. Those prayers are more repetition than relationship, more perfunctory than powerful, and more routine than radical.
And that’s not really praying.
But still, the church work goes on . . . .