Even church leaders struggle with prayer. These findings are anecdotal, but here are my general conclusions about why that happens.
- Leaders are “fixers” by nature. We are problem solvers who seek solutions, attempt answers, and try again if the first answer doesn’t work. Our persistence and tenacity to do so – both good traits in themselves – sometimes push prayer to a last resort option.
- We never learned how to pray. Churches make this mistake with most spiritual disciplines: we tell believers what to do, but don’t teach them how to do it. If leaders are honest, we’ll admit that we, too, have much to learn about how to pray.
- Prayer has become more about ritual than about relationship. We know we should pray, even if we don’t know how, so we go through the motions of prayer. It is not a relationship with a living Lord that calls us to prayer; it is instead only religious ritual.
- Prayerlessness can be hidden. We can talk about prayer, teach about prayer, write about prayer, and even lead corporately in prayer – all without anyone knowing that personal prayer is sporadic at best.
- We don’t really believe prayer works. No church leader I know would teach that prayer is ineffective. Nevertheless, our prayer life often suggests otherwise. We’re even surprised when God answers our prayers.
- We have never been broken under God’s hand. The apostle Paul, who was a leader extraordinaire, learned the power of strength in weakness (2 Cor. 12:7-10). It is in our weakness that we learn how to pray, but leaders naturally fight against weakness.
- Leaders read the Word in a one-sided way. Leaders are often teachers who read the Word for information transmission more than life transformation. When we approach the Word that way, we miss the opportunity to be in dialogue with God.
- Some leaders have simply lost hope. It happens. Church leaders who prayed more consistently in the past sometimes lose hope under the weight of church conflict, family struggles, or health concerns. Unanswered prayer leads to faithlessness, which leads to prayerlessness.
- We miss the gospel focus on the prayer life of Jesus. A seminary professor challenged me to read the Gospel of Luke with this focus in mind, and my prayer life has never been the same. I challenge you to do the same.
- We have no role models. Too many of us know nobody whose life just oozes prayer. We’ve never met a genuine prayer warrior.
- We don’t have God-sized goals. Only when we’re trying to accomplish something far beyond our capability do we pray ferociously. Even leaders sometimes put a limit on our expectations.
Church leader, tell us why you wrestle with prayer.