Why Your Church Members Don’t Pray Much

Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer in the United States. My evidence is anecdotal, but it seems to me that most church members don’t pray much, despite efforts like the Day of Prayer. In general, they talk about prayer much more than they actually pray. Here’s why that happens:

  1. Some are not genuine believers. Jesus Himself had one fake among His group, and we’re not likely to do better. We shouldn’t be surprised when non-believers among us don’t really know how to pray. 
  2. No one has ever taught them to pray. We’ve told them to pray, but we’ve not taught them how to pray. Consequently, they don’t pray—and they often feel guilty because they don’t–and can't–do what we've told them to do.  
  3. They’ve seen no prayer role models. Even among their pastors, they’ve not seen anyone who just naturally falls to his knees, seeks the face of God, and sees results. No one has exhibited for them a genuine passion for prayer. 
  4. We’ve modeled only reactive prayer. That is, we’ve shown them by our example that you should pray only when there’s a problem, and only when the problem is so great that you can’t first fix it on your own. We’ve modeled something less than a passion for God in prayer. 
  5. They don’t think they need to pray much. When you’ve understood prayer to be a means to fix things, and you can take care of most of your problems on your own, you don’t need to turn to prayer very often.  
  6. A supernatural enemy wants to keep them off their knees.The great preacher Charles Spurgeon put it this way: “. . . rest assured that, whenever you are much in prayer, you may expect Satan to be exceedingly enraged against you.”* The enemy particularly loves to distract us when we’re praying and convince us that prayer matters not. 
  7. They don’t really believe prayer works. Maybe they’ve tried it unsuccessfully in the past; they prayed, and it seems like God didn’t hear – so what’s the point of praying now? Their faith was defeated some time ago. 

If you want to help your church pray more, here are four resources that I’ve found helpful for me and my ministry:

Tom Elliff, A Passion for Prayer

Paul Miller, A Praying Life

John Franklin, And the Place Was Shaken

Ronnie Floyd, The Power of Prayer and Fasting

*Spurgeon, Charles. Twelve Sermons on Spiritual Warfare(Kindle Locations 727-728). Titus Books. Kindle Edition.  


  • Robin Jordan says:

    One of the reasons that folks who are members of a church that uses liturgical books (e.g. the Book of Common Prayer) in its worship do not pray is that they view the language and forms used in these books for public prayer as a standard for their own private prayer. They mistakenly believe that their prayer must be as eloquent as those in whatever liturgical books their church uses. When they measure their own prayers against this standard, they fall short in their own eyes. They feel inadequate to the task. The idea that prayer is a conversation with God in which we at times pour out our hearts to him, sharing with him the ups and downs of our lives and the lives of others, and at times sit in silence attentive to what what he is saying to us is strange to them. They have the idea that they should pray in private in the same way that pray in public.

    Two resources that I recommend are Rosalind Rinker’s Conversational Prayer and Brother Laurence’s The Practice of the Presence of God.

  • Robin Jordan says:

    I proof-read my comments before I post them but almost without fail I miss something. The last sentence of the first paragraph should read “They have the idea that they should pray in private in the same way that they pray in public.”

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