5 Reasons Even Church Leaders Don’t Pray as We Should

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 . . . . 


  • David says:

    Personal experience here…you are spot on with the facts of a very real Satan and the ability to do things apart from prayer. The enemy has done a great job of stepping into the shadows of our society’s cartoonists depictions of him. Now we think he’s just a fairy tale like the Easter bunny and would never talk openly about him with our family let alone strangers for fear of being laughed at. So he has all the cover he needs to oppose the church by tempting believers who have no idea or willingness to acknowledge the source of much spiritual warfare.

    To the point of being able to perform daily operations without prayer Jesus warned us about needing to abide in the Vine. Now I hear this, go about my duties in the church without being connected to the Vine by prayer and lament the lack of fruit. Can we operate in our duties without prayer? Yes unfortunately. Should we? No absolutely not. But I fear that until we recognize that this is Gods ministry and not our own we will keep thinking we can do it without Him.

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