8 Reasons Pastors Struggle with Doing Spiritual Disciplines

I wish I could say that every pastor I know – and I know a lot of them – never struggles with consistency and faithfulness in spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, fasting, etc. That’s not the case, though. In fact, I know so many who struggle that I’ve begun to take notes about some of the reasons they struggle. Here are a few of them:

  1. They were never taught how to do spiritual disciplines. Like most of us (I’ve written on this issue in another post), they were told to do the disciplines but not taught how. Even through their seminary training, they may have had to “figure it out” on their own.
  2. They equate ministry activity with spiritual disciplines. After all, they read the Bible in preparation for sermons and teaching. They pray when others ask them to pray; they often take the lead in much praying. Surely these activities suffice.
  3. They’ve lost a sense of desperation for God. Think about it – when you can talk of a time when God supernaturally called you, you have ministry degrees on your wall, and you have ministry experience on your resume, it’s easy to forget how desperately you need God.   
  4. They sometimes struggle with discipline in general. Too many pastors eat too poorly, exercise too little, get too little rest, and spend too much time wasting their time. Undisciplined people seldom do their spiritual disciplines faithfully.
  5. They’re not always the best time managers. Doing spiritual disciplines requires finding time to do them – and day-to-day ministry eats up a pastor’s time. The day that’s free of meetings and activities in the early morning can be surprisingly full by lunchtime. Ministry itself sometimes leaves little time to genuinely be with God.
  6. They can do much ministry without worrying about consistent spiritual disciplines.  This problem may, in fact, be the most insidious one. The truth is that most church leaders can go through the motions of church without anyone knowing that they’ve spent little time in personal spiritual disciplines. 
  7. No one ever asks them how they’re doing. Too many pastors have nobody who asks them about their disciplines. That lack of accountability promotes spiritual laziness.
  8. They think they can trust few people with their struggles. This problem is the sad corollary to #7 above. Some pastors wrestle with obedience, but to tell anyone is both embarrassing and risky. Consequently, they struggle alone – and that’s almost a guarantee of continued defeat.

What other reasons would you add to this list?


  • John says:

    Especially if they aren’t accountable to anyone.

  • rcdfoxRuss says:

    Time is a biggie for me

  • Hi Chuck. When it comes to “being taught” to do spiritual disciplines, these pastors have been ministering for years. So is a refresher with Don Whitney’s book the answer or do you suggest another?

  • Thank you for your thoughtful post. Unfortunately the disciplines are rarely taught or modeled in the local church. As a young kid I was told of, not taught or shown what I call the big 3: read your Bible, pray and go to church. Yet the disciplines are so much more than this. I think we as pastors must not only practice them but invest in the lives of others to understand what the spiritual disciplines are and the how to implement them into daily living. Is this not a part of our equipping role as shepherds? In Munich we are currently walking through Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life in small group. Our goal is not just information but that all of us would be transformed into disciplined disciples. With God’s grace we will teach, train and model them as a lifestyle. Please pray that we will persevere in the disciplines.

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