Monday, July 27, 2015

Why Don’t We Pray? (Prayer, Presumption & Fatalism)

I have been reading a few different books on prayer this month and it has given me a whole lot to think about. Why don’t I pray? Why do I sometimes hesitate to pray? Why is prayer so neglected in the church today? Why is it seen more as an afterthought than the important element that it actually is? As I have learned more about prayer I found that there are several main reasons why I (and probably you too) fail to pray.

The first reason is a false belief in fatalism. God’s in control and He’s going to have His way, so why should I pray? This is life, this is reality, we think, so we should just accept it. After all, God doesn’t change right? Paul Miller writes, “Modern psychology can unwittingly trap us in our pasts. It is just another form of fatalism that kills our ability to see the story God is weaving in our lives.” (A Praying Life, p. 178). The truth is that although God is sovereign and doesn’t “need” prayer He does indeed work and move through prayer. Does prayer change things? Yes, I believe it does. Does obedience change things? Yes, I believe it does. God is not a stoic, He responds to us. God promises to answer prayer, to bless obedience. This is not locked-in fate, this is a God of grace at work!

At the very least, prayer changes me and this connects to the second reason I don’t pray which is the opposite of the first: I can control/fix this situation myself, so it doesn’t even occur to me to pray. This unconscious attitude is actually self-dependence and pride. As we become more aware of situations where we think we are in control or are trying to be in control, we can learn to surrender, trust and thus pray that God will work in the situation.

Another reason I often don’t pray is fear of presumption. Now, it is good to have a healthy fear of presumption as it certainly is a sin. However, a fear of being presumptuous can often keep us from asking at all. God calls us to pray, He calls us to ask, so ask! Mark Batterson writes, “Our biggest problem is our small view of God. God is so much bigger than our biggest problems. God is so much better than our best thoughts. He is infinitely wiser and more glorious and powerful than anything we can imagine” (Draw the Circle, p. 206). Jesus Himself said, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14) and James writes simply, “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Who knows what God is holding back, waiting for you to simply ask? So, ask!

A final reason is plain old doubt. We pray but God doesn’t seem to answer so we quit. We doubt that God hears, that He really cares, that He really will answer. Paul Miller also writes, “When we don’t receive what we pray for or desire, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t acting on our behalf. Rather, he’s weaving his story.” (A Praying Life, p. 187). God is writing a story, but it’s His story, not ours. Sometimes the answer to our prayers is not what we wanted, but as we learn to trust that He knows best we can lay down our desires and trust Him to answer as He sees fit. We are called to ask, seek and knock… and to keep asking, seeking and knocking, so keep at it, and trust that He is at work even if you can’t see it.

Brother, sister, pray! Don’t try to live this life on your own, rather learn to invite Him into every situation whether it seem unimportant or impossible. Be bold; ask for what’s on your heart, ask for your dreams. And trust that He WILL answer when and as He sees best. Prayer matters, it can change things, it can change people, it can and will change you.

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