I know I’m supposed to pray. I want to pray. But I often don’t. Why?
I don’t have a complete answer, but I think these are some of the main underlying reasons why:
- I don’t have time.
- I don’t know how to pray.
- I don’t believe it’ll make a difference.
1. I don’t have time.
How many times have you heard someone complain “I’m just so busy…”? Probably too many times to count.
But let’s be real… we’re all “busy.” And I put that in quotations because I often do find myself with downtime in my daily life. It’s just that when I find myself free I quickly make myself busy with something.
Maybe I do this unintentionally, or maybe I do it subconsciously out of fear… Fear of being alone with God and myself in the silence.
I’m not saying that I’m not actually busy. I often am. But being busy with many things doesn’t mean that I’m busy with the right things. And I think that’s the problem with using “I’m too busy” as a genuine excuse to neglect my prayer life.
I must face my own reality: I have prioritized other things in my life to be more important than my relationship with God. Because that’s what prayer is. It’s not something that helps my relationship with God. Prayer is my relationship with God.
Unfortunately, I often leave the most important thing in my life at the bottom of my priority list.
2. I don’t know how to pray.
In the Christian life I’m always hearing about the importance of prayer. Whether it’s from a book, my parish priest, or my Catholic Twitter news feed, it’s clear that prayer is important and I need to do it more often.
But I don’t think I’m alone in asking this question that very few seem to be answering: How do I pray?
Maybe this question sounds silly, but I truly believe the “how” of prayer is why many of us Christians are not praying more.
For me personally, when I do come to prayer I often find myself thinking, “So… what do I do? What prayers should I be praying? Am I doing this right?”
And I doubt this experience of uncertainty in prayer is limited to just me.
So, what’s the answer? How should one pray?
Well, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 259, fittingly states:
“Only when we humbly acknowledge that ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought,’ are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. ‘Man is a beggar before God.‘”
The answer: Prayer is a gift! It’s not something we do because we know the perfect method, but because it’s an honest response of love to the God who first loves us.
Therefore, I can’t say “I don’t know how” as a valid reason for why I don’t pray.
As just mentioned, to get started with prayer, I don’t need some perfect method or even the perfect words. All I need is willingness. The willingness to place myself in the presence of God.
Only then will I begin to pray as I ought!
Interested in learning more about how prayer is a gift?
3. I don’t believe it’ll make a difference
This final reason is the one I’m tempted with most often.
My temptation is usually one of the following:
(1) I believe God responds to people’s prayers, but not my prayers
(2) I convince myself that since God’s will is unchanging, He won’t, or even can’t, change my circumstances (in other words, it’s not possible for me to “change” God’s mind)
The first temptation is probably one that many can relate to. We see God miraculously intervening in the lives of others, but why is He not intervening in mine?
It seems to me that this temptation comes from two different places. First, from a lack of faith. And second, from a shallow perspective of prayer.
So often I want prayer to be productive. I want to see results. I treat prayer in the same way I treat my work or the reading of a book.
But this is where I often go wrong. At its root, prayer is not about results. It is about love.
But prayer is productive.
God doesn’t always directly respond to my prayer petitions and change my circumstances (and it’s probably because my petition is just not His will), but, in prayer, if I allow Him to, God always changes me.
He always pours forth His grace upon me and helps me to conform my will to His. But I have to pray faithfully.
I can’t treat Him like a genie in a bottle and merely hope that He grants my requests. I need to view prayer as a face-to-face encounter between the greatest of friends.
Only then will prayer become the most productive thing I could possibly do. The greatest work. And the greatest time spent.
The second temptation is due to poor theology. It’s my pride that believes I understand and grasp the inner depths of God’s mind and how He “works.”
It’s true, however, that God’s will is unchanging. He’s eternal and He exists outside of time. So, it makes a bit of sense. You could say His mind is made up.
But that doesn’t mean He’s unable to affect change here in time and space. He absolutely is. I mean, He willed and continues to will all of Creation into existence; I think He can affect change in our lives.
In addition, though for reasons known to His Wisdom alone, God has made some things that I need contingent on me praying for them. Meaning, there are some things that will not happen in my life or in the life of others unless I pray for them.
That’s a huge responsibility, and is a reminder for me of why I MUST pray. God yearns for us to rely completely on Him and wants to teach us to do so slowly through a life of prayer.
Therefore, prayer absolutely makes a difference! The temptation for me to believe otherwise is either a weakness in my human nature or a temptation from the Evil One.
May I make an act of faith whenever tempted: Jesus, I trust in You!
Only by surrendering my pride and trusting in God will I have both the reason and time to pray.
I must consistently ask myself:
- Do I really love God above all things?
- Am I willing to find myself humble and weak before Him?
- Do I have faith in God’s omnipotence?
Because if I do and I am, I will make time for Him. I will pray. And I will have faith.
What stops you from praying more?
Let me know below in the comment box!
Looking to deepen your prayer life?
In this 30-day challenge, read the Catechism’s ENTIRE section on Christian Prayer and make a commitment to setting aside daily intentional time with the Lord.
30 MINUTES for 30 DAYS to grow in both your understanding and discipline of prayer!