I Feel Like A Failure At Prayer (Here’s What I’m Doing About It)

Over the years I’ve written several blog posts about prayer. Some have been about the ingredients of effective prayer and some have even been about how I learned I was praying wrong.

Unfortunately, it’s the latter that often reminds of my prayer life. Most of the time I feel like a failure when it comes to prayer.

Sure, I pray when things aren’t going my way. I bless our food at the table. I even pray with Courtney and Asher on a regular basis.

Where I fall short is in the area of consistency. I’ll go weeks without asking God to move in a situation. I’ll worry myself sick about something instead of praying about it. And when it comes to all the things I’ve intended to pray about — my intentions always outweigh my follow through.

I was reminded of this recently as I silently complained about something that hadn’t turned out like I was hoping it would. In this particular situation, I had done all I could do, but for some reason, God didn’t seem to be cooperating.

I eventually decided to just be honest and I voiced my frustration to God. I wasn’t prepared for His answer, though.

In my frustration, I felt like God was saying: “What took you so long?”

Wow. Why was I surprised that God wasn’t moving in something that I hadn’t invited Him into?

It was a moment of truth for me, and I became determined to fix it. Why did a robust prayer life seem so elusive and impossible? What was the secret to building a better prayer life?

My first few ideas included thoughts of devotionals, prayer journals, and Bible plans. Then I began thinking of all the devotionals, prayer journals, and Bible plans I had left unfinished or untouched.

I felt God cutting through the clutter in my mind to speak clearly to my spirit. It was a simple, straightforward piece of wisdom: “Take it one day at a time.”

Consistency. Such a simple idea. Almost seemed too simple. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that’s exactly what I needed to do. It’s how growth always works.

Nothing has made me realize the power of consistency more than becoming a parent. You don’t become a consistent, caring parent just by reading a bunch of parenting books. You become a consistent, caring parent by being consistent and caring day after day.

In the same way, you don’t develop a consistent and powerful prayer life by just by reading books on prayer and buying journals. You develop a consistent and powerful prayer life by being committed and consistent in prayer.

There’s no better example of this than the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18. In this story, a widow repeatedly approaches an unjust judge with a plea for justice. Even though the judge is unjust, he eventually gives in and grants her what she was asking for.

In verse 7 it says, “…will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?”

Persistence in prayer pays off. We have a God who WANTS to listen. He desires to hear our desires. It’s a gift and one that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

When Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that we should “pray continually,” it isn’t an exaggerated suggestion; it’s what we should be striving towards.

Personally, I’m tired of wasting opportunities to invite God into my situations. I don’t want to look back at my life and wish I had prayed more. I don’t want to leave my faith on the table or put my belief inside a box. At the end of my life, I want to be able to finish my story by saying “… and all of that would’ve been impossible without God.”

I don’t exactly know how prayer works, but I do know that it works. And like any other discipline, getting started is often the hardest part. Whether it’s lifting weights, learning a new language, or growing in prayer — growth always feels awkward.

If you want to get out of this stage, I’m afraid the only way out is by first being willing to go through it — one day at a time.

1 CommentLeave a comment

  • Hi Tyler – From what I can tell, we’re never going to get the prayer thing completely right this side of Heaven, but I’m not sure it’s as important as we think. God desires a relationship with us, and prayer is one of the main components of that relationship. Imperfect prayers then are better than attempts to “get it right”. God knows we’re a mess and He says “come anyway, come as you are”.

    I have my own prayer demons. James 1:6 says when we pray we’re to “believe and not doubt”. I pray all the time, and doubt nearly every time. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times God has answered my prayers, I still doubt. I’m even ashamed to say that I find the doubts of the apostles when they were with Jesus to be very encouraging. Maybe we all walk with some level of doubt, and that’s just part of what faith is all about.

    I’ve heard it said that “certainty is the opposite of faith”. Maybe doubt and imperfection are traveling companions all Christians have to come to terms with. After all, we’re not perfect, which is precisely why we seek a relationship with a perfect God. But if it relies on us, we’re never going to get it right. But I think that’s OK.

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