Prayer - Confronting Spiritual Excuses
written by Jimmy Newkirk, Associate Pastor (April 15, 2023)
Leave it to C.H. Spurgeon to put his finger on the pulse of the issue. “I know of no better thermometer to your spiritual temperature than this—the measure of the intensity of your prayer. I am not speaking about the quantity of it, for there are some who, for a pretense, make long prayers. I am speaking about the reality of it, the intensity of it.”
Many struggle with prayer. We're instructed to pray; we're instructed on how to pray; yet, the challenge to pray is real. Last month, we addressed some practical tips and strategies to help our prayer life. Today, we address something far more central and critical: spiritual excuses.
Below, you'll find a list of issues - sometimes, outright excuses - that hinder our prayer life. Each is followed with a prescription to help remedy the issue. Some may not apply to you today but take the time to look in the mirror as framed by these issues. Much credit goes to the teachings of Dr. Chuck Lawless for this material.
Issue: Many of us want to fix our own problems. We make an attempt to fix ourselves and our problems first and then ask for God's help when we reach our limits.
Prescription: Recognize that we cannot clean or fix ourselves. Challenge yourself to trust God with something so big that only God can do so that you build your dependence on Him. Consider William Carey's mantra, "Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God."
Issue: Some of us never really learned how to pray. Churches talk about prayer, but often don't teach how to pray.
Prescription: Read and study the prayers of the Bible. Talk to a pastor or teacher about prayer. Ask a fellow believer to pray with you regularly. Review the tips and strategies in the March 12, 2023 blogpost. Review the materials and recommended reading on our website (coatsbaptist.com/prayer).
Issue: Prayer may become more about the ritual than the relationship. We pray because we're supposed to rather than because we want to.
Prescription: Spend time thinking about the value of your relationship with God. Desire to be with Him because He is truly better than all substitutes.
Issue: Prayerlessness is easily hidden from others.
Prescription: Ask an accountability partner to hold you accountable. Give them permission to ask you hard questions about your prayer life as well as your Bible intake.
Issue: We have never been broken under the merciful hand of God. We have convinced ourselves we are strong enough and capable enough to handle things ourselves. Even when we pray, we pray for our weaknesses because we take a false sense of pride and sufficiency in our strengths.
Prescription: Ask God to teach you to depend on Him. Ask Him to do what He must to make you lean on Him.
Issue: We pray and read God's Word in a one-sided way. We see these things in terms of help for others or information transmission rather than life transformation first for ourselves.
Prescription: Pray as you read the Bible. Read and respond personally to God's truth before considering how it applies to others.
Issue: We pray and live as though we have lost hope.
Prescription: Be completely honest with God in prayer. Pour your heart out to Him. He already knows your thoughts and your ways. Spend time reading and praying the Psalms. Allow Him to show you His love, His mercy, and the plans He has for you.
Issue: We miss the gospel focus in the prayer life of Jesus.
Prescription: Read the gospels with a particular focus on Jesus' prayer life. Observe His relationship with the Father, how He prays for and submits to God's will, and how He prays for those around Him.
Issue: When we pray, we only pray for other people and life's circumstances rather than placing ourselves on the altar in confession of sin and dependency on God. We refuse to address the obstacles to prayer in our lives. For example:
Neglecting the reading of God's Word (Prov. 28:9, John 15:7)
Unconfessed sin (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:1-2)
Selfishness and covetousness (James 4:1-3)
An unforgiving heart (Matt. 6:14-15, Mark 11:25)
Lacking faith (Mark 6:1-6, Heb. 11:6)
Poor marital relationships (1 Peter 3:7)
Prescription: Repent! Ask God to forgive your sin and help you to overcome these obstacles. If sin is reigning in your life, we often avoid prayer in order to avoid God just as Adam and Eve hid in the Garden of Eden.
Issue, and perhaps the biggest heart-check on the list: We don't really believe prayer works. The potential for that to be evident in our lives ought to scare you.
Prescription: Read the Bible as well as Christian biographies. Reflect on how God has answered the prayers of the faithful, e.g., the church's prayer for Peter and John while in prison. If we truly believe that spending time with God works to transform us and change the world around us, what possible reason is there to avoid prayer? There is no logical reason. Prayer is ultimately a matter of submission to God in faith.
It is my hope and prayer that, if your prayer life is hindered in any way, you may identify the issues and take the necessary steps to address them. I'm praying for revival. For me, for you, for God's gathered body of believers at Coats Baptist. May Acts 4:31 be true of us!
"When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly."