“Because prayer is an act of relationship, it should be an open and ongoing dialogue. First Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to ‘pray continuously.’ God may not be physically with us when we pray, but He is present with us, and prayer becomes our connection to Him. Whether we’re crying out in desperation or spontaneously asking for His favor, prayer is how we converse with God. It can be casual conversation or intense, emotion-filled petitioning. It can be done on our knees or in the car, shower, elevator or check-out line.*
I have to admit, I have prayed in all those places and many more.
2016 has been a year of prayer for me. I have had many prayers where God could have been in the room with me and we were having a conversation. I laid my concerns on His throne. The most intense prayer I had this year was when I got a phone call from a stranger about my wife being loaded into an ambulance and being taken to the emergency room of our local hospital. She had just had a car wreck. I remember getting in my truck and racing to the hospital, screaming to God. I wanted Susan to be ok. I was scared out of my mind and I let God know it.**
But this post is not about me as much as it is about those who don’t pray.
Why don’t people pray?
Obviously, many don’t believe. They don’t know God. For many years, I felt like a man who could control life and I did not need God. I had been introduced to God since my parents went to church but I did not have an ongoing relationship with Him. I did not take my concerns to Him. I just worked things out myself and often I got stuck on problems that were not easily solved. I had no idea that I could take my troubles and turn them over to God and have peace. People who don’t really know God just try to handle things themselves and it can be frightening, it can be frustrating and it can be lonely.
Some people just can’t express themselves. They struggle to talk to humans; they struggle to talk to God. Words don’t come easy to everyone. To add to the problems of expression, many people feel they have to use the “correct” words to pray. When you listen to people who pray in public, you will notice the same person repeating some phrases over and over, you know, “In God’s name” or “Thy will be done” or even “bless this food for the nourishment of our bodies.” There is a mistaken idea that there is some secret formula that must be used for prayer. I don’t think so. If you can, just express what is on your heart to God.
There are folks who talk to God as if He is Santa. I guess this is normal but the wish list is there and you want what you want so you ask. These prayers may be considered selfish but people pray them anyhow. Instead of praying for people who truly have serious needs, we get distracted by our own needs. Maybe this is due to the consumer-driver mentality that we have in our culture. These prayers may not get God’s attention like other prayers can [I don’t attempt to reflect the mind of God].
The saddest person who does not pray is the person who has prayed for a loved one to be healed and they are not healed. The loved one passes away. I know of a Christian woman who lost her child in a car wreck and she was the driver. The mother survived the wreck but her little girl did not. She prayed and prayed for healing and it was not meant to be. When her little girl died, she blamed God and went through a very damaging process of blaming God. She got angry at God. She lost her belief in God and she dropped all her Christian relationships with friends and church family. Things got so bad that she walled herself off from everyone and lived in her hate-filled world. It is a common process because so many of us see God as a benevolent Deity, a caring Father who would never allow tragedy into our lives. The fact of the matter is that God is omnipotent but much of the harm that comes to us is not from God. People who mean to hurt us can have their way. We can make horrible decisions that lead to pain and injury. We do have free will. We are allowed to make our way in this world and we steer ourselves toward disaster from time to time [sometimes even when God tries to warn us to correct our behavior].
In this post, I have attempted to write about practical reasons for man’s lack of prayer. The person who tries to pray when there is no real connection with God, no relationship, the inability to express words, the Santa wish-list person and the individual who has been crushed by tragedy. Bingham Hunter says that today is the “Age of Communication.” I have my doubts. One of the things he cites is the current obsession with social media. I don’t want to bash social media because people love it but as a communication professor, it is what I call “one way communication.” You put your thoughts on twitter, Facebook and other outlets and people place feedback to your thoughts in response. In today’s world the original thought may not be calculated in a very sensitive way and surely the responses are not. I have seen some outrageous unfiltered comments. People write words on their computers that they would never say to anyone’s face.
When it comes to prayer, if a person is fortunate enough to have a relationship with God, the response back from Him will not be “unfiltered”. It will be what you need. I close with Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
*James Dwyer Relevant Magazine
**for those who don’t know, my wife has made a full recovery