I’ve co-authored a book about prayer, published several more, taught numerous classes, and led seminars about prayer. One thing I believe is that one should teach primary from experience, meaning that often you are teaching about your own weaknesses. In this case it it just so.
So here are some problems. I share in each one. Each one can devastate your prayer life and your Christian experience.
- I don’t pray when I should. My first response to a problem is to look for what I can do to solve it. I’m a pretty smart guy and pride myself on being able to solve problems. People call me to help solve their problems, especially with computers or language. Somehow I suspect God is smarter and wiser! A friend of mine said (and I think he was quoting, but I don’t recall who), “Nothing is a substitute for prayer, and prayer isn’t a substitute for anything.” It’s not bad to work, but prayer will transform your efforts. “‘Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord” (Zech. 4:6).
- I pray after rather than before. I know God can handle the “before they call” thing, but the problem here is that I make decisions and then ask God to bless them, rather than asking God to guide and then listening.
- I pray prayers of direction. By this I mean that I tell God how to solve problems. I don’t know the origin of the saying, but it’s unfortunately true: Many people want to serve God, but only in an advisory capacity.
- It’s more important to me that people know I’m praying for them than it is to actually pray. It may be a shock to some people, but you can pray without informing people. This doesn’t mean you should never tell someone you’re praying. I am deeply encouraged each time someone lets me know they’re praying for me. But the proclamation can be either a lie or a weapon or even both.
- I spend more time talking than listening. See also #2 and #3.
- Despite knowing all of this, these are still failings.
Fortunately for all of us, God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9). I pray for greater grace in my prayer life.