Question: Breaking Through The Fear of Prayer

Anonymous asked:

Hi, I recently decided to get serious with my relationship with God. I really want to draw close to him and have an intimate relationship with him. But one of the things I’m not so good at is prayer. Most of my prayers sound empty and dry to my ears and sometimes I don’t feel like sitting and talking with God. I really want to get to a point where I am constantly seeking him. Do you have any advice on how I could do this?


You know, dear friend: I have never met a single person that ever said, “I’m really good at prayer.  I got that so locked down.”

Almost everyone I know has four major fears about praying:

1) I don’t pray as much as I should.

2) When I do pray, I can’t focus.  It’s like a bad signal.

3) When I pray, it feels like I’m using God or just asking for stuff.

4) I don’t know if prayer is doing anything or I’m just talking to myself.

And it doesn’t help that some preachers are beating you up about the “spiritual disciplines” and piling on the guilt.  I mean it’s not entirely their fault: we all switch to guilt-mode when we try to follow God because for most of us, that’s the only way we know how.

So please allow me the grace to respond to these four fears.


1) God doesn’t keep score of your prayers, and He is delighted to hear from you.

Please don’t hear me saying that God is some impotent teenager waiting for your phone call.  But the more I discovered that praying to God was talking with the Perfect Father who loves me and delights in me, the more I actually wanted to talk to Him.  I had to get over the idea that God was some kind of cosmic parole officer keeping track of my every infraction.

Some of my favorite times in life have been getting in the corner of my bedroom and pouring out my heart to God with the streetlight shining through my window.  I don’t do this everyday.  But yes, it’s awesome every time.  I had to unburden myself with thinking that God was mad because I had not “kept in touch.”  I had to approach God like I would a loving dad, simply starting off, “Father, today I –” and telling Him about my day. 

If you can begin there, you’ll actually miss prayer time because you will miss Him.  As corny as it sounds, there are days when I can’t wait to pray: and a routine happens without even noticing a routine.


2) Because of our human nature and spiritual warfare, there is a “prayer barrier.”

When people tell me they can’t focus while praying: this is the natural default of our hearts.  No one is naturally good at prayer. 

The first few minutes will take adjustment.  Random thoughts and noises will distract you.  Satan will bombard you with last-minute annoyances like “check the stove” or “tomorrow you-have-to.”  Let that pass.  The mind is a much busier place than you think.  You’ll need to run through this “barrier” like a giant stocking and rip through to the other side. 

It’s like that moment when you’re on the phone with someone, and after the initial awkwardness, you settle into a comfortable momentum where the conversation just flows. 

Also keep in mind that your physicality plays a role.  Some people are good at the 5am prayer.  I am not: I prefer night time.  Work with your own body to see what works best, and don’t bother with a nine step program or the latest bestseller.


3) It’s okay to ask God for stuff, because God is the God of stuff and He will direct you through it.

I know there’s a lot of guilt about making requests of God, and I have probably heard dozens of sermons asking, “Do you want God for His stuff or for HIM? Huh?!”  I understand those sentiments, and there’s some truth in it — but Scripture shows it’s okay to ask for things.  Because ultimately, God will shape our hearts with the things we ask for.

Look no further than the Lord’s Prayer.  It’s a lot of requests, even for daily bread.  Look at Proverbs 30:8-9, which say:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Notice how Agur (the writer of this chapter) not only asks God for provision, but also asks to shape his own character when he gets those provisions.  So let’s get off the guilt about prayer requests, and instead move forward on HOW we can make those requests.


4) Prayer certainly shapes us, but I also believe prayer changes the fabric of history by God’s sovereign orchestration of events.

This last one requires that tricky thing called faith.  Some people say prayer is only meant to change our hearts, but I think it’s a bit more than that.  I believe in a God who wrote Himself into the story of humanity by redeeming us from evil into His eternal grace through Jesus: so certainly I believe in a God who intervenes when we pray.  He listens.

I must qualify by saying that of course, God doesn’t always answer.  At times it feels like a God-silent world and the “amount” of our faith doesn’t dictate His movement.  Many of our unanswered prayers remain mysteries in His plan.  Yet I do believe God listens, that He knows best, that He steps in somehow when we pray, on His own terms, in ways that He wouldn’t if we didn’t ask for them.

I don’t mean to minimize the trials we go through.  This is a much larger discussion that I won’t pretend to understand.  There is a ton of hurt out there that makes me wonder about God’s work sometimes.  I’ve heard all the horrible heartbreaking stories there is to tell.  Yet … it continues to make sense to pray instead of retreat.  And I have seen just enough miracles to keep faith amidst the doubts and struggle — and even if I never experienced a miracle again, I have experienced Jesus.

I believe so many of our grieving cries for God are ultimately answered in the cross and resurrection: and while it sounds so trite to say so, I think much of our anguish is compensated within a cross where we are rescued from a broken world that is not really our final home. Jesus really is our answered prayer.  It’s God saying, “I love you no matter how it looks around you and I have written the ending you’ve always longed for.”  The overarching shadow of the cross secures our eternity; the God who runs history secures our today.

— J.S.

6 thoughts on “Question: Breaking Through The Fear of Prayer

  1. God is not a prayer snob. God is a Daddy who treats the worst prayer in the world, sincerely offered, like His four-year old’s work of art. It goes on the fridge, because He is so delighted with it – and you. The important thing is to talk to Him. How good or bad you feel you are at it makes no difference to Him.


  2. I could identify with the question. Even though I’ve been a Christian for more than 40 years I still have times of feeling just like Anonymous.

    But through it all, I’m finding, “I love you no matter how it looks around you and I have written the ending you’ve always longed for”, very true in my life. Wonderful grace filled words that went straight to my heart.



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