Why is it so Hard to Pray?

Without a doubt, every Christian will find prayer difficult at various times in their life. Let’s consider some things that will hopefully make it easier to pray.

One thing is for certain, that Jesus, while in the flesh and going through the trials of life, did not have a hard time praying to the Father in heaven. We have many examples of Jesus praying, such as before the start of the day (Mark 1:35), at the close of day (Matthew 14:23), going away in solitude to pray (Luke 5:15-16), praying through the night (Luke 6:12), and praying in the face of trouble (Luke 22:39-46). If anyone knew whether prayer was either effective or ineffective, it would have been Jesus, the very one who had seen the prayers of the faithful for the past 4,000 years, but from the vantage point of heaven. If prayer was of little to no consequence, why did he neglect so much of His time and even sleep in order to pray? The writer of Hebrews speaks of Jesus and the troubles He went through on earth, and draws application that He can sympathize with our weaknesses so that we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Prayer is consistently said to be effective throughout the scriptures. So, one big reason why prayer is so hard is due to a lack of faith in the words of God, who has communicated to us that he hears and answers prayer. Not only is this what He has said, but God also left us with numerous examples of faithful men and women whose prayers were answered. Just to name a few examples off the top of my head: Elijah (prayed that it wouldn’t rain), Hezekiah (prayed to be healed from a deadly illness), Jabez (prayed for more property), Hannah (prayed for a son), Samson (prayed for one more blow to Philistines), and Jehoshaphat (prayed for deliverance from the armies of his enemies). Jesus’ prayer to be saved from death was answered by God, by way of resurrection, according to Hebrews 5:7, “in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear”. Here we find another point concerning answered prayer, as the text states that Jesus’ prayers were heard because of His “godly fear.” These two words are translated from two Greek words, the first is defined as “to separate”, and the second is defined as “caution, discretion, and reverence”. The point appears to be that Jesus holding the Father’s will in honor above all else is a valid point toward why His prayers were answered. But even then, we can observe, that His prayer was not answered in the way we might have thought, that being that He would be saved from not having to endure the cross. This leads to another point: the way that prayers are answered is often most unusual from our perspective.

Almost all scriptures speak of prayer as a guaranteed thing, for example, when Jesus said “ask, and it will be given to you”. Now, certainly there are contextual parameters for every scripture, but there can be no doubt that the prayer of the faithful is fully addressed by God. There is, however, one scripture that says the opposite of Jesus’ words quoted above. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive”. Here James is pointing out that the people he is talking to in context are praying, but God is not giving them what they pray for. James further identifies the reason: “because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” Further, in the next sentence, he calls them “adulterers and adulteresses”, the point being that the people he was directing this section of the letter to are actively unfaithful to God. Therefore, their prayers to God are not acceptable to God. The word “amiss”, in the Greek, refers to being sickly and ill. So “amiss” is also in relation to their spiritual condition. It is their friendship with the world, as he will state in the next verse, that has made them an enemy of God. And how often does one generously receive a positive answer to a request made to an enemy? It is the strangest thing I’ve seen on planet Earth, that prayers to God are made all the time by people who are in friendship with the world and are thus enemies of God. In no other circumstance does this happen; no one even thinks it a good idea to make requests for their enemy for generous gifts.

That is not all that James has to say concerning unanswered prayer. In the first chapter, he tells Christians that, if they lack wisdom, to ask God for it. James is straightforward to say that God “gives to all liberally and without reproach” (James 1:5-8). Now, it is crucial that we recognize what James meant by God giving “to all”. So many misunderstand this and other scriptures that speak so positively about prayer, and this is why worldly people continue to make petitions to God whenever they decide that they want something from Him. The word “all” is always limited to context, even in our own speech today. James goes further to identify who the “all” are whom God gives liberally to. He says “let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” So, the “all” whom God gives to are those who “ask in faith”. But having faith in God is a narrow way on this earth and few find it. This is because faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), and few are willing to simply submit to God’s will in humbled obedience to His word. So, those who are not faithful, but petition God in prayer, are, as James put it, “double-minded” (hypocritical) and “unstable”. And if, by honest examination of our lives, we are not stable in the faith, then we cannot blame God for unanswered prayer, the fault lies on us. Look to the example of Jesus and other faithful men and women, it was not hard for them to pray; what is it that they had that we don’t have in our lives that make it hard for us to pray?

Article by Tanner Campbell