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5 Reasons Prayer is Not Work

  • Joe McKeever

    Joe McKeeverhas been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He…

  • Updated Nov 11, 2015

“Your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him.” –Matthew 6:8.

We would all like to lose weight without dieting.  We’d like to get healthy and have our muscles toned up while we sleep.  We’d like to get a college degree without going to class or studying.

Those are not about to happen.

Spiritual disciplines require great effort from us also.  Whether we are fasting and enduring great tribulation for Jesus’ sake, or doing something as simple as studying our Sunday School lesson and offering grace before meals, conscious effort is required, and that means a strong focus on the Savior.

Prayer is hard work, we are told.

I respond that that is a half-truth.  Overcoming our human tendency to “do it by myself” (like a petulant four-year-old) and our sinful insistence on hanging onto a sinful but enjoyable habit, those take work.  Making myself turn off the television or lay aside an enjoyable book to open God’s word and read and meditate and pray, this requires discipline.

But is prayer itself–talking with the Heavenly Father–work?  Is it hard to tell the Creator of the universe and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us our needs and to praise Him for His wondrous works?

Prayer should be as natural as breathing. And so you’ll know, I am here and now taking the position that praying to our wonderful Lord should be that simple and natural and effortless.

After all, one can pray without ever having to enroll in classes and without achieving superior status as a Christian. Even a child can pull this off.

Here’s the reason I’m saying prayer is easy and simple and should be effortless…

1) First, Romans 8:26 nails it: “We don’t pray very well.” (“We do not know how to pray as we should.”

And that’s okay.

Don’t miss that. It’s perfectly fine for us to not be able to pray as we should. After all, we don’t do anything else as well as we should. We do not worship the way we will around the throne in Heaven some day (to see how that will happen, read and enjoy Revelation 5).  We do not know the Word or teach it as well as we should.  Not only do we “see through a glass darkly” (I Corinthians 13:12), but everything else we do for Christ’s sake is in the same “dim” (partial, flawed) category.

That’s the whole point of “we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

2) Next, we’re told in Romans 8:26 that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and in Romans 8:34 that the Lord Jesus intercedes for us.

Here we have two members of the Trinity interceding with the Third.

Imagine that.  (I cannot.)

Oswald Chambers said, “Jesus Christ carries on intercession for us in heaven; the Holy Ghost carries on intercession in us on earth; and we the saints have to carry on intercession for all men.”

Perhaps that’s the way to understand this dual-intercessory function of the Godhead. I’m not certain.

3) Then, Matthew 6:8 says our Father knows what we need before we ask.

Nothing we say to Him in prayer will be a surprise. No request we offer will be news to Him.

He is way ahead of us when we stop and turn aside to pray.

4) “Your Heavenly Father will give good gifts to those who ask” (Matthew 7:11).

Asking is the condition.  We’re told “you have not because you ask not” (James 4:2). But this means asking in faith.

If the Lord makes Himself available and all He asks is that I ask Him for whatever I need, then my failure to ask surely comes back to a failure to believe.

Prayer is need-driven and faith-powered.  My needs drive me to my knees, but faith (belief in the Lord Jesus Christ) connects me with the Throne and makes this work.l

5) “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).

Look at that.  He’s literally begging us to ask.

Come on and ask! Please.

Begging us to ask.

So, why aren’t we asking? Why are we not praying?

–What is wrong with us?

–We have thought prayer was all about us!  That we don’t say the right words, have sufficient faith, know the right posture, stay on our knees long enough. And it turns out, it’s not about us at all.

–To those who think their prayers are not answered because their faith was insufficient, Jesus said, “If you had faith as a mustard seed, you could do miracles.” (Luke 17:6).

So, just do it.  Just pray.

There’s almost no way to get it wrong when we pray, if we will.

As seminary President Dr. Chuck Kelley puts it, “Nothing never happens when we pray.”

Brethren, let us pray.

Publication date: November 11, 2015