Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How to Stop Praying and Start Doing What God Wants You to Do

  • Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jul 03, 2014
How to Stop Praying and Start Doing What God Wants You to Do

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Greg Darley’s new book Wasted Prayer: Know When God Wants You to Stop Praying and Start Doing (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2014).

Prayer isn’t always a good thing. Yes, it’s an essential part of living a faithful life, since praying is how believers usually communicate with God. But just like any gift from God, even prayer can be misused.

How? By praying about something you already know God wants you to do. If you’re continuing to pray rather than taking action, you’re wasting valuable time and energy praying. Here’s how to stop praying about what you already sense God leading you to do and start actually doing it:

Ask the Holy Spirit to bring specific calls of action your attention. Recognize the various ways in which God is telling you to stop praying and start acting now. Some possibilities include: forgiving people who have hurt you, apologizing to people you have hurt, changing jobs, tithing your income to your church and charities, going on a diet, seeking help for an addiction, ending an unhealthy romantic relationship, getting engaged, having a baby or adopting, spending more time with your kids, stopping gossiping, pursuing more education, downsizing your home, working on a specific project that could help others, or volunteering for a specific service opportunity.

Identify the issues behind your reluctance to act. Reflect honestly on why you’re hesitating to act and continuing to pray instead. The main underlying issue is whether or not you believe that what God has called you to do is ultimately in your best interests. Other issues – such as procrastination, isolation, and pride – may also be involved. Do you really believe that following God is better than not following Him in each instance where you sense Him nudging you to move forward? Why or why not? What will it take to help you obey God’s call to action?

Choose to avoid regrets. Imagine what your life could be like in the future when you look back on the decisions you’re making today. Will you regret losing time praying about something that you could have spent acting on, or will you enjoy a stronger faith that comes from having said “yes” to God and watching Him work through you as result? Keep in mind that most of your regrets will come from opportunities you didn’t seize than from mistakes you’ve made.

Trade reactive prayer for proactive prayer. Instead of reactive prayer (which focuses only on the transactions you hope will happen between you and God in response to events in your life), practice proactive prayer (which focuses on developing a closer relationship with God). Rather than praying only when you need God to help you with something that happens in your life – such as when someone you know gets sick or you need help making a decision in a confusing situation – pray regularly, with the goal of getting to know God better. Then your intimacy with God will increase, which will strengthen the trust between you and God – giving you the confidence you need to act on God’s guidance whenever He leads you to do something.

Overcome procrastination. If you’re hesitating acting on what God is leading you to do, realize that you may be justifying your decision by figuring that you can always say “yes” to God tomorrow and still consider yourself faithful. Then recognize that God doesn’t want you to wait. God’s timing is always perfect, so whenever He first calls you to do something, it’s the right time to act. If you don’t know how to do what God is calling you to do, don’t let that stop you from taking action. All God expects you to do is to take the first step toward obedience – and as you do, He will teach you how to proceed from there.

Overcome isolation. God is constantly calling you to love your neighbors (the other people in your life), so that’s not something you have to pray about; it’s a given. If you isolate yourself from community, you won’t be able to faithfully act on God’s call to love your neighbors in the many ways He calls you to express love to them. Also, isolation fuels doubt, which makes it more difficult for you to answer God’s calls to action. Invest your time and energy into building meaningful relationships with the people around you. Whenever you learn about the needs of people you know, don’t simply tell them that you’re praying for them; actually do something to help them, if at all possible.

Overcome pride. Pride can paralyze you when God calls you to do something, because pride makes you afraid of what other people will think of you, which makes you afraid to take the risks God calls you to take. Realize that it’s far more important to please God than it is to try to please other people. So don’t worry about other people’s expectations; instead, focus simply on obeying God. Admit your fears to God and pray for His help to overcome them; God will respond by giving you peace. The more you communicate with God through prayer, the more trust you’ll develop in your relationship with Him, which will make it easier for you to move forward with confidence when He calls you do something. The more you respond to God’s calls to serve people in need, the more you’ll develop humility that will counteract pride in your life.

Consider the impact your action or inaction will have on others. Keep in mind that your choice to act – or not – will often affect not just you, but also other people. If you do what God leads you to do, your actions can affect a large amount of people, helping them in ways that God knows but that you can’t foresee. Also, your choice to act will inspire others to act on what God is calling them to do when they see you move forward in faith. If you don’t act on what God leads you to do, many people will potentially miss out on blessings they otherwise could have experienced from God working through you.

Adapted from Wasted Prayer: Know When God Wants You to Stop Praying and Start Doing, copyright 2014 by Greg Darley. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.

Greg Darleyis a social entrepreneur, speaker, writer, and Director of College Mobilization for International Justice Mission. He is a featured speaker for Outreach Ministries and travels and speaks at churches, conferences, organizations, and universities throughout America. He also is a graduate of BreakPoint’s Centurion Program, a biblical worldview training program created by Chuck Colson.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Follow her on Twitter @WhitneyHopler.