The Real Reason We Fail to Pray

Prayer is one of those issues that almost all of us, I believe, have a relationship of guilt with. We know in our minds that prayer is important; that prayer effects change; that prayer is our lifeline to God Almighty; and that without prayer, we will shrivel on the vine and die. Prayer is one of the most primary means by which we do the work of abiding in Christ.

And yet…

We don’t. We can’t concentrate. We fumble around. Despite all our classes and training, all our best intentions, all our alarm clock settings that get moved to snooze, we fail to pray as much or as long or as fervently as we ought to. When we ask ourselves why we don’t pray, then, there are a myriad of reasons we come to:

  • I’m too busy. I’ve got so much going on that it’s difficult to devote a sustained amount of time to something that in the moment can feel so frivolous.
  • I’m too distracted. Even when I do sit and pray, my mind can’t slow down and focus on what I’m doing. I eventually always devolve into musings or making my to-do list for all the stuff that has to be done after I’m done praying.
  • I don’t know how. I know I should, because it should be as easy as having a conversation, but I still don’t know the best technique, the right acrostic, or how this works with the whole journaling thing.

I totally get it. I feel all those things, too. But I think there is a greater reason why I fail to pray, and maybe there is for you too.

The real reason we fail to pray isn’t because we’re too busy, too distracted, or too untrained. The real reason we fail to pray is because we’re too confident.

Ultimately, I find inside myself the lurking idea that I actually know the right thing to do and have the capacity to do it. I find the notion that I can affect real change in my life or in the lives of those around me based on my sheer will, intelligence, or charisma. I find the lie that I am actually a pretty good person with pretty good ideas and character. I find inside myself a dramatic overestimation of myself, and the result is a failure to hit my knees with the fervency I should.

I am confident in me, so what need do I have at the throne of grace? Prayer becomes an easily disposable segment of my daily routine, something that can be dropped out as soon as something else comes up to take its place.

May it not be so. May we have a “sober estimation” and “think sensibly” of ourselves (Romans 12:4), and may the result be a renewed compulsion to approach God’s throne of grace.


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  • Lisa V. says:

    That’s a perspective I’d never considered. A sense of confidence surely is a reason since if I really believe how desperate in need I am of His direction since my solutions may very well be wholly inadequate even harmful, running to prayer would be an act I’d never pass up.

  • Mike Martin says:

    I thought you might also say it is because we don’t truly believe it will help or that we have prayed and not received an answer. Of course we all know that it takes the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man”. Maybe I just come up short of that criteria. Comments are apprciated.

  • MK says:

    It’s a good word, Mike – and of course, you’re right. Those are both also reasons why we might fail to pray, or to be more personal, why I fail to pray. For me at least, though, I think it comes closer to my sense of self-confidence.

  • angela says:

    I am one who prays and prays a lot. But what I have concluded is many people really don’t believe their prayers will be answered or that it is a last resort. I have seen the power of prayer more times than I can count. I am “praying” more will pray because God does hear! God will listen and he will amaze you if you do.

  • Bliss says:

    That is some helpful piece of information there. Personaly, i have been struggling to pray to God due to sin. There are times i commit myself to God but i fall back so hard such that sin pushes me away from the process of praying i start feeling ashamed and guilty, i hear some inner voice reminding me of my previous evil deeds.I believe in God,Jesus and the Holy spirit… but sin (mostly fornication) makes my mouth heavy to mention HIS name coz i feel im not worthy or GOD is upset with me. Need a piece of advice on this

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