Why We Do Not Pray as We Should

Gen 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13

I met a businessman some years ago who told me that he spends close to four hours daily doing physical exercises. I asked him why he spent so much time exercising daily. Was he preparing for the Olympics or what? He replied, “I want to be always fit and healthy.”

His reply reminded me of how generous and sacrificing we are in making time for the things that we value the most. We make time to eat, sleep, drink, exercise, sleep, work, etc., simply because we are convinced of their true value.  

Why is it that when it comes to prayer, we claim that we do not pray because we do not have the time to pray? We say we cannot spend time cultivating our relationship with God through prayer because we are too busy. However, the truth is that we do not pray as we should because we do not know the value of prayer. If we were convinced of the true value of prayer, we will sacrifice anything for our prayer time.  

We do not value prayer because there are certain truths that have not yet sunk into our hearts.   

Firstly, we do not pray with persistence because we do not know God’s love for each and every one of us. Jesus teaches us to pray by calling God “Father” to show that God loves us personally and freely. This same God is always inviting and drawing us into a special relationship with Him through prayer. God initiates this relationship with us in His Son, Jesus Christ, offering us His love and making it possible for us to love Him back in prayer, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins” (1Jn 4:10). 

We must first experience and receive this love in prayer because only this love of God can satisfy us and quench our fears, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1Jn 4:18). This love alone moves us to respond to God’s love by striving to obey Him, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). We have peace and trust in God because we know the Father gives us only good things in answer to our prayers. Though He may allow evil in our lives for a greater good, He never directly gives us something that is evil.

We just cannot be persistent in prayer if we are oblivious of God’s personal love that He offers us in prayer and His desire that we grow in this love through prayer and action.    

Secondly, we do not pray always because we do not know our great need for the graces of God in our lives. Without the grace of God, we cannot do anything good or endure any evil and temptation. By teaching us the Our Father prayer, Jesus shows us our need to beg for truly essential things in prayer. We must constantly beg God to “forgive us our sins,” sustain us with our “daily bread,” protect us from numerous evils, help us to “do His will on earth as it is done in heaven,” etc. Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive,” because we cannot experience these and many more graces in our lives without consistent prayer.

We do not know our need for grace through prayer because we do not realize the deeply mysterious ways of God and our need for His light to follow Him. We have not grasped our utter nothingness without God’s sustaining grace. We do not realize the weakness of our human nature and the wickedness and cunningness of Satan, who “always prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1Pt 5:8).  

Thirdly, we do not pray all the time because we do not know the great calling we have to save our souls. We go the extra mile to care for the needs, pleasures, and comforts of the body that will eventually rot in the grave one day. But we ignore our souls, that immortal and substantial form of our being. Have we forgotten that the body takes its dignity and destiny from its union with the soul? Didn’t Jesus also teach us that our greatest duty is to save our souls, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (MK 8:36)

Our prayer life must not be reduced to merely meeting the needs of the body or making us feel good. Authentic prayer brings divine life to our souls, making them holy and alive with the Spirit of God. True prayer prepares and orients our souls towards God and perfect communion with Him in heaven. Our souls need that hope that comes from prayer if we are not going to become hopeless slaves of this world and its corrupt spirit.  

We easily lose the value of prayer in a world where the body is worshipped and pampered. How can we pray well in a Church where many are more concerned with our vaccine status than living in a state of grace? How can prayer flourish in an era where the focus is on bodily mutilation in the name of transgenderism while we ignore the effects of mortal sin in our souls? Prayer dies when the body receives exclusive care and attention to the detriment of the soul. 

Lastly, we do not pray always because we do not know the power of prayer to win for others the divine mercy needed for hearts to change. The prayer of a Christian living in grace is powerful because we have been reconciled with God now in Jesus Christ and we now participate in Christ’s own power over the grave, “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He brought you to life along with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Col 2:13). Because we do not pray as rebels but as God’s beloved children in Jesus Christ, we can be channels of divine mercy to souls in this world.

God promised to have mercy on the sinful people of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of a few people who maintained their relationship with Him in the midst of so much debauchery. He said to Abraham, “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it” (Gen 18:32). Imagine the mercy of God that will be poured out on our world when we intercede for other souls from hearts that are filled with divine grace and love. There is so much evil in our families, in our church, and in our world simply because the true value of prayer has been lost to many of us.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must stop deceiving ourselves by claiming that we do not pray because we do not have the time to do so. We simply don’t value prayer as we should.

There are two things that we must do. Let us first beg our Lord Jesus Christ to instill in our minds and hearts the true value of prayer so that we can pray always without losing hope. Ours too must be the petition of Jesus’ disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.” He will surely teach us first the value of prayer as He did throughout the scriptures.

Then we must be ready to keep on praying even if we do not get what we are asking for. Let us pray using all the means at our disposal. We can pray the Holy Rosary, read and meditate on the word of God, use prayer books, or just be still in the presence of God in the Eucharist. We can also pray alone, with the family, with friends, in the Church at Mass, etc. Let us pray in all our moods and conditions. In short, pray as you can and in every place and time.

If we do not stop praying, God will surely give us what we need the most in this life – His Holy Spirit, the Giver of all gifts. He assures us of this gift of His Spirit, “How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”(Lk 11:13) The Holy Spirit will teach us to pray and enlighten us on the true value of prayer. This same Spirit will give us inner joy, hope, and strength to journey into the kingdom of God if only we remember the value of prayer and never stop praying.

Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!

Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash

By

Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations' Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at  www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.

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