Praying doesn’t just improve things. It also prevents things. All sorts of problems happen because we don’t pray. All sorts of blessings, surprises, opportunities and accomplishments don’t happen because we don’t pray enough, or correctly, or at all. If we truly understood the power of our prayers, we would pray much, much more. Here are some ways that we miss out on all that God has for us.
10 Ways We Miss Out by Under-Praying
1. Not praying at all about something. Sometimes we think that God can’t be bothered with details. The opposite is true: God, as a creative being, appreciates our attention to detail. His concern for variety amazes anyone who has looked under a microscope or visited a garden in full-flower. God cares about much more than we think He does. If it concerns us, we can bring it to Him.
Other times, we are busy and forget to pray about certain things. Or we think everything is going well, so it doesn’t occur to us to pray. Or we may think that we are asking too much of God. In reality, we need to pray when things are bad, and when they are good. Philippians 4:6 tells us what to pray about. It says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” God clearly wants to hear concerns, dreams and requests, in every situation. Most of us simply need to pray about more things.
2. Having little faith that our prayer will be answered. Prayer is not reading a wishlist out loud to God. It is a conversation with our Heavenly Father. If we’re honest, we sometimes pray something like this, “God, if it’s not too much trouble, I know you probably won’t do this, but if it’s your will, even though I don’t deserve this, maybe, will you provide money for the car I need to get to work?” This is not a prayer of faith.
Prayer is not reading a wishlist out loud to God.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
3. Praying too small. God sometimes says “No.” Sometimes. But many of us pray like God is unlikely to answer our prayers more than sometimes, especially if we ask for too much. We may subconsciously “bargain” with God by asking for less than our heart’s desires, thinking He is more likely to come through if we pare down our request. We pray, believing we are asking too much and God will say “No” to anything more.
We oftentimes don’t need to settle. Pray big and see what God does.
4. Not persisting in prayer. When our prayers aren’t answered immediately, or in a short period of time, we can become discouraged and give up too soon. We are so prone to being discouraged as we wait on the Lord that Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow with this introduction;
"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We are told to keep praying while we wait. Jesus tells a story where persistence brings victory. We may not know when victory is around the corner. We should not give up.
5. Praying vaguely. In corporate prayer, we will sometimes hear very broad prayers. It almost seems like we are afraid to tell God what to do; “God, please help our church to reach people, In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
God has given you burdens for certain prayer needs, and He’s given you the task to specifically pray for certain needs.
Actually, God has given us brains and gifts and is quite a sophisticated guy. Sophisticated prayers that demonstrate forethought and strategy are often provoked by ideas that the Holy Spirit may have, in fact, given us. God responds to specific requests. It’s likely that He has given you burdens for certain prayer needs, and He’s given you the task to specifically pray for certain needs. It’s good to pray for the salvation of a whole country, or a whole city, but to pray for the people on a specific street is even more powerful. Armed with actual names, our prayers becomes arrows that hit specific marks.
Praying specifically makes a big difference in our recognizing answered prayers. A local city began a designated street prayer initiative and the crime rate dropped dramatically. If a prayer has not been answered, try being more specific with God. Then when the prayer is answered, you will see how powerful your individual prayers are. This may cause you to consider the weight of the prayers that you would otherwise not have prayed. Answered prayer spurs more prayer. This is a beautiful thing.
6. Praying only for symptoms, not roots to problems. When we pray for people, we sometimes focus only the current situation. Our prayers are S.O.S. calls to God in a desperate moment. This is not bad in itself, but we sometimes forget to pray for what led up to the situation.
An example would be our prayers for a prodigal son or daughter. We will ask for God to break an addiction, or to provide housing and safety. It’s also often important to go back in time and to pray for the situations that led up to the problem: hurts, mistakes, broken relationships, disappointments.
When the root cause is dealt with and healed, chronic problems and symptoms will often resolve. Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” When we add prayers regarding forgiveness, restoration and hope, we often see amazing change and answered prayers.
It’s often important to go back in time and to pray for the situations that led up to the problem.
If the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective, then the prayers of many righteous people are very powerful and effective! Prayer is an important part of community. It’s how we get to know one another and encourage one another. Don’t be concerned about asking for too much prayer. The New Testament encourages more prayer, not rationed prayer. It’s awesome to share in prayer victories together and to praise God, in unity, for His goodness.
8. Not listening to the Holy Spirit as we pray. One of the Holy Spirit’s big jobs is guiding us as we pray. In John 16:13, Jesus says, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” As we pray, ideas and ways to pray come into our minds.
James 5:13 tells us that the answer to trouble is prayer. It says, straight out, "Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray." The process of praying invites the Holy Spirit in to lead us to solutions to our problems. It's a misconception to think that if we got ourselves into a problem, then we need to get ourselves out. Praying is admitting that we need God. Humility leads to being lifted up (see James 4:10).
One of the other things the Holy Spirit does is convict us of our waywardness and sin. James 4:3 talks about one of the reasons why we don’t see our prayers answered. It says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
If we are in tune with the Holy Spirit, He will nudge us when we are out of line. A prayer with wrong motives need not be prayed. It’s a waste of time. Such boldness and presumption can harden our hearts over time, so that we begin to pray unapologetically selfish prayers. Prayers should not be shopping lists for God. He won’t deliver the goods when they are. The Holy Spirit will save us trouble when we submit to His loving concern and guidance.
If we are in tune with the Holy Spirit, He will nudge us when we are out of line.
“God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?”
Jesus prayed Scripture, and we should, too. If you need provision, for example, let God know that you trust Him and are relying on Him to come through. Pray, “Lord, we need to pay the rent. You say in Philippians 4:19 that 'my God will meet all my needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.' Thank you for this promise. Thank you that you are providing my needs even as I pray this. Amen.” Our familiarity with Scripture becomes a weapon against discouragement when we can quote Scripture as promises on which we can depend.
The Greek word for well used here is sózó, which means more than just physically healed, like the other nine lepers.
Jesus was expecting all ten of the men to have returned to give proper thanks for the life-changing free gift of physical healing. When Jesus blesses the one man who did return, He uses the Greek word for well, which is sózó. It means more than just physically healed, as the other nine men were. Sózó includes physical healing, but also means to save, preserve, rescue. The implication is that Jesus bestowed the blessing of complete physical, spiritual and emotional wholeness and wellness to the one and only man who praised and thanked God.
When we praise and worship God in thanksgiving, He showers more than we ask on us. When we receive from Him and go on our merry way, like the nine lepers did, we miss out on the additional blessings that God has for us.
God wants to give us so much more than we ask from Him! He wants to interact in fellowship and communion with us. We wants to be our first resort, not our last resort. In Jeremiah 29:12, God is calling His people to reestablish a relationship with Him. He says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” God wants our attention and devotion. When our prayers become words of trust and expectation, we will not be disappointed. Our Father is loving and good and faithful, and He is deserving of our praise! Don't miss out.