Prayer

When Prayer Feels Counterproductive

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What do you do when your prayers feel ineffective?

Maybe you’ve had this problem. Maybe you haven’t.

I’ll be honest. In my time as a Christian, there have been moments of doubt as to the productiveness of praying because the enemy kicked me back down as soon as I stood up to fight.

Imagine having an hour of exceptionally awesome prayer time with the Lord. You feel ready to face the day. You’ve asked for additional patience to handle that strong-willed kid (or difficult co-worker, or <fill in the blank>…), your heart is humming with the peace of his presence…

…and then you open the bedroom door…

…and it all…

…goes…

…sideways!

  • That patience you just prayed for? Your tween pushes it to the breaking point.
  • That peace you were feeling? It just exploded along with the half-dozen eggs your three-year-old dropped on the tile.
  • That readiness you felt when you got up off your knees? It’s still on the floor somewhere covered by drag marks from the sloths you hauled into the car.

On days like this we might be tempted to doubt the Lord. The enemy hits you where it hurts as though he had some reconnaissance of your weak points. Our faith shrinks to the size of an atom. Forget mustard seeds...

It’s in these moments when we start to wonder, “Why do I even bother praying if things are just going to get harder?” That’s exactly what the enemy wants you to think. Like a terrorist attack, such difficulties are designed to stop you from doing the very thing you need to be doing. Prayer is one of our most powerful tools against the enemy and it really ticks him off when we use it. 

So how do we crush these nagging doubts when the enemy is hitting you with a D-Day-Level offensive?

#1: Hold up your shield.

God gave us spiritual armor and He expects us to wear it. That shield of faith is not going to do much protecting if it is leaning against a wall. Ephesians 6.16 says this shield will extinguish all the fiery darts of the wicked one. If we aren’t holding up that shield, those nagging doubts from Satan’s frontal assault are going to stop us from walking (and talking) with God.

It’s critical to cling to what you know about God.

  • He is faithful.
  • He is powerful.
  • He loves us.
  • Every good and perfect gift comes from Him.
  • He never allows us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear.

…And so much more.

Shields up, Scotty.

#2: You’ve got a weapon. Use it already!

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus whipped out his sword and cut the devil into little pieces, right?

Not in the literal sense.

In a figurative sense, Jesus took the scriptures—the sword of the Spirit—and sliced up every single temptation with three critical words:

It. Is. Written.

Whenever you’re tempted to believe the lie that the Lord has stopped his ears to your prayer, follow Jesus’ example. What do we know about God? What does He tell us about Himself in His Word?

Commit these verses to memory. You’re gonna need ’em:

Hebrews 13.5: I will never leave you nor forsake you

1 John 5.14-15: And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

1 Peter 5.6-7Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Psalm 138:8: The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

A sword is a tool for both offense and defense. Don’t keep your sword neatly sheathed. Pull it out and prepare to defend yourself.

#3: Call for Backup!

My spouse used to work in law enforcement, and one of the final pieces of equipment tested before going out on the road was the radio. In order to stay alive, the functioning of that radio was essential. An officer never knew on what day or at what time a crisis would hit, but when it struck, that radio was their lifeline.

Think of prayer like a cop’s radio. The Bible advises us to pray without ceasing. In other words, pray anytime and all the time! Do not limit yourself to the morning or the evening or the dinner table.

Consider Nehemiah. Nehemiah prayed and fasted before presenting himself to King Artexerxes for his usual cupbearer duties. As he stood before the king and queen, the king noticed there was a change in Nehemiah and asked what was wrong. Nehemiah told the king of the news that had distressed him, and the king asked, “What are you requesting?” The text says, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.”

It does not tell us that he covered his head, dropped to his knees, and launched into a formal dissertation to the Lord. It appears to be more of an internal, unspoken prayer—like a banker pressing the red button under the counter. This was Nehemiah’s second “recorded” prayer and we don’t even know exactly what he said. All we know is that he prayed before speaking.

Why do we think we should operate any differently?

When difficulty is screaming in our face, it’s time to press the red button, if you will. Raise those internal distress signals to the Lord, plead with Him to guard our lips…

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…(and facial expression)s…

…and grant us wisdom.

Is your radio working?

 


Being blessed as we are to live in a period of relative prosperity and peace, it’s easy to forget that we are always surrounded by spiritual warfare. Satan wants to take us down and shut us up, and he will use every lie in his arsenal to do it.

Are we going to heed his lies or listen to God’s voice of truth?

Will we choose to play into the enemy’s hand or will we dig in and fight back?

What do you do when prayer seems counterproductive??

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10 thoughts on “When Prayer Feels Counterproductive

  1. A friend once asked me how to make prayer work. I ended up writing a whole book about why prayer doesn’t “work.” Prayer is conversation with a Father who loves us and with a Redeemer who gave his life for us. God already knows everything about me, but he wants to hear from me. I do not measure the success of my prayers by how I feel or by how many of my requests have been granted. I measure my prayers by the awesome privilege of communicating with the Lord of the universe, realizing that he was paying attention to me, unworthy though I am. J.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and I think we need to remember that God answers us in the way a father does. Sometimes we don’t always understand the answer, but is always to fulfill His good purpose. He knows what is good for us better than we do, so gauging “success” on whether we “get what we want” is fallible. We have to trust that he hears us, he cares, and he is working even though we may not see it.

      Liked by 1 person

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