Lifestyle and Mindset Issues That Hinder Prayer

See the previous post in this blog series here.

The following is an excerpt from The Kingdom Unleashed Sampler. Download this free eBook here.

Another barrier to prayer is lifestyle: we are simply too busy. Churches are built around programs that keep us doing things, and individually we have so much going on that we do not have time to pray. Or so we think. Martin Luther reportedly said that he was so busy that he could not possibly get everything done without taking at least two hours a day to pray. He knew something that we have forgotten.

Our busyness is connected to a cultural bias toward acting to make things happen. Our culture loves slogans and aphorisms such as “God helps those who help themselves” or “if it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” We know in our minds that these notions are not scriptural, yet too often our actions don’t line up with that thinking. Our cultural ideal is to be strong, independent, and self-reliant. Yet the Bible tells us that we are strong when we are weak, that we are dependent on God and on one another, that we can do nothing apart from Jesus. Churches hold classes and seminars on personal evangelism, they encourage people to invite their friends to church, but they rarely hold prayer meetings focused on disciple making and growth of the Kingdom. Yet Jesus tells the disciples not to try to spread the Gospel without waiting first for the Holy Spirit, and every major endeavor in the Gospels and Acts is preceded by deep and intense prayer. In other words, if we want to move the church forward, the critical action that we must take is prayer.

This is an excerpt from The Kingdom Unleashed Sampler. Download this free eBook here.

Yet another barrier is a lack of mental discipline. Our fast-paced culture and the constant availability of the Internet, often right in our pockets, have so affected our minds that our attention span has shrunken from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015—and the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds! We can, of course, focus longer on things that truly captivate our attention, but unfortunately, it seems prayer is not one of them. It is thus difficult for us to manage anything beyond short prayers—unlike our brothers and sisters in the Global South who often spend all night in prayer.

Another area where we lack discipline is in the practice of fasting. Fasting is closely associated with prayer, biblically, historically, and currently in the Global South, yet it is rare to find Christians in the Global North who fast. We do not understand what fasting is supposed to accomplish since we do not see a close connection between body and spirit. And in a consumerist culture like ours, self-denial seems strange, alarming, and unhealthy.

The core element behind these barriers to prayer is this: we recognize in principle that God can answer prayer, but we do not believe in practice that He does so regularly, if at all. If we did believe in prayer, we would do it more.

Part of the reason for this is the materialistic mindset. The physical world of fact is separate and distinct from the world of the spirit according to this false worldview, and consequently, it is hard for us to see how praying can produce change in the physical realm. We know intellectually that God can make things happen in the physical world, but we do not expect Him to.

Psychologically, we also have to deal with the problem of unanswered prayer (or, more precisely, prayer that God answers with a “no” or a “wait”). People fear to pray specific prayers because too often God has not granted us that for which we asked. We provide ourselves with cover in these situations by making sure that we pray “if it be Your will,” but we do not believe or trust that God will give us what we ask. Our prayers seem ineffective, which makes us less inclined to pray, preferring instead to act.

The effect of all this is that, even in our discipleship programs, we tend to discount prayer. We offer regular classes on the Bible and train people to lead small group Bible studies, yet most churches have little if any teaching on how to pray. When we do pray, our prayers tend to be so vague that we cannot really say with certainty whether God actually answered them, or whether things would have worked out the same way even without prayer or divine intervention. Often this vagueness is put in spiritual language—bless so-and-so—without any concrete idea of what blessing would look like.

Prayer is the lifeblood of movements. The church in the Global North does not rely on prayer, and if behavior is any indication, it does not believe in it, either. If we are going to see movements in the Global North, we will need to see a new, ongoing commitment to serious, intense, persistent prayer for God to open heaven, to raise up disciple makers and church planters, to guide us to His people of peace, and to empower our work. Without that, there will be no movements and the church will continue its slow, inexorable decline into irrelevance in Global North culture.


This is an excerpt from The Kingdom Unleashed Sampler. Download this free eBook here.

Order the Full-Length Book Here.


JERRY TROUSDALE and his wife Gayle were missionaries among a Muslim people group in Africa. He pastored two mission sending churches, co-founded Final Command Ministries, and since 2005, has been Director of International Ministries for New Generations.  He is also the author of best-selling book Miraculous Movements.

GLENN SUNSHINE is a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University, a senior fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the founder and president of Every Square Inch Ministries. He is an award-winning author, and has taught seminars on worldview, church history, and theology across the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.

GREGORY C. BENOIT brought his rich background in journalism, theology, and Christian publishing to this project.

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