When the Praying Gets Tough, the Tough Get Praying

I get worn out pretty easily when it comes to prayer. When I first start praying for something, I’m all business. I’m fervent and passionate and totally in faith. I’m going to take heaven by storm. Nothing can stop me from getting what I want. I know that God can and will give me what I ask for.

But as time goes by and my prayer goes unanswered, my faith starts to wane and my passion begins to subside. I don’t pray as frequently or as zealously. I used to pray for this thing every single day, but now I only pray for it once a week. Then once a month. Then just every so often.

Why does this happen to me? Why do I peter out so quickly in prayer?

I think there are a number of reasons. I lack the discipline to keep praying for a long period of time. I also lack the necessary faith. When I don’t see God move quickly, I assume that he won’t move at all, which is a big mistake.

In Luke 11:9-10, Jesus speaks against the lethargy that so quickly overtakes me. He says:

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Do you notice how Jesus uses words that increase in intensity? He starts with asking, which is a simple, relatively passive action. Just ask. Then he moves to seeking, which involves actively looking for something. Finally, he mentions knocking, which involves beating your hand on a door again and again until it is opened.

Over time our prayers tend to decrease in intensity. Jesus tells us that as time passes, our prayers should actually increase in intensity. The longer that God delays, the harder we should pray. We shouldn’t automatically assume that a delayed answer means no answer at all.

We don’t usually know why God doesn’t answer our prayers immediately. What we do know is that he is good, wise, and faithful, and that he loves to give us good things. So keep asking, seeking, and knocking. Don’t let time and laziness take the edge off your prayers. As time passes, pray with even more passion and intensity.

When the praying gets tough, get praying.

  • http://www.danielmajors.com thehmblsearcher

    Love it man. This really shows how really opposite our spiritual nature needs to be to our human nature. I get the same way, I fade out over time, and get frustrated and even stop talking to Him after a bit, because like a child I feel hurt I didn't get my way, but that illustration of Luke 11:9-10 says so much. Every adjective in there is active! There is no passive when it comes to our faith! Thanks for this really great reminder.

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      You're welcome! I tend to get discouraged easily in prayer too, and I need to regularly be reminded of these truths.

  • Violet

    I'm finding that prayer is more about bringing me into a frame of mind to see things from God's perspective, rather than getting what I originally wanted (my perspective). Sometimes that takes a very long time, but the resultant peace and encouragement to keep on asking, seeking, knocking gives me a sweet anticipation of His perfect answer.

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Yes, so often when we pray God changes our desires to be more in line with him.

  • http://www.thethingoftheday.blogspot.com Rhonda

    Thank you so much for these past several posts. This is an area where not only myself, but many young adults around me, are struggling with on a daily basis. I guess the struggle is in seeing some churches who persist in prayer and proclaim that God will heal a person and He chooses not to and then that church has no answer for it or any guidance for the people. Thus, many people looking in at that church become afraid to pray or become confused about prayer and it's meaning. I mean, why pray if you have seen that God might not answer the prayer you prayed in the utmost faith? I have also heard/seen the flip side of the coin where many churches who are big into praying for healing look down upon churches who don't push it as much but try to teach a balanced view of prayer… My struggle is that when you teach a balanced view it is easy to become lukewarm and one of little faith when you pray. You no longer pray truly expecting a miracle… It must be another one of those areas in the Bible that is not an "either/or" but a "both/and", maybe?

    While I was thinking about this I came across this quote that highlights the need to be persistent in prayer and I think your blog did a good job of showing the need to not only pray expecting but to pray continually and for as long as it takes… God's ways are no our ways and His timing is not our timing…

    “One day George Mueller began praying for five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Mueller persevered in prayer until his death for the fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up hoping that he would accept Christ! His faith was rewarded, for soon after Mueller’s funeral the last one was saved.”


    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Thanks for these comments Rhonda. It is very easy to get discouraged in prayer when we don't see an answer right away. We need to be reminded that God answers prayers, but also that we need to pray and pray and pray.

  • Rhonda

    p.s. u might be interested in this link to really good prayer quotes :)


  • Petra Hefner

    Not only do my prayers tend to decrease, I become terribly tempted to throw both my hands up! But Luke 18:1-8 jumped out at me today and latched on! Blessings!

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Thanks Petra!

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  • Elaine

    When the Lord doesn't answer as I would like or in the time frame I would like, I can become not only lazy & frustrated but angry. I can be much like my children were when they were toddlers and didn't understand why their dad made them wait, gave them something different than what they had asked for, or sometimes just said, "No." But in most cases, what their father had for them was better than what they had asked for – they didn't always appreciate it then, but over time, they've learned that Dad has their best interests at heart. What our Father in heaven has for us is always good and right.
    Thanks for the encouragement, Stephen! The Lord is using these last posts on prayer to grow my faith – I appreciate it.

  • http://twitter.com/Nicolette_G @Nicolette_G

    Really helped me! cause sometimes I feel like I'm the only one going through this. When I feel like that, there is a phrase (from Narnia) that always makes me feel better: "But please, please – won't you – can't you give me something that will cure Mother?' Up till then he had been looking at the Lion's great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion's eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

    Sometimes we're so worried looking at our problems instead of looking at God's face, but then we become desperate, and when we're so desperate we gaze into His magnificent face, we see that He longs to please us! Maybe He's just delaying our requests because He wants to spend more time with us as His children.

  • Kathy

    I always have to remind myself that when I am being tempted to think God isn't answering my prayer, what He is really saying is that His timing is different than mine, and His ways are infinitely better than mine. If I'm not getting something that I asked for, that only means God has better for me, and I need to trust in that. I am so comforted to know that He is sovereign, that He works 24/7 (He slumbers not nor sleeps), that His ways are perfect, and that He loves me so much He wants to conform me to the image of His Son.