When Are You Most LIkely to Pray?

The answer is always the same. And it’s always wrong…kind of. Let me explain. I often ask people when they are most likely to pray or when they are genuinely drawn to pray rather than praying as an act of discipline or duty. After a few moments of reflection people usually answer something like: “I’m most likely to pray when I’m in a difficult situation” or “I’m drawn to pray when I’m desperate for help.”

These answers are a bit like the saying, “There’s no atheists in foxholes” meaning of course that in times of need everyone (even would be atheists) looks to God for help. We’ve seen that recently in Joplin where it seems that everyone called on God during the tornado. Either Joplin has a higher percentage of Christians than other places or it just illustrates the idea that danger encourages people to call on God.

But the above answers just aren’t true. We don’t pray when we are desperate for help. We pray when we FEEL desperate for help. We don’t pray when we are in a difficult situation. We pray when we KNOW we are in a difficult situation.

Adding just one word changes everything. The reality is that we are always in great need. We are always desperate for help in one way or another. But we rarely have any great sense of our need and therefore we rarely drawn to pray.

Example: Back in 2004 The Crossing faced the reality that we were no longer going to be able to meet in Rock Bridge High School’s Performing Arts Center. That meant that a relatively young church had to raise a lot of money in a short period of time or else see the church come to an end because of the lack of a facility to meet in. Several guys responded by gathering to pray in the mornings and ask God to provide the resources the church needed.

As soon as the money came in we stopped praying. Why? Was it because the church no longer had needs? No, of course not. We stopped our early morning prayer meetings because we didn’t feel the same sense of desperation and need that we had felt before. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, the inescapable truth is that once the finances for a new building had come in we thought we could handle the rest on our own.

The same is true in my personal life. I pray when I know or feel my need for God’s help, mercy, grace, protection, provision, power, etc… The truth is that I need those things all the time but I rarely have an accurate sense of my need. Most of the time I think that I can handle things on my own.

I think that’s why I found something Jesus says twice in John 5 so startling.

John 5:19: Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself…”

John 5:30: “By myself I can do nothing…”

If Jesus can do nothing by himself but must depend on everything from the Father, then where does that leave me? I have to admit that when I said aloud, “By myself I can do nothing,” it sounded odd. That’s sure not how I think or live. I live as if I can do lots of things by myself. So in order to try to make sense out of this phrase I put some specifics in for the word “nothing.”

By myself I can’t parent. By myself I can’t love my wife. By myself I can’t have this hard conversation I need to have with another person. By myself I can’t make a good decision. By myself I can’t understand my Bible. By myself I can’t lead my small group. By myself I can’t make good choices. By myself I can’t respond to criticism in the right way.

All that sounds weird doesn’t it? At least it does to me. But Jesus said, “By myself I can do nothing.” I’ve tried to remind myself throughout the day that I can’t do anything apart from Jesus (John 15:5). And to some extent it has made me KNOW and FEEL my great need for God to be God–to move, show up, intervene, extend grace, and come through in ways that only God can. All of this has led me to pray more. No, not near as much as I should, but a little bit more.

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