9 Reasons Why Church Leaders Struggle With Prayer

9 Reasons Why Church Leaders Struggle With Prayer
Chuck Lawless


John, a leader in church I assisted as a consultant, admitted to me what I’d heard before from seminary
students and church leaders alike: “Dr. Lawless, I don’t always pray like I should. I know better, but prayer
isn’t easy.” I’ve heard something similar so many times that I’ve begun asking for more details. These findings are anecdotal, but here are my general conclusions about  why church leaders struggle with prayer.

1. Leaders are “fixers” by nature. Most leaders don’t  readily admit a need for help. Instead, we are problem
solvers who seek solutions, attempt answers, and try  again if the first answer doesn’t work. Indeed, our
followers expect leaders to come up with solutions. Our  persistence and tenacity to do so – both good traits in  themselves – sometimes push prayer to a last resort  option.

2. We never learned how to pray. Churches make this  mistake with most spiritual disciplines: we tell
believers what to do, but don’t teach them how to do it. “Pray. Pray. You must pray,” we proclaim. When we tell  but don’t teach, though, we set believers up for  discouragement and failure. If leaders are honest, we’ll
admit that we, too, have much to learn about how to  pray.

3. Prayer has become more about ritual than about  relationship. This reason relates directly to the
previous one. We know we should pray, even if we don’t  know how, so we go through the motions of prayer. It is  not a relationship with a living Lord that calls us to  prayer; it is instead only religious ritual. Ritual  seldom leads to a consistent, vibrant prayer life

4. Prayerlessness can be hidden. No one in our church  needs to know about this struggle. We can talk about  prayer, teach about prayer, write about prayer, and even  lead corporately in prayer – all without anyone knowing  that personal prayer is sporadic at best. This kind of  hiddenness is an enemy of heartfelt prayer.

5. We don’t really believe prayer works. Sure, we teach  otherwise about prayer. No church leader I know would  teach that prayer is ineffective. Nevertheless, our  prayer life often suggests otherwise. Sometimes we don’t  pray at all. When we do pray, we’re too often surprised  when God does respond. Surprise is one indicator we’re  not convinced about the power of prayer.

6. We have never been broken under God’s hand. The  apostle Paul, who was a leader extraordinaire, learned  the power of strength in weakness (2 Cor. 12:7-10).  Faced with a thorn in the flesh, he pleaded with God to  remove it. God instead sovereignly used the thorn to  weaken the apostle, who experienced God’s strength at  his weakest moments. It is in our weakness that we learn  how to pray, but leaders naturally fight against  weakness.

7. Leaders read the Word in a one-sided way. Leaders are  often teachers who read the Word for information  transmission more than life transformation. When we  approach the Word that way, we miss the opportunity to  be in dialogue with God. Our Bible reading – even when  preparing for teaching or preaching – should bring us to  praise, confession, and obedience. It should lead us  into prayerful conversation with God.

8. Some leaders have simply lost hope. It happens.  Church leaders who prayed more consistently in the past  sometimes lose hope under the weight of church conflict,  family struggles, or health concerns. Unanswered prayer  leads to faithlessness, which leads to prayerlessness.

9. We miss the gospel focus on the prayer life of Jesus.  I love the four Gospels, but I admit to reading them for  many years without meditating on Jesus’ prayer life. A  seminary professor challenged me to read the Gospel of  Luke with this focus in mind, and my prayer life has  never been the same.

In fact, church leader, I give you that same challenge.

In your quiet time this week, read those texts.

Note how  Jesus prayed.

Listen to His teachings.

Think deeply about the Word.

Then, respond to Him in prayer.

Take the  first step toward being a praying church leader.

Luke 3:21-22; 4:42 (cf. Mark 1:35); 5:15-16; 6:12-13;  6:27-28; 9:16, 18, 28-29; 10:1-2, 21; 11:1-13; 18:1-8,
9-14; 19:45-46; 20:45-47; 21:36; 22:17-19, 31-32, 39-46;  23:33-34, 46; 24:30, 50-51.

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of  Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at
Southeastern Seminary.

The above article, “9 Reasons Why Church Leaders  Struggle with Prayer,” is written by Chuck Lawless. The  article was excerpted from www.pastors.com web site,  July 23, 2013.

The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However,  this material may be freely used for personal study or  research purposes.