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Leadership JournalFall 1994

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Why People Don't Pray



My booth at Denny's was turning into a confession booth. Once a week I would meet over breakfast with David Wall, a psychologist friend, and more often than not, find myself confessing to yet another sparse week of personal prayer and Bible reading.

I felt like a phony. I preached, taught classes, and instructed new members on the necessity of a daily quiet time, yet my own spiritual life was impoverished. Why was I so consistently inconsistent in my personal devotions?

FOUR DIAGNOSTIC QUESTIONS

David suggested I examine why I was avoiding devotions. Social psychologists, he explained, say there are four major factors under girding any behavior. Consciously or subconsciously, people weigh these factors when embracing or resisting an activity. These four factors can be stated in question form.

Will it work for me?

For years Susan had kept her "daily appointment with God." Then her 10-year-old son was hit by a car. After hanging on for two weeks, he died. Susan now says, "What's the use of praying? I prayed harder in those two weeks than in my whole life, but Timmy still died!"

Susan no longer has confidence that prayer makes a difference. Her outcome expectations have been shaken. She knows how to pray but expects nothing to come from it.

How can Susan be helped? Since her prayer problems center on expectations, Susan needs guidance to see if what she expects prayer to accomplish is realistic and biblical. She might find, for example, that she has taken one aspect of prayer, petition, and isolated it from others, such as submission, intimacy, and comfort (as in Jesus' prayer in the Garden).

Can I do it?

Frank became a Christian as an adult. He was enthusiastic about his faith, but when his pastor urged him to read the Bible each day, ...



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