Prayer? No Thanks!


A quick observation…

In the course of the 3.5 years Cerulean Sanctum’s been alive, I’ve publicly offered to pray for my readers at least two dozen times. praying.jpgAbout specific issues I posted on, general needs—whatever.

To my amazement, I would say less than a dozen people have taken me up on that offer. Curiously, of those who have, the majority are not Americans.
Me? Hey, anyone who wants to pray for me, please do! I’ll take all the prayer I can get. The thought that someone out there is praying for me means all the world to me.

So I’m amazed at the reticence of others to take me up on my offer to pray for them.

I’ve written previously that I believe that most of the world’s people are in hell already because they have no prayer covering, no born-again Christian praying for them.  I’m positive that even though they may not be Christians, those folks would embrace an offer from another person to pray for them.

So why is a Christian so reluctant to take another Christian up on a no-strings-attached offer of prayer?

Thoughts on this phenomenon?

32 thoughts on “Prayer? No Thanks!

  1. Noah

    Unfortunately, I think that many times offers of prayer are not truly “no strings attached.” I’ve found that in many churches, especially evangelical ones, taking prayer requests becomes an excuse to gossip. People become proud with all the information they know about others and are not discerning with whom they share that information. Although I agree that Christians do not pray nearly as often as we should, I also think it has gotten to the point where people are hesitant to open up to anyone that hasn’t already proven themselves trustworthy with a personal prayer request.

  2. I wonder if it’s connected to the same problem many churches have. Look at any church bulletin and the majority of prayer requests are for physical ailments. Jane is dying of cancer, Rick has a broken leg, Susie’s sister is having heart surgery…etc, etc. And sure, if it was me, or my husband/child/parent/sibling/best friend, I’d want prayer too! But it’s discouraging when it seems that’s ALL we pray for. These things are temporal! Why aren’t we praying fervently for marriages…for children walking in disobedience to God…for lost neighbors…for persistent sin struggles?

    Maybe it’s partly because we’re not willing to get that vulnerable with our fellow Christians. It’s easy for me to say, “Please pray for my friend whose baby is in the hospital.” It’s much harder to say, “Please pray for me because I’m really struggling with X and Y and I have a lot of anxiety about Z. God feels silent.”

    I suspect the same thing is happening here. You offer prayer, and if people don’t have a “big thing” going on (a friend dying, whatever) they don’t want to post the personal struggle requests that make them vulnerable. Why are we so afraid of the vulnerability? That’s another post altogether…perhaps for the reasons above, that we’ve been burned before? Or perhaps it’s simply pride, and fear of man–our security is in others’ image of us, not in the gospel.

    Another thought–it’s hard for us to persevere in prayer. The personal struggle requests–as well as the requests for lost family members or whomever–tend to be long term, ongoing issues. Personally, I am even now finding it hard to keep praying the same prayers day after day, month after month, with no answers. It’s pathetic–I’m weak in the flesh–but it’s hard. So maybe we also hesitate to bring those “same old things” to the request table again.

    Just my $.02.

    • Amy,

      Very good insights. For those who have been burned by the Church in the past by being vulnerable, nothing seems more vulnerable than asking for prayer for a vulnerable need.

      I also believe that many Christians truly don’t believe that prayer accomplishes anything.

  3. Adding to the two posts above, simple lack of belief in God. Oh, I know people say they believe in God, but when push comes to shove, and the issues begin teetering over into serious, do people believe in a God who listens and answers with real help? Is the reason that people ask for prayer for physical issues really because they believe that by advertising to others via a prayer request that those others will chip in? But other people can’t help with spiritual issues, can they? So we remain silent.

    By actually offering to pray for others, you challenge their belief.

    • David,

      We are so scientific in the West, aren’t we? Prayer flies in the face of science. Science’s promise that what you see is the truth doesn’t mesh well with the belief in a Kingdom that is both now and not yet, here and yet invisible.

      I think we prefer science. This explains why all the miracles end up in far corner of the earth where people still believe something besides science.

      “And he could do no miracles because of their unbelief.”

      • “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”

        Such a simple thing, isn’t it? But James continues:

        “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

        One day we’ll stand in front of Christ and face the realization of our doubt. Something that our inability to share our needs with one another is only a symptom of:

        “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

    • Dan sez:
      “Oh, I know people say they believe in God, but when push comes to shove, and the issues begin teetering over into serious, do people believe in a God who listens and answers with real help?”

      Dan, when we pray at our Bible studies and Prayer meetings, we never pray for the truly miraculous. When we pray for the truly sick, we pray for The Lord to guide the surgeon’s skill, or a quick recovery. But we never pray for a truly devine, and miraculous intervention from God such as what occurs in The Gospels and Acts. Listen to the praise reports when people respond to calls of answered prayers. They go something like this: “I got a job today, thank God! My mother is slowly recovering, keep praying”, and the like. But these relatively trivial answers to prayer happen to the ungodly heathen with the same frequency. Where are the truly miraculous and supernatural answers to prayer as promised in Acts? Paul healed with a swipe of his cloth, but Speaking as a Christian, if somebody were to claim that they prayed with great faith and healed a blind man miraculously and on the spot, a true miracle of God, I confess I would be hard pressed to believe them.
      Because we never see miracles, we have been conditioned to pray only for those things which really require no faith at all in the first place. I think it is because deep down inside, even though as Christians we are afraid to admit it, deep down we just don’t believe in miracles.

  4. Ronni

    You know I’m on our church’s prayer ministry team and I stand up there in the front after services at times and maybe 3 people come up for prayer…out of 1000. I KNOW more people need prayer than that. It just makes me shake my head.

    Dan, if you want to pray for me, please do! Email me and we can share needs… I have a few! I’d be happy to pray for you!

  5. Amy,

    The prayer bulletin in my church does include requests for prayer for failing marriages, wayward children, lost neighbors and co-workers, and persistent struggles though I would agree with you that prayer for physical ailments may appear to be in the majority. I think that serious physical ailment makes us confront a reality over which we suddenly realize we really have no control and instinctively we find a need to turn to God in prayer. I think I should (or we should) to extend this same mindset to all aspects of our lives.

    I pick up my Church’s prayer bulletin and I try to get into work very early at least one day of the week and spend time praying for the individuals. I have not been faithful in doing this but I always find myself humbled when I do this and strangely I find my own needs being met when I do this.

    Dan Edelen,

    Considering that I visit your blog almost daily, I should be praying for you the same (daily) and I “hope” to be doing so from now on. And feel free to pray for me too anytime. Thanks as always for your labor on this blog


    • Robbo,

      Medical science offers the most dramatic promises, yet it also can make us feel the most helpless when it fails. You’re right. We learn that we have no control.

      People who have so many things think they got them by their own hand, but when the fire comes and burns the house down, suddenly you’re left realizing that someone else is in charge. You can serve the Lord or serve the Enemy. Sometimes we confuse the two, don’t we?

  6. Your observation is valid. Here’s some ideas why:

    1) There is the need for confidentiality that people are rightly concerned about. There have been too many times that my own juicy tidbits have been discovered because of a lack of confidentiality.
    2) I believe it speaks of widespread individualism. We live like we don’t need each other. We live like we’re not connected as Christ’s body.
    3) There is little spiritual desire in the American church as a whole. We don’t need anything so we don’t pray. Unless our body is falling apart.
    4) Many do not believe that prayer does much. If we believed that God answered prayer I think you’d see more people praying.

    Those aren’t answers, just reasons. Thanks Dan.

    • Jeff,

      1. Sadly, yes.
      2. Our island mentality and our American Dream bootsrapping mentality work together to make us think we did it all on our own and no one else made a difference in our success. Sad.
      3. I think people do have spiritual desire, but many find they can’t slow life down enough to make it happen. If I get up for work at 5:30 AM and don’t get home till 7:00 OM, what time do I have to “seek first the Kingdom”?
      4. Too many Christians disdain the supernatural in their effort to prop up misbegotten theology. As we saw in Jesus’ ministry in his home town, the people didn’t believe so He could do no miracles there. Sounds familiar.

  7. I have observed the following on numerous occasions: When someone asks for prayer, those taking prayer requests do not pray right away, but immediately launch into counseling. The prayer, if any, is offered up as an afterthought; or the prayer itself turns into a sermon. Prayer, counseling, and preaching are interconnected, but not the same. When Jonathan Edwards read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” many repented of their sins in that same service. Read or preach the same sermon now, and you will not observe the same reaction. This is partly because prayer is needed to experience a revival.

    We tell ourselves and others, “I do not pray as much as I should.” Paul wrote: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17 KJV). There is no “as much as I should.” We always ought to pray. The same is true about Bible study. We may not have the time to study the Bible all day, or even some time every day, but we ought always to meditate on (and obey) His Word.

    That said, when I pray, I want results. My days and life are too short for me to dedicate large amounts of time to a spiritual discipline which does not provide results. One blog asked readers what indicated a healthy prayer life. Two words: “Answered prayer.” Whenever I see prayer answered, I joke with friends that if we did less and prayed more, more would get done. Still, someone once lambasted a couple who were “professional intercessors.” Praying was their full-time career. The scoffer considered this couple useless to those around them. But they are not useless if their prayers are answered.

    Finally, when prayer is answered, it is tempting to find out what went right, other than prayer, that could be duplicated in an assembly-line fashion. Similarly, there are no preassembled prayers which work like incantations. Some ask for prayer and then proceed to put words in the intercessor’s mouth, as if verbalizing certain words will work like a magic spell.

    To touch on a former blog post of yours, I wrote down your prayer request and had every intention of praying for four months for your situations. I never made it past the first day, and the memo is buried in a pile of papers somewhere on my desk.

    Pray for me, then. We may not need to see eye to eye when we are on our faces before our Lord.

    • Michael,

      Prayer is the backbone of everything we do as Christians. I’ll be lambasted for this, but if we Christians had to make a choice between Bible study and prayer, I’d have to go with prayer. Prayer is the lifeblood of the Christian—and the Kingdom. A.W. Tozer was known to say that he felt his life was out of balance if he spent more time talking with people than he did talking with God. Where do you hear anyone in the Church today saying that?

      I prayed for you just now.

  8. Larry Vorpagel

    Don’t pray for me. Agree with me. There is power in agreement. Jesus said wherever 2 or 3aggree. Besides you probably pray stupid and hinder more than help.

    • Larry,

      Agreement only works if we are agreeing with the will of God. To agree with God’s will, we have to know what it is. This means knowing the Bible and also spending time before the Lord in prayer so as to know His will.

      Prayer makes agreement possible. You can’t have agreement without it.

    • I am not so sure that agreement is influential in prayer. That sounds more like a collective bargaining arrangement. Elijah was heard because he was righteous, not because he put “No rain for three years out on the prayer chain.

  9. B

    “A.W. Tozer was known to say that he felt his life was out of balance if he spent more time talking with people than he did talking with God.”

    I actually felt the same sense of unease, an unbalance, one day when I spent all day doing everything but—prayer. It felt like wearing dirty socks—absolutely intolerable. And, no, I don’t think that prayer should be something we’re forced into.

    By the way, I think prayerlessness can be connected to people not meditating on the Bible. Prayer flows naturally out of contemplating the scripture. I often find it easier to pray after I have spent some time reading the Bible.

    I also feel that people avoid prayer because they are avoiding God. You can skim the Bible, and still feel “safe” but prayer….They think that they’d better clean up their act before they talk to God—but they don’t want to clean up their act. Consequently, prayer is relegated to the heartless, repetitious Things that we mouth over meals—I’d rather eat the food and thank God in my heart than hear one more of those things.

    For that matter, you hear a lot of heartless, repetitious Things at church. Before a sermon, at a prayer meeting. I kept thinking “Who are these people really praying to—because their prayers aren’t reflecting a paticularly attractive god.” I asked myself “Who am I praying to?” I finally realized that the Lord’s Prayer started with Father, not Lord, or God, and why it started with Him before it started on us and our problems.

    Oh, and I’m going to say something extraordinarly not nice! We don’t ask people to pray for us, because, deep down inside, we remember all the times that we promised someone that we would pray for them—and we totally forgot, and wince when we see them next week or month.

    Our Father.

    We’re praying for ALL of us. It’s enlightening to focus on the fact that we’re praying for all of our brothers and sisters when we say this, it gives you enlightening and enormous perspective. I’ve been memorizing Eph 3:14-21, and Paul’s prayer is frighteningly bold and beautiful.

    I think the biggest “problem with prayer” can be directly related to our common misunderstanding of Who we are praying to. If we did, if I did, I’m convinced that we’d see more prayer. That I would pray more.

    And I do think that the Lord’s prayer is very important to meditate on. Unfortunately, Protestants tend to throw it into the “vain repetitions KJV” of those Catholic people, and don’t realize that a vain repetition is what they just said over their hamburger, before their sermon, with their child at night. They weren’t talking to anyone when they said those prayers.

    Too long, too long, and the French Toast is probably burning.

  10. Consider the larger picture here. If we do not believe in the miraculous, we do not believe in God. It’s not an either/or proposition. When you say “Speaking as a Christian, if somebody were to claim that they prayed with great faith and healed a blind man miraculously and on the spot, a true miracle of God, I confess I would be hard pressed to believe them.”

    If God has performed a miracle through the prayer of a person, then it is not that person we disbelieve, it is God.

    ‘But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”‘ (Romans 10:8-11

    If we do not believe God in little miracles, then what?


  11. Ah well, I’m another “heretic” that thinks prayer is just about the most important thing we can do. Prayer is simply the practical outworking of the belief that we are ultimately dependent on God, and not our own works. It is also the acknowledgement that we are living in a realm that goes beyond the span of the material and immediate, so it is folly to think we can do it on our own. Prayer is powerful. Prayer is reality.

    That said, I admit there is very little I ask for prayer for from others. I too am one of the burned. I have been shamed and condemned for daring to have problems that other people were uncomfortable with (eg abuse issues in the present tense, not just the sanitised distant past). Too many christians would rather “fix” you than learn the whole story and stand beside you in prayer in the place where it hurts. (whatever kind of problem we’re talking about. People get tired of those who don’t “get over it” quickly). And the gossip issue is a real one, not just the risk of others violating confidence, but the question of what is appropriate to share anyway. If I have problems with person X (who everybody knows) which they don’t see as a problem, at what point, in asking for prayer, am I gossiping about them? it can get very messy ..

    I am one of the blessed ones, I have had some help along the way, But how many are struggling alone with God because, for one reason or another, the church has effectively silenced them? For them i bleed. There is a reason our churches pray mainly for physical problems. There is no shame attached to them.

  12. Jo Taller

    “So why is a Christian so reluctant to take another Christian up on a no-strings-attached offer of prayer?”

    Why do I not ask for prayer?

    When a church member has asked for prayer for her little boy who has leukemia…

    When a teenage boy has been burned over half his body and needs much care and many surgeries…

    When the young mother’s breast cancer has returned for the second time…

    When the couple desperately trying to adopt a child from overseas keeps running into red tape…

    … I don’t know. Sometimes my own prayer requests seem so small in comparison. Almost whiny.

    My own health problems can (hopefully) be handled with a pill. We can (hopefully) come up with ways to put four kids through college. I can deal with the stress of a husband who works 70 hours/week. I can struggle through this life that just never gets any easier.

    I would rather others went down on their knees in earnest prayer for those whose lives are in more desperate situations. (And yes, all of those instances above have happened in our church in the last 6 months.)

    • Jo,

      If the goal of our sanctification is conformity to the image of Christ, then every prayer matters, especially those that reach for that goal.

      And know this: in our church in the last few months, we’ve seen many folks healed of terminal illnesses. We have a young man who nearly had his head taken off in an industrial accident, and I’ve never seen so many people believing he’s going to be healed and walk some day. I know many people who are praying and believing God for that healing.

      Prayer works.

  13. Thank you, Dan, for being willing to pray for people. Your regular offers to come alongside your readers in prayer matter to us. Even if people aren’t taking you up on the offer, this orientation toward ministry is what makes the Sanctum a place of ministry on the web. Even when you offer strong opinions and analysis (and you do – thank you!), there is a tangible sense that your words are being offered in love to your readers, and worship to your Lord.

    You’ve ministered to me big time, just because you ask and re-ask. Keep offering to pray for your readers.

    And P.S. – I’d welcome your prayers. I’m a writer in the home stretch of a marathon book project and have run smack dab into the 21-mile wall. I don’t need more words – I need Jesus.

    • Michelle,

      I’m well-acquainted with that wall. I prayed for you just now that the Lord would open up the conduits of heaven and rain down His inspiration and direction.

      Be blessed.

  14. Dan,

    I am new to your blog. How wonderful of you to make the offer.

    I think maybe pride is the biggest reason. If we really asked for prayer, really got down to the nitty gritty of our needs, we’d have to talk about and reveal things that we’d rather not.

    All of that said, please pray for me. I could list two dozen things to pray about, but they all lead to the same “main” thing… making God the center of my life, everyday, every minute, every second…


  15. Kiki

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you for the offer. I’m reading your blog now for about 1 week, reading all the posts and just came across this one.

    If you’d like to pray for me, I’d be very grateful. I would like to feel the presence of Jesus more in my life and the God’s Holy Spirit inside of me, I would like to hear Him talking to me.

    I will pray for you too!

    Best regards

    • Kiki,

      Thank you for being a new reader. I pray Cerulean Sanctum richly blesses you!

      I prayed that God would reveal Himself to you in more intimate ways and would open up new vistas in your relationship with Him. I prayed for a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit, and that you would be empowered by Him for service in ways that you have not previously experienced, including a strengthening of your ear to hear Him speaking, leading, and teaching.


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