Prayer is Boring

I have spent years of my life trying to figure out why prayer is so boring.
I have read books about “spicing up” your prayer life; some of them have really great advice. But there was always one common result: after a few days or weeks, prayer would be boring again.

Finally, I have come to this conclusion:

Prayer is Boring.

Yup. I said it. It’s boring. It actually is.

I think deep down we all know this, even though we might feel guilty admitting it. But isn’t this fact evident in our actions? There is one thing that we are consistent about in regard to prayer—we don’t do it.

How many sermons have we heard beating us up for our lack of passion in prayer? I know I’ve heard plenty!

How many books are out there about the “secrets of prayer”? It is like there is some secret recipe for prayer—an undisclosed ingredient that you have been missing. Is it praying in tongues? Is it calling upon the Holy Spirit? Is it reciting the right prayer sayings? Is it following the example of Jabez? Is it following the right order in prayer? Is it engaging in the right mental state?

The answer to all these questions is simply “no”.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that these questions are not worth asking and working through. I’m not saying that they are not important or helpful. I think they can help us understand more about God and more about prayer. I think it is a very worthwhile endeavor to study prayer and teach on prayer.

Here’s what I’m saying: Stop beating yourself up because you find prayer boring.

You’re not missing some long lost secret knowledge that will send your prayer life soaring as soon as you cross this mysterious threshold (assuming that you are a born-again follower of Christ, who has repented from your sinful rebellion against Christ, seeking His Kingdom and His Righteousness). Whether you go to the charismatic, full-gospel church, passionately crying out to God, or you go to the predictable environment of your Reformed congregation (I’ve spent a bit of time in both kinds of meetings), one thing will eventually follow—weariness and boredom.

Prayer is boring, and that’s ok.

Why am I OK saying this without fear of divine affliction?
Am I taunting God?
Am I calling him into question?

No, I don’t think so at all. On the contrary, I believe that what I am saying is quite consistent with what we read in Scripture.

Here’s why.

Prayer is an act of faith. It is hard.

Let’s take a brief look at what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians.

7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;
8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.
10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

1 Thessalonians 4.7-10

In this passage Paul parallels athletic training with spiritual training. Anyone who has done any serious athletic training (or serious training of any kind, really) knows that the training itself isn’t the fun part. Why do you have to “psych yourself out” for your workouts? Because usually you don’t want to do it. I’m not saying that you never get excited about working out. I’m talking about day-in and day-out training. What motivates you are the results achieved through the exercises more than the exercises themselves.

Paul says that the spiritual disciplines (e.g. prayer, fasting, Bible-study, etc.) require training. They require discipline (thus the name!). It’s easy to get excited about prayer or Bible reading for a few days or even a couple weeks, but consistent long-term spiritual exercise is hard work.

Look at the words that Paul chooses to use of his ministry in v. 10—“toil” and “strive”. Paul is not talking about an attempt to earn God’s approval or salvation through works (cp. Philippians 2.12-13 below). He is simply acknowledging that the Christian life and ministry are hard. Often, they are not fun.

That is where the faith comes in.

In discussing a near-synonym of faith—hope—Paul says in Romans 8.24-25,

24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

If prayer were always fun and exciting (and sometimes it certainly is!) it really wouldn’t require much faith.

When I sit in a room with 3 or 4 other men and we faithfully march through a list of prayer requests, it’s hard to believe that much is actually being accomplished.

When I sit alone asking God to do the same thing for the same people over and over again, it’s hard to believe that much is actually being accomplished.

I often just want to rush to go “do something”!

That’s where faith comes in.

When prayer is boring…
When prayer seems like a waste of time…..
When it seems like we are just going through the motions and could be using our time “more effectively”……….

In those moments we are faced with an essential question—perhaps the most essential question:

Where will you put your trust?

In how you feel? Or in God?

So, now that we have established that prayer is boring and it is ok to admit it, what do we do now?

Excuse ourselves from our prayerlessness because of its evident boringness?

NO! On the contrary! Press in! Prayer is work. It is difficult. But it is also essential to your (and others!) spiritual life, for in prayer our most basic and fundamental spiritual character is testedour faith.

So, let these words from Paul in Philippians 2 be an encouragement to you. God hasn’t left you to work this out yourself, but he has promised that he will give you all the strength you need if you trust in him:

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Philippians 2.12-13

Josh Josh (19 Posts)

Josh has been married to his lovely wife, Julie, since June 2006. They have 3 children: Deacon, Noelle, and Daisy. He received his undergraduate degree from Houston Baptist University in 2007. He has done graduate work at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and at HBU. He has been serving as Director of Operations at Classical School of Wichita (CSWSaints.com) since August 2014. He is interested in classical education, biblical worldview, and Christian theology.


8 Comments Prayer is Boring

  1. BrettBrett

    Josh, thank you for your honesty and for your challenge to press into the discipline of prayer. There are many times I feel that prayer is difficult to maintain because it feels tedious, boring, and monotonous.

    Let me add that I think this experience that I feel (and that you clearly describe) is due to my own weakness and blindness due to sin, not to prayer itself. As you say, there are times when prayer is NOT boring but exciting, powerful, riveting. Are these the times that prayer is actually working? No, I think it’s better to say that in these times my heart is working; the times that prayer is boring are times when I’m least present to God, and the times when prayer is intensely satisfying are times when I’m most present to God, who is never not present with me.

    This is not to say that the “trick to prayer” is becoming present to God, as if it were an easy gimmick to follow. It requires a mind awake and a heart aflame. For the natural man, prayer is impossible apart from the Spirit’s quickening. For the Christian, however, prayer is imminently possible, because the Spirit indwells us. I think the “block” that we experience as boredom is just this: our forgetfulness that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, and that prayer is as much (if not more) about listening to his voice than our own speaking.

    Reply
    1. JoshJosh

      Thanks for the feedback, Brett. I agree with you that the feeling of boredom is a result of sin in some way-whether personal or simply a result of living in this present, evil age.

      I guess the main point is that the goal of prayer is not to have a feeling, but it is obedience in faith.

      I’ve found that depending on prayer as an “experience” has always led to the same conclusion-prayerlessness. I think it’s very easy in our society (in which “boredom” and “awkwardness” seem like the chief evils) to make excuses for our prayerlessness based on our lack of feeling of excitement, effectiveness, etc.

      So, I find it encouraging to embrace the boringness of prayer. It really simplifies it. And those times when I do experience a special nearness of God are a sweet foretaste of the life-to-come, but for now I must pray by faith and not by sight.

      Reply
    2. JoshJosh

      Additionally, I personally find the “conversational” part or prayer much easier. I have always had the most difficulty maintaining consistent intercessory prayer.

      Reply
  2. Brett VadenBrett Vaden

    Josh, thanks again, man. Your additional thoughts are clarifying. Intercessory prayer is most difficult for me, too. When I pray for others, it is boring. I wonder if that’s partly due to a bifurcation in my thought about prayer: why couldn’t intercessory prayer be like conversational prayer? Could I not wait and listen for God to talk to me about another person and leading me to pray what He wants for them?

    You’ve really blessed me, brother. Thank you for how you put yourself into your posts. Bless you.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Church is Boring | Philomythois

  4. Tired

    Thanx for this post: I have felt exceedingly guilty about the fact that I can only manage short, to the point prayers thruout the day at random times (same way I would interact with a human person: as something comes up that needs addressing). I thought I was in a minority. It’s good to know there are others in the same boat, even tho yes, they have been born again.

    Reply
  5. tricia

    This is a really old post but I wanted to add to it. I think that trying to summon up prayers, just sitting there can be quite boring. And I’ve had plenty of boring times, but I find that if I have a plan, with a focus, it is so much more enjoyable. I read “The Hour that Changes the World” by Dick Eastman and it has made a huge difference. An hour is broken into 12 focused prayer times of 5 minutes each. Five minutes? Totally do-able. I even set a timer. I try to sit on my back patio in the morning when the sun is new and the birds are chatting because I find that being outside in nature I feel closer to God. Anything I can do to facilitate my experience. Even if I don’t feel like I “connected” with God or that he spoke anything specific to me, I always come out of my time with a much better perspective on the day and in a much better mood. Most times I run out of time during the segments (especially intercession) because I have so many people I want to pray for. In the end, it is a discipline. We do it because the Bible says it is a good thing and because we will become more like Christ, the more time we spend with him.

    PS: there is a segment where you focus on how much God loves you and the relationship you have. I honestly never have anything to say so I literally close my eyes and imagine myself sitting snuggled in his lap for the entire 5 minutes. I get distracted and have to refocus, but to me, that is all I can muster.

    This ended up being much longer than I originally intended. 😉

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *