6 Times When Prayer Isn’t Enough

“If you are doing these six biblical commands, dedicate yourself to prayer and call on God on behalf of our nation.”

There are no adequate words to bring salve to the tragedies and injustices that continue to take place in America: Orlando, St. Paul, Dallas and so many others in recent days.

It sometimes feels like every time you wake up in the morning, another tragedy—another reason to be saddened, anxious and confused—is pumping on the headlines.

Because we often don’t know what to say or do, our first inclination is to pray. We feel compelled to say or do something, and so we pray, and we post online that we are praying.

I’ve noticed lately, in the midst of some of these tragedies, that some people are complaining about online posts about “thoughts and prayers,” for a few reasons:

1. They don’t want support from people who they feel don’t truly care about their situation.

2. They are tired of people praying, but not working with them toward change.

3. Some don’t feel “thoughts and prayers” make any difference at all.

As a believer who has experienced God’s mind-boggling presence and support in my life on a continual basis, I know the greatest thing we can do is pray. Through our prayers, God moves and ushers his gracious care into countless hearts and lives. God can do so much more than I can do, so I want his help.

I think “thoughts and prayers” should always be welcomed. Who doesn’t want more people concerned for their community? This is a way we heal together, and support one another.

However, perhaps there is something to be said about those who are frustrated with simple statements like “thoughts and prayers.”

We should listen and be considerate about the concerns of people around us. We should try to represent Christ in ways that draw those far from God toward his love and grace.

But there is a biblical precedent for times when prayer is not enough. The Bible says we should “always pray, and never give up” (Luke 18:1), but it doesn’t say anywhere that we should only pray. In fact, there are biblical commands to do good works beyond just praying. Praying should never be an excuse for not moving into action.

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Here are six times when prayer is not enough.

1. There Is Unconfessed Sin

David said, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Ps. 66:18). We need to come before the Lord with pure and humble hearts on behalf of our nation. It is not enough to pray—we must also obey.

In fact, the kind of change that can move a nation comes when thousands, even millions, of individuals collectively confess and repent of sin and disobedience in their own lives.

Are there areas of your life you need to confess to the Lord? Don’t wait another moment: Do it now.

2. We Are Praying for Our Own Selfish Gain

The Bible says, “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).

One of the roadblocks to God’s help in our lives is praying selfishly. We can pray to God all day, but if it is for our own selfish gain, he will not honor those prayers. He wants to guide us away from the destructive nature of selfishness for our own good and lasting joy.

Consider your recent prayer requests. Have you been asking selfishly for personal gain? Change the objective of your prayers to always be unselfish.

3. We Are Neglecting Our Family

The Bible says, “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7).

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How we treat those around us, especially our spouses and our own family, will determine whether or not God hears our prayers. If we don’t honor others, even those who don’t deserve it, God will not honor our prayers.

Are there apologies you need to make to your spouse or family for how you have treated them recently, or words you have spoken in anger? This is a biblical word, especially written to husbands everywhere. Before you keep on praying for God’s blessing your life, business or nation—first, obey what the Bible says, and treat your wife and children with respect and kindness, otherwise your prayers will be fruitless.

4. We Are Praying for Our Own Will, Not God’s Will

The Bible says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

God’s will is different from man’s will. We need to feed daily on the Word of God and allow God to transform our thoughts so we can be a people whose prayers reflect the will of God, not our own.