3 Things That Will Suffocate Your Prayer Life

May 05, 2022

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;  in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

I almost choked to death in middle school.

I was in the cafeteria plowing through a burger when I sucked an un-chewed bite into my windpipe. I remember my eyes going wide and feeling a sense of panic. I stood up, moved behind my chair, and doubled over the top of it to perform the Heimlich maneuver on myself. It worked – I coughed up the burger, and then I sat back down. Crazy enough, no one even noticed, so I just went on eating.

It was so sudden. I was talking, laughing, eating – and then…I couldn’t breathe. 

Occasionally, we experience emergencies similar to that in our spiritual lives. Life seems to be moving along just fine and then sin, or pain, or panic happens, requiring our immediate attention.

Far more often, though, these things happen gradually.

The changes – either positive or negative – happen so slowly that we don’t even know what’s going on until it’s already done.

In these cases, it becomes more like slowly being suffocated than it is like choking.

One of the arenas in which that occurs is in our prayer lives. One day we turn around and realize that we are barely even communicating with God at all and wonder what happened. What might make that kind of thing happen to our prayers? 

Here are three potential causes of that slow, steady decline:

1. Guilt.

Surely you know the feeling when there is something wrong between you and another person. Maybe you have wronged another person, and even though they might say they forgive you, it still feels like there is a block between you. Things are awkward. Uncomfortable. And slowly, the communication starts to decline. The same thing happens in our prayers.

If we don’t really believe that God has truly and completely forgiven us in Christ, then we can slowly but surely stop talking to Him. Stop trusting Him. Stop believing that He can and will intervene in any other circumstance. Or maybe we can’t forgive ourselves. Either way, the more we live with a sense of guilt from our sin, the less intimate we will be in prayer to the Father. 

2. Cynicism.

We live in an increasingly cynical world. We think we have seen everything, heard everything, experienced everything, and therefore nothing really brings us delight anymore. Rather, we assume there are ulterior motives and nefarious reasons behind everything and we’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop

This kind of cynicism might help us shrewdly navigate the corridors of culture, but it will choke the life out of our prayers. Because when you really boil it down, prayer is built on just a few very simple principles: God loves me. God knows what is best. God wants to hear from me. God will do the right thing. Cynicism challenges all of that.

3. Prosperity.

When you think back over the course of your life, when were you most fervent in prayer? When were you most passionate in your pleading? Surely it was during a time when you sensed a great need in your life or in the world around you. Sad as it is, the more prosperous we think we are, the less we think we need to come to God in prayer.

What we fail to realize is that our need for God and His care and intervention does not wax and wane with our personal prosperity; it’s only our perception of our need that changes. Your next breath? Your next heartbeat? The world continuing to spin on its axis? All these things are held together in the hands of God Almighty.

We need Him as much during days of plenty as we do in want.

Be careful, then, that the comfort of the every day is not slowly suffocating your prayer life.

Prayer is a gift. A tremendous gift. But it is also one that must be nurtured and grown. 

Beware the tendency toward becoming “prayer lazy,” my friends, and fight it with the truth: 

  1. – the truth that we are forgiven
  2. – the truth that life does not have to be so complicated, and 
  3. – the truth that we will always be people of great need.

Is your prayer life suffocating?

Written by Michael Kelley, Guest Contributor