You may have prayer guilt and be painfully aware of it, or you may have been carrying it around for far too long without even recognizing it for what it is.
Either way, if you want a thriving prayer life, it has to go!
Guilt is a tool our enemy uses to drive a wedge between us and God, and sometimes I think it masquerades as other things, or goes undetected altogether. So first, I want to point out a few ways you can recognize prayer guilt in particular.
1. You’re constantly putting off prayer
At first glance, this might seem backward. Like putting off prayer is what causes the guilt in the first place. But when I think about my other relationships (the ones with humans, as opposed to the Almighty), I see a pattern. When I know I’ve been bad about returning the texts or calls of someone I care about and feel like I’ve been putting them off for a while, it makes it even harder for me to initiate contact because of the guilt I feel about being a bad friend. It makes our interactions awkward on my end when we do get together and I fall all over myself apologizing. If this kind of thing happens more than once, I feel the resistance becoming even more intense to make contact because I feel like I’ve failed them over and over. I’m sure I could go to therapy to figure out the roots of these feelings and patterns, but if it can happen with relationships with people, I know it can happen with our prayer lives.
Putting off prayer can be a symptom of prayer guilt.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. - James 4:8a (NKJV)
Stop prayer-crastinating and just do it!
Set a timer for one minute before reading any further, and go to God in prayer. Confess you’ve been feeling distant from him, and then claim James 4:8, knowing that no matter how long it’s been since you’ve spoken to God, he is there. Time means nothing to God, and his nearness and willingness to talk to you has nothing to do with your faithfulness to pray. He is waiting for you to turn your heart to him with the deepest needs of your heart, or simply with praise and thanksgiving.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. - 2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV)
2. You have the impression or feeling that God is displeased with you
When you think of God, do you sense his warm, loving gaze - or do you always feel like you’re not quite doing enough to earn his approval? If you resonate with the second option, you definitely have some unhealthy guilt issues, and prayer guilt could definitely be part of it.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8 (NIV)
Again we see that God’s love and approval, his desire to meet with you, has nothing to do with what you do or what you’ve done. He loves you with the kind of love the father showed the prodigal son in Luke 15: totally unconditional. If you think he is in heaven with arms crossed, shaking his head in disapproval, think again! Read Luke 15 and picture God as that loving father who rejoiced and celebrated the moment his long-lost son returned wanting to restore relationship. Don’t let the enemy convince you otherwise.
3. You aren’t living up to your own (or someone else’s) rigid standards for prayer
Do you have a picture in your mind about what prayer is “supposed” to look like? Rising early, carving out time with your Bible and making sure you spend at least 30 minutes on your knees? Or maybe creating a literal “prayer closet” like in the movie War Room? Do you feel like you’ve failed if you don’t live up to those expectations?
Those are great ways to pray - but they’re not for everyone in every stage of life. Your prayer life is a relationship with the Almighty God! It’s far too precious and amazing to be stuffed into a tiny box. Prayer can be walking in the sunshine and just feeling joy and thankfulness. It can be washing dishes and thinking of a friend in need and silently lifting her up to God, or singing until you’re hoarse to your favorite praise music in the car (not that I’ve been there or anything…).
Prayer is personal. It is fluid; your prayer routines will change during seasons of life, and that is okay. You have permission to find creative ways to talk to God that don’t necessarily look like a “quiet time.”
And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns. - 2 Samuel 6:14-15 (NIV)
What we want you to know today is that God is waiting. He loves you, and wants you to draw near to him wherever and however you can. We’re here to provide you with a community of women who want the same thing as you do: a vibrant, passionate, powerful prayer life!
If you have been in a prayer slump, experiencing prayer guilt, or simply want to carve out some time to dedicate to prayer, we want to offer you the opportunity to join us for another Praying Christian Women Online Prayer Retreat! We really hope you’ll join us for about an hour of prayer, reflection and community.
So how about you? Have you ever struggled with prayer guilt? What has helped you move past it?