“Guess I can only pray . . . ”

If you’ve grown up around religion, I’m sure you’ve heard and said this phrase countless times. Even if you haven’t, you’ve perhaps heard it thrown around at least.

Honestly, I’ve used this phrase way too often myself.

Years ago, I ran across something in the book, The Kneeling Christian, that challenged my mindset. The author says:

“Let us never forget that the greatest thing we can do for God or for man is to pray. For we can accomplish far more by our prayers than by our work.”

This idea has stuck with me for years. Not because I have ever doubted the power of prayer — no, but because I have always overestimated my ability to work. I have a tendency to over-trust in my ability to make stuff happen.

I find this true especially in my faith.

You see, I tend to think that I can make myself be perfect. I believe that I can do enough good things on my own to warrant blessings. If I just work hard enough, I will have everything I need and want in life.

And there is simply nothing that can stop me if I just keep trying.

Obviously, I fail quite a bit. No matter how hard I try, I cannot attain perfection. Many things do not go my way. I face obstacles that I cannot overcome no matter how much I work.

In those times, I’d fall down and finally pray. I’d come to God as a “last resort.”

And I started to realize how odd that was.

Why would I — someone who claims to believe in an omnipotent God who cares for me — wait to go to that God only until after I had tried everything else?

The hypocrisy of this tendency started to dawn on me. So, I began to adjust my approach.

What if I prayed first? What if I went to God before I tried anything else?

I wouldn’t stop doing what I knew to do, as I don’t believe that would be right either. But what I could do is go to God and offer up my work to Him. Maybe that would be a better use of all that I do.

As I started doing this, I noticed a change. It’s not that my life dramatically improved or that everything came up as roses. But it did completely alter how I fought the battles I face in my life.

It also meant that I no longer had to make myself perfect on my own. I wasn’t left alone in my effort to pursue God and serve Him with everything I do. Instead of “just me and my determination,” it became about God doing a work in my life each day, drawing me closer to Him.

This meant that when I began to sort out what my sexuality and gender identity meant to me as a follower of Christ, I didn’t have to do it all by myself. I could take it all to God.

When I had questions, I could bring them to God. When I couldn’t understand why I felt such incongruence between my attractions and my beliefs, I could talk to God about it.

For the many times I’ve come to the end of myself as my brother, Jacob, once put it, I find God right there ready to listen.

I’ve come to realize that in navigating my faith, sexuality, and gender identity, prayer was the most powerful action I could take. It didn’t matter the number of questions, hurts, frustrations, or pain around me.

I could take everything, whatever it was, and lay it before God in prayer.

I won’t lie and say everything is perfect now. But the trials of my life are no longer faced alone.

I now take each trial knowing that I am walking into it with God by my side.

And that is definitely better than just a last resort “Hail Mary.”

Do you view prayer as effectual or a needless exercise? Do you wish you prayed to God more often or more vulnerably?

About the Author

  • Thanks for your text. But honestly, it remains quite vague as to what really is “different” since you pray. To me it seems like it’s more of a therapeutic exercise than anything else… where instead of talking to a psychologist for instance, you talk to God out there and expose your problems and needs and wants. Sure you can “talk to God” about stuff, but since he doesn’t respond back, you’re just happy to know that he listened? How is that helping? How do you actually feel God is by your side, and that you’re not just making the mental effort of imagining he is there?

    • You are right, friend, that I am vague on the results aspect. That wasn’t my focus here. But I can share what some of the specific differences were for me, if that will help clarify this post for you.
      When I started to pray first, I began noticing a decrease in anxiety and worry. Sometimes that was all I needed- peace. And talking to people didn’t help with that. I regularly see a psychiatrist and a counselor for my Bipolar- but prayer is definitely different. I didn’t feel immediate peace talking to a person. But with God, I found that was a possibility.
      As well, if I took a specific need to God, I found Him answering it. For financial needs, I would either receive money from friends or even random strangers with no warning. Other times, someone would buy me a meal out of the blue. These times would occur often when I had only a few dollars in my bank account and still had a week till getting paid.
      Then, there were times where I would be praying for direction on a situation. Sometimes I would feel prompted to read the Bible and I would find some guidance there. Other times, someone would come up to me and, without my having said anything, would offer advice or wisdom that I needed. And, even sometimes, I would feel a still, small voice speaking in my spirit that would answer my prayers.
      I intended the post to be vague because these are specific things for me that other people may not encounter. I might phrase something differently or maybe I haven’t experienced something another has. But these changes all started happening after I changed my approach to prayer. I hope this provides clarity and can bless you, my friend. Thank you for reading and commenting!

      • Yes, Dean. All of these things are true for me, as well. There is far too much evidence of God in my life for me to ever doubt His help and existence. Definite answers to prayer throughout my Christian walk, with the answer coming from completely outside me and my own resources.

    • I think the greatest evidence of the power of prayer and the existence of God in my life has been the radical change He made in me. I no longer do the things I used to do, the things I was bound to, the things I wanted so badly to stop doing but found myself doing over and over again. When I gave myself to God in prayer, my heart was strangely warmed, and I felt forgiven and cleansed. From that point, I felt an inward power that has given me victory over the sinful habits from which I could never break free on my own. And prayer has been my mainstay in times of temptation, I feel strength and am enabled to be strong in areas where I was never strong before. It’s more than the power of positive thinking, or therapy, or will-power.

  • It was always about me. How narcissistic. I couldn’t resist and then after I hooked up I was filled with self loathing; each and every time. It was a horrible way to exist. I was told I was born this way, but the guilt was terrible. I was told had to indulge in homosexuality to be happy; I was miserable. When the stroke hit in 2012, my mind was erased. For six weeks I had no idea I was gay; I still had no attraction to women, but I wasn’t hooking up with men either.
    I started going back to church after I got out of the hospital I still had no clue of the life I led (not one person I had been with came to visit me in the hospital either). I only found out that I was gay by examining my internet browsing history (I had an addiction to porn). I was super angry at God when I found out. Why did He bother to let me live when He knew how rotten I was. The revelation of this aspect of my life and a return to Christianity allowed me to attack it from a new perspective, one that I had never tried before: give it to God. It was obvious that I couldn’t change myself. My addiction to porn was evident of that; so was my coming restoration of the memories of all the guys I had been with.
    I had to let go of my pride and let God be God. The last time I looked at porn was November 18, 2016. The last time I was with a guy was September 24, 2004. Every single day is a struggle for me, and I have to give the struggle to God, because I can’t fight on my own.

  • I like this post mostly because it is simply a reminder that God should be our first priority and that we can and should take ALL of our problems, issues, concerns, fears, etc. To him. I know the comment was made that this post was vague because there isn’t specific detail about what differences there were between when you do and do not pray, but I don’t think that is necessary. We all experience God in ways that are completely unique to us individually. I appreciate that this post helps us to check our priorities and reminds us that we are stronger and will be more at peace with God than without. Thanks Dean for a great post.

    • Thank you, James. The goal of this post was definitely a check in priorities- because that was how my perspective on prayer started to change. I wanted the focus to be on our end of praying. I’m glad this post was able to be a great reminder for you. Bless you, brother!

  • I guess I have never felt sufficient on my own to ever attempt anything without prayer. But there have been times when I got caught up in the flurry of the moment and realized I had forgotten to seek God’s help and guidance. Prayer is so vital for the believer. We probably don’t emphasize it enough. God is not an idol that has ears but cannot hear. His eyes are upon the righteous and His ears open to their prayers. What a comfort and stability it is for me to know this when everything around me appears to rock and totter.

  • Prayer was ineffective for me because although I did it, I was still trying to do so much on my own…all while knowing that I would never be able to do enough. In a similar manner, I had been taught that I had to “put forth the effort” and “make my own choices,” “study it out in my mind.” I suppose I took all those to the extremes.
    Fast forward to today and I’m still praying regularly; but I feel more at one with God throughout my day. I’m checking in more regularly to ask, “What does God think?” On a more regular basis. I’m finding myself living more in the now and enjoying the moment…more being and less doing. ❤️

    • Thank you for sharing, Alex. I find myself doing the same a lot- checking in to see how I am living for God. Sometimes I don’t pray a request- simply an update, if you will, on my day. It’s nice. 🙂

  • I’ve gone through seasons where I’m praying all the time and dry seasons where I’m always forgetting to pray. I feel like I’m in the latter right now, relative to previous seasons, but I have no intention to beat myself up about it.
    To me the really delightful thing about prayer is just telling God what’s on my heart–he already knows, but he likes to hear me say it–and asking God for what I actually want. It may not be something God intends to give me, but worst case scenario is it’s a teaching opportunity.
    Prayer is when I remind myself that God loves me, and more than that, he likes me. I’d certainly be lost and without hope navigating this life without that.

    • I’ve found that many of my prayers were a reminder of Who God is and what He has said. But it’s also one of my favorite ways to pray- it turns into praising God for His greatness!
      Also, I relate to the season, you mentioned, Ryan. I think all Christians walk through such seasons. I pray you find your way back into a season of constant prayer! Thank you for reading and commenting, brother!

  • “Not because I have ever doubted the power of prayer — no, but because I have always overestimated my ability to work.”
    Just wow. This is really a completely different perspective I hadn’t thought of that’s also applicable. Thank you!

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