5 Reasons Prayer is Challenging – with Insights for Breakthrough

Prayer is arguably the most powerful force in the world; it is literally life-changing.

Yet, most would agree that prayer is significantly underutilized.


Prayer requires energy, focus, discipline, and time. If it was easy, more people would pray, and believers would pray more consistently and perhaps even longer.

There is no law or formula for when or how long you need to pray. . .

However, there is something undeniably powerful about more time with God, hearing His voice, lifting your prayers, and seeing miracles happen.

Prayer is a blessing, not a burden; it’s a privilege, not a pressure.

Leaders are not excluded from this conversation.

It’s not uncommon for the work of ministry to steal us away from the power of ministry – prayer.

We can become so busy in doing good; we have limited time for what is best. This is not a new issue, but the longer I lead, the more I realize the depth of the power of prayer.

Prayer is work, but it also brings joy.

Close communion with God through prayer is extraordinary. To be able to talk with the Creator of the heavens and the earth and know He listens, cares, and responds is an extraordinary gift.

God wants us to know Him, invites us to talk with Him, and from there, He empowers our leadership for the sake of His Church.

Knowing the reasons that make prayer challenging helps us breakthrough to a greater level of prayer.

5 Reasons Prayer Is Difficult and Insights to Breakthrough:

1) External pressures are allowed to outweigh internal values.

The heart is drawn toward time with God, but the mind is pulled toward stuff to do. Is this true for you?

That’s the dilemma for most of us leaders.

The reason our work can steal our time with God is that external pressures scream loud and drown out the quiet but true voice of our values and desire to be with the Father.

Jesus is never loud or demanding; He just opens the door and waits.

Our best road to beat the external noise of pressure is to establish a disciplined routine of prayer, which, once established, always becomes a joy that you can’t wait to get to.

It really does!

I have a little prayer room in my basement, and I truly love my time there. It’s like a sacred sanctuary. I’m often tempted to leave quicker than I desire (stuff to do), but the inner peace from the voice of God usually wins!

2) The supernatural realm includes a battle.

Prayer is joyful, but it’s not a party. Prayer draws you close to God’s peace and presence, but you also enter a spiritual battle simply by aligning with God.

Ephesians 6:10-18 reminds us that while ministry is grounded in the human realm, it is connected to a battle in the “heavenly realms.”

Battles are work.

It’s not always intuitive to sense the battle because when we soak in the Psalms or meditate through the epistles, etc., it doesn’t feel like a battle. In fact, God’s presence is a delight.

However, through the tough times, big problems, discouraging days, setbacks, and suffering, none of which can be avoided, we are reminded of the reality of the battle.

It can be tough to hang in there when your soul is tired, but that’s the time to dig deep and pray more.

It’s also the time to ask your prayer partners to pray all the more for you!

3) Our faith is tested at some level.

What we pray reveals what we believe.

Have you ever prayed long and hard, and it doesn’t seem like God heard you? Or maybe He heard you but doesn’t seem to answer?

We know God answers prayer, but because it’s not always like we hoped or when we wanted, it’s human to wonder if God is with you.

Doubt can hit the best of leaders on occasion.

I don’t mean to wonder if God loves you or if you are saved, but is He with you in that really difficult moment?

Ultimately these moments come down to faith and trust.

That’s why the body of Christ is so important. You should never attempt to navigate the tough times alone.

4) When we forget past answers while we focus on future unknowns.

The unknowns of the future can cause stress, anxiousness, and worry.

Let’s just be candid.

Leaders are human too, and we care about the church, organizationally, and even more about the people, relationally.

Remembering God’s promises and the prayers He’s answered is a huge remedy to the difficult moments you face today.

I love this passage from Philippians 4:6-7. You know God answers prayer, but in the moment, you may need to lean into this.

…The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This helps us conquer the worries of the unknown and remember God’s faithfulness in our lives.

Pray from the knowledge of God’s faithfulness. Remember what He’s done for you!

5) Technology has made it difficult to be quiet and still.

It’s best that I don’t bring my iPhone into my prayer room, but sometimes it “seems” necessary.

(I know, it really isn’t.)

When I do, it’s nearly always a distraction. Two things that can always distract me … my phone and something about guitars. 😀

On a deeper level, technology has made it difficult for many of us to be still or be quiet and to wait upon God.

Technology has helped us become accustomed to an incredibly fast-paced life, but God is not in a hurry. Prayer takes time; we need to learn to be still.

We are trained toward technology, and tech is good for sure, but not always helpful for every situation.

Here are three practical questions:

  • What helps you slow down and be more reflective?
  • What helps you be still and wait upon God?
  • What helps you be quiet and listen for His voice?

I hope these five thoughts are helpful to you!

4 thoughts on “5 Reasons Prayer is Challenging – with Insights for Breakthrough”

  1. Thank you for this Dan. Perhaps more than ever before I believe that without a movement of God there is very little (well, nothing, according to Jesus) that can be accomplished of real value.

    After about a quarter century of failing and trying I have finally developed a regular rhythm of spending time alone with God in a way that is sweet and satisfying (for about the last 5 years). Knowing the greater need I schedule and discipline myself to pray more (by myself and with others) largely for intercession, but I struggle to engage much beyond duty in those times.

    I’m seeking to Ephesians 4:22-24 myself (asking the Spirit to help me put off a duty driven experience of prayer while He renews my mind and attitude to put on a wholehearted (even a few groaning and loud cries would be good) engagement in prayer.

    Anything else you could offer that might be helpful in addition to recognizing the battle, focussing on past grace and removing distractions?

    1. Hi Roy,

      I find it helpful to set any notion of “performance” aside when it comes to focused time with God. You know, doing certain spiritual disciplines for certain amounts of time. In fact, I have found that sometimes I just “sit with God” in my prayer room in the basement and it’s wonderful. If I start to drift, I’ll read scripture, then pray some more, but being quiet before God and just listening is great. About “removing distractions” … most of my distractions are in the form of thoughts of “stuff I need to do” spinning in my mind. My practice for years has been to write every thought on a separate 3×5 card. Like Call this person, get lunch with this person, write this agenda etc… as they pop up write it down, and usually in a short time, all the thoughts of stuff to do are out and I don’t have to think about them because they are written down.

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