This is an article from the July-August 2014 issue: Lifestyle of Prayer

Can We Pray Too Much?

Further Reflections

Can We Pray Too Much?

Jesus said to pray without ceasing, but beyond early mornings and late nights of prayer, he demonstrated that prayer was integrated within his life and ministry.

In his prayer recorded in John 17 Jesus said, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” (vs. 4, NIV) Certainly his prayers on earth were included in that work. It is evident that everything Jesus said flowed from his relationship with the Father. I wonder if that communion and how Jesus lived it out was a form of prayer? Reading the Gospels, it is obvious that prayer is a moment-by-moment mindset that is to be integrated into a busy life!

Several times throughout the New Testament Paul describes the burden he carries for the churches for which he prays. We see Paul praying for guidance (Acts 13), for the elders (Acts 14) and for the sick (Acts 28), as well as admonishing us to pray (Eph 6:18; Col 4:2). But, like Jesus, these prayers were interconnected with Paul’s life, calling, ministry and work. Paul was a pretty active guy, but he prayed in the midst of it. Perhaps this tells us more about prayer than we see at first glance.

I admit I have struggled to understand the idea of someone praying as his or her only ministry. The Levites in the O.T., as those set aside for ministry, are often the model cited for this. Yet it is interesting that David, the king, is well known as one who talked with God more than anyone else. Daniel and Nehemiah were also men who prayed in the midst of their work.

We’ve all heard great quotes about prayer like, “Prayer is the real work of missions.” Martin Luther said he was “too busy not to pray.” John Wesley said, “God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.” S.D. Gordon has many quotes about prayer like, “Prayer strikes the winning blow; service is simply picking up the pieces” and “The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray.” E.M. Bounds wrote, “Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.” And Billy Graham wisely said, “If you don’t feel like praying, it’s a probably a sign you should start praying right away!” Quotes like these used to make me feel guilty because I didn’t dedicate hours to prayer every day. But as I’ve thought, studied and prayed I’ve realized that prayer should be an integral part of my daily activities—in addition to having focused times of prayer. 

One thing that helped me was Ralph Winter urging our staff to recognize that prayer should include a great deal of listening…times of quiet. I first heard him share this in the context of the establishment of our 24-hour prayer room, where we took shifts of 4 hours 2-3 times a month. I have found that by listening well—through the Word and the Holy Spirit—God leads me to pray and focus my efforts in ways I would have otherwise never considered. 

One last quote I want to share with you is from John Piper. James 4:2c says, “You have not because you ask not.” Based on this verse Piper says, “Prayer causes things to happen that would not happen if you didn’t pray.” In other words, the sovereign God is inviting us to participate with him in the running of the universe by praying “things into being.” Not taking advantage of that, according to Piper, is folly! What do you believe you should “take on” in prayer? What, in God’s purposes, is “not yet” that you can begin to bring to fruition through prayer?

Can we pray too much? Yes!…if that prayer does not include listening and communion with God in the midst of everyday life. If we can learn to pray in tune with the Spirit, we will see “things come into being” like disciples from all peoples where there are none now.

Can I get an “Amen”? Why not post your thoughts or prayers under the online version of this page.

Follow Greg on Twitter: @parsonsgh



Can we pray too much? Yes, we can pray too much if we are walking in the flesh. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16; We can pray too much selfishly. We can pray too much with doubt instead of faith. When a large percentage of God’s people in America systemically consume 86% of their “giving” to buy spiritual goodies primarily for themselves; when this same percentage of believers gather weekly with zero consideration of how they can “spur one another on to love and good works” Heb. 10:24,25; when the same percentage gather weekly with zero expectation that they “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…” (the first mark of being “filled with the Spirit); I seriously wonder what God is able to do with their prayers. These are such direct corruptions of simple, direct, clear instructions from his Word. The “experts” who lead them in this routine are in the same boat, no matter how many seminary degrees they have or how many times they have been to the mission field supporting the hired experts there do the same thing they do here.

I realize that this same percentage of people will never utter one word of prayer in the worship gathering that will be heard by their fellow believers. That is completely outsourced to the pulpit crew. I know the percentage of those who show for corporate prayer are very few in number. That may be caused by the above systemic failures nullifying the “new and living way” and the “filling of the Spirit” and the obvious direction of our giving.

Does it really require 1000 paid staff to get prayer going in Kansas City? Is there no way this can be done volunteer? Are they thinking that alleged secular work is a distraction from God’s kingdom purposes? I’m not trying to be rude but some hard questions need to be asked of a lot of believers about their fundamental assumptions about the work of God moving forward; throwing off the things that hinder and the sin that so easily entangles so we can run the race marked out for us. I realize that some Bible experts really believe they have proof texts for this reality and do not see how they are twisted or the translation itself is bogus because it flat out nullifies the words of Jesus. They don’t know anything different. The system is inspired by God. Then there are Bible experts who know the twisting and nullifying that is in place but will not say a word about it because there is too much money and ego riding on the system. It’s a real pickle of a predicament, but not for the head of the church. He has a plan. I will join him in it. I will give an Amen to those who pray as functioning “royal priests” who gather in the “new and living way.” I give an Amen to those who are a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, being transformed by the renewing of their minds so they can prove what the will of God is, rather than conform to the traditions of men.


Thanks for commenting.
Lots of ideas to consider in your comments. I’ve thought some of them myself.
Getting more engaged in my local church and engaging in prayer with others has helped me work through these on that level.
My only caution to you is that you be careful not to judge. When we are looking at something to serious as the unreached, I find it easy to judge others for what they do or don’t do.

I’m curious to know what specifically you think was judging. It seems to me pretty obvious that what I point to are the main habit patterns of church life and it’s very clear what God says should be done by His people and his leaders. That would mean the judgement is God’s and I am merely a messenger of his judgements. Some of my expressions are questions. At these points I am not assuming but the questions do include an apprehension between what is claimed to be necessary and what God’s word says is necessary and if the claim might actually contradict God’s priorities. If someone wants to answer my questions they can do so. If they feel my questions insult their integrity they can share that and give a basis for it. The power of interaction is amazing to bring clarity. I understand the human heart does not like to be questioned on what it might consider “God’s calling”. Every man moving toward “the ministry” will have his “calling” examined by a council. I am merely offering questions for further examination. I am seeking to spur or provoke in “one another” dynamic. This is the habit of meeting God’s people are not to “forsake”, and “all the more as the day is approaching.” Heb. 10:25.

In the times of Luther, Wycliffe, Huss, etc, the Catholic church highly resented anyone questioning their calling and system of church life considering that everything they did was “God’s will” when we know it was not. In the time of William Carey the protestant church pastors believed in gross error regarding missions. His attempts and rebuke and correction were uniformly disrespected.  In the same way leaders today in our current system would feel the same. The household of faith is in desperate need of purifying, refining and reformation and it’s long over due. I am more than willing to be examined in what I say and do. Most are not so they remain silent in opportunities to interact. They will silently offer an ad hominem or straw man to ease their own mind. God will assess that behavior on every man who does it on the proper day. There are a million excuses to justify status quo. Those who have their shield of faith down will take the darts of the devils deception. God would like error fixed now for the glory of his name in among all nations.


I didn’t say you WERE judging, but that you should be careful. If your calling and gifting is as you say, then I would guess you could tend toward judgement…
Just a warning, not a judgement! smile

Hi Greg,

Your article reminds me of the many times God responds powerfully to intercession throughout scripture, particularly in the life of Moses and the prophets. These prayers are sometimes described as resulting in God changing His mind.  I have heard that one of the hallmarks of personal relationships is the interaction of the ‘wills’ and being able to express desires which have real influence. Between earthly friends this might be expressed in the choice of restaurant for dinner. According to scripture, expression of close relationship with God can save lives. We know that even now Christ intercedes in perfect relationship with the Father and calls us to pray while seeing through His eyes.


Thanks, Andrew, for your comments.

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