Prayer: A Ritual or a Relationship?

Personal Development

Are you satisfied with your prayer life?

Does time alone with God in prayer hold the highest priority in your day, or does it get pushed aside by the urgent? Are you just saying words, or are you pouring out your heart to the Father?

To be honest, most of us struggle with prayer from time to time. I do. The busyness of life pushes prayer aside. And when we do pray, we often bring Him our list of things we want and then rush off to those urgent things waiting for our attention. Prayer becomes a ritual we go through out of a sense of obligation; but God wants a relationship with us, not a mechanical routine we go through so we can check it off our to-do list.

What hinders us from prayer?


Lack of discipline

We’re too busy, and prayer gets crowded out by the urgent things. We don’t make it a priority.

Lack of belief

We don’t believe God can or will do anything, so we don’t ask. Or God didn’t answer the way we wanted Him to with a previous prayer, so why pray now?

Lack of intimacy with God

We may not feel close to God, and He seems distant. As a result, we don’t want to talk to Him, and we put distance between us.

Lack of need

When life is going great, we may pray less because we don’t have a sense of need. But when circumstances overwhelm us, we cry out to God for help. Sometimes we assume that prayer is only necessary when something comes along that’s too big for us to handle by ourselves.
Several years ago, I realized my prayer life wasn’t what it should be. Yes, I was meeting with God having my quiet times and praying, but I was going through the motions and just saying words. It soon became clear that my prayer life wasn’t about deepening my relationship with Him, but it was a ritual I was going through out of a sense of obligation.

As I asked God to show me how to grow in the area of prayer, He led me to study the prayers of men and women in the Bible. What was the situation that drew them to prayer? How did they approach God? How did God answer their prayers? How did their relationship with Him grow? Studying those prayers deepened my prayer life and my relationship with God.

I want my prayers to go deeper than just asking God to give me something. I want to pray like these men and women in the Bible—prophets who were committed to God’s truth and pointed others to Him; warriors who fought not only in physical battles with armor and swords, but prayer warriors who fought for God’s will to be done; and kings who faced overwhelming situations they knew they couldn’t handle on their own.

God never intended for prayer to become a ritual we go through out of obligation. Prayer is a means of deepening our relationship with Him.

Recently, I did a heart inventory on my prayer life, and I encourage you to do the same. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I asking for something with God-centered motives or self-centered motives?
  2. Am I praying for God’s will or my will?
  3. Am I praying for something that would glorify Him or glorify me?
  4. Am I praying for things I can accomplish in my strength, or for things that only God can do?
  5. Is my prayer life a ritual or a relationship? An obligation or a necessity?

Jesus saw prayer as a necessity, not as an obligation. No matter how busy He was, He always took time to pray. He knew the importance of spending time alone with the Father in prayer.

Will we follow His example in prayer?

Adapted from On Bended Knee: Praying like Prophets, Warriors, and Kings by Crickett Keeth (©2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

Crickett Keeth is the Women’s Ministry Director at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee, where she writes and teaches the women’s Bible studies. She is the author of several published Bible studies, including The Gift of Rest and Sumatra with the Seven Churches(co-authored with Sandra Glahn). Crickett was on staff with Cru for ten years and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching regularly at her own church, she also speaks at women’s conferences and retreats. She offers free resources for discipleship and encourages others in their own walk with God through her website at Her life purpose is to encourage others to passionately pursue Jesus Christ.

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