Pride is a sneaky, pervasive, elemental sin.
Pride gives birth to many sins and obstructs many godly pursuits. In this article, we’ll consider the ways our pride disrupts our prayer life.
ACTS of Prayer
When we are proud, we feel we are enough. And when we feel we are enough, we don’t think we need God. I read the phrase “prayerlessness springs from pride” earlier this year in a fine Michael Reeves book, and it struck me as profoundly true.
In my early days as a Christian I learned the ACTS acronym to help me pray: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Pride interrupts each of these aspects of prayer.
When we think too highly of ourselves, we tend not to think highly of others. With inflated perspectives on our abilities and importance, we don’t notice the skills or positions of others. And this includes the way we think of God.
When we are filled with pride, God’s perfections, his power, his goodness, and his immortality are far from our minds. Our self-exaltation crowds out the acknowledgment of God’s rightful place on the throne.
If we focus on our goodness and rightness, we are not as aware of God’s laws or our transgressions. As pride increases, conviction decreases, and we slide further down the road that sin paves.
We may mention—either in private prayer or during corporate worship—familiar, long-standing sins. But this is usually done out of habit, half-heartedly, not out of a sense of offending a holy God.
When we are consumed with our achievements and convinced of our worth and talent, we don’t think much about what we receive from the Lord.
If we see everything good in our lives as something earned—instead of as a gift—we won’t return much thanks to God.
A proud person is not in touch with their poverty and powerlessness, so they are not aware of just how much they need from the Lord. Jesus commends prayer for daily bread, even for those with a full pantry.
We need the Lord’s sustaining grace in both the physical and spiritual realms. We need God’s loving, fatherly discipline; we need his wisdom; we need his protection. And yet, pride blinds us from these needs and blocks us from asking.
Fighting Through Pride to Pray
I’ve often attributed my prayerlessness to busyness. But saints through the years have seen that for the lie it is. Martin Luther famously said that he was so busy the following day he’d need to devote even more time (three hours!) to prayer.
I think Michael Reeves is right—our lack of prayer burbles up from the spring of a proud heart. This means that one of the ways we protect and cultivate a rich prayer life is to battle against our pride.
This article doesn’t have the space for a full strategy to war against pride, but here’s one tactic that has helped me: Read and memorize God-exalting parts of the Bible.
When we fall into pride we start to believe we are independent, that we can function just fine without God or anyone else. This is, of course, a flagrant and laughable lie. But it is a lie our flesh loves, so we need to read and absorb the truth. God is the only independent being in the universe, and we (along with all creation) are completely dependent on him. There are many good places in Scripture to turn for this help, but I find myself returning to Job 38–41.
Prayer as a Weather-vane
If your prayer life is evaporating, pride may be the reason. The specific ways we drift from God can serve as weather-vanes, pointing to the ill winds blowing through our hearts.
This may sound like an article full of bad news. Identifying sin is painful and embarrassing, and repenting of sin is terribly difficult. But if you are in Christ, there is always, always good news.
The fact that you are aware of this pride in your life is not a sign of God’s anger toward you. Just the opposite! It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). If God shows you pride in your heart, it is a sign of his love for and commitment to you.
So don’t stay away from your Heavenly Father. Embrace your dependence on him, turn away from your pride, and pray.