Is It Possible to Pray Too Much?

You don’t want to be around me in the midst of a big decision-making time. The effort I put into it would exhaust even an onlooker. For example, when I was trying to decide between two grad schools, I went back and forth so many times I was surprised the one I finally chose still agreed to take me. I had told them yes, then no, then yes again. All during the yes-and-then-no fluctuations were pros and cons lists written on white boards, nights lying awake or having nightmares about making the wrong choice, sitting in a wicker chair in the corner of my bedroom asking God where I should go. Both were good schools in beautiful cities with their own charms. It was a win-win: my worst nightmare.

I agonize about making the exact right perfect decision. The one that places me in the exact right perfect path of God’s will so that I meet the people I’m supposed to meet, see the things I’m supposed to see, and experience that parts of God’s earth I was intended to experience. Prayer, pros and cons lists, searching for signs…I do these incessantly until I land on something.

This makes me feel good about myself. Like I’ve really searched for God’s will in my decision making and been a good and faithful servant, thinking I’m choosing His ways over my own. And then I have coffee with a friend. And she begins to tell me how things have simply worked out for her. She applied here, got in, went. I was great. She decided to take this trip because it seemed fun, met amazing people, and her life was changed.

It’s infuriating. Why do I sweat, and lose sleep and cry over decisions while she practically closes her eyes and picks her life at random from a catalog and sees God move in huge ways? It’s an injustice. Those of us that are obsessed with choosing God’s will and terrified of stepping outside of it don’t know what it’s like to have the freedom of simply picking.

But what’s most infuriating of all, is that I think I know the answer to this question over “over-praying,” or over-agonizing. What the answer has been to a lot of my questions over the past couple of months: There’s a balance. There’s always a balance. I’m tired of balance. I like extremes (Freud would claim this is because I’m a middle child), and I want to think it is possible to be in degrees of God’s will. Is it? Even when we’re praying to be in it at all times? Because I’ve made some decisions that didn’t turn out so well,

and I’m beginning to wonder.

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  1. Gloria Windham on March 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I believe you can never pray too much because our Bible says
    that man ought to always pray. I don’t suggest that when we pray we need to be always on our knees with our eyes closed. We can pray in our minds to the Lord anytime. Be Blessed!

  2. rona on March 14, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    all i can say is that all of us are different people and that we have different actions and reactions to God’s will. i’ve had my dose of being jealous with other people, overthinking much and all the bad things that cross my mind, but then, God made me realize, i have my own journey, i am unique and no one else is like me.
    of course, some people will have it easy, because it’s what works for them. if praying incessantly is your ultimate way of seeking God, then it’s something you should be proud of, because i believe that is the unique kind of devotion that God has designed for you.
    in the end, what matters is not that we see what worked for us smoothly or not, but what matters most is when God had His way in us, whether we overprayed or not, and that we see it in our lives, resulting to a higher kind of worship each time. keep up to your praying and praying, as you can be sure that God is glorified whenever we surrender all things about us to Him.

  3. Ranu on March 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I totally understand how you feel. I do the same for major decisions. I’m slowly learning that God is always in control whether I’m random or purposefully conscious. Whatever he ordains will always come to pass.

    Here are a few scriptures that got me to this point:

    “However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless…You who are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.” – Eccl. 11:8-10

    “Whoever watches the wind will not plant, whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” – Eccl 11:4,6

    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

    “Letting go and letting God” always challenges me because I put the onus on myself. I feel like God always does his part and it’s up to me to do mine, so when things go bad I blame myself thinking, “Since God is perfect and I am not, I’m the one who’s messed up.”, which is where the problem lies.

    Faith and trust in God is the difference. “Letting God” involves a very high level of belief and certainty in God and his will. So our prayer as over-prayers needs to be, “I believe, Lord, but help my unbelief”.

  4. Charity Singleton on March 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I’m an all or nothing person, too. At least I used to be. And I used to hate the word “balance” too. But then someone told me about the musical concepts of tension and release, and I found a much better rhythm for my life, my prayers, my devotion, my thinking. Sometimes I have to give more, sometimes less. Sometimes I have to accept more, sometimes less.

    I love these questions you are asking.

  5. Denalyn lucado on March 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Sweetie, I so resonate with this post. I’m sorry about that worry strain in our family line. But the Lord is mighty and instructs us in the middle of our weaknesses b/c He knows us. For me, those times of stress, struggle and prayer have been times of spiritual growth even if they don’t turn out well (according to my chart). You’re awesome! I love you and I’ll see you in 3 days

  6. Jen B Mendoza on March 14, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Hi Ms Andrea!
    I can see myself while reading your blog post. Just like you, I am also agonized by this decision-making thing because I am afraid that the choice I made is not aligned with God’s will. I don’t want to suffer from cognitive dissonance that’s why most of the time, I leave it all to the people who have authority in my life, I let them decide for me.
    I don’t know if this is just mere coincidence but I am also a middle child and I also like extremes (does this coincidence support Freud’s claims?). 🙂

  7. bootytoberlin on March 15, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Don’t agonize too much about things – let yourself rest in the knowledge that He’s in control and even if you do make a decision that doesn’t work out 100% – He’ll be there waiting for you and loving you! 🙂 Don’t get too bogged down with trying to remain in God’s favour – you’ve already got it – there’s nothing to strive for. Just love Him, that’s all.

    I know how you feel – I turn decision around in my head over and over and over again until I eventually end up as a crying heap in the corner of the room. The lesson is just to learn to let go 🙂

    Good luck! 🙂

  8. Khanum on March 15, 2011 at 8:39 am

    “This makes me feel good about myself. Like I’ve really searched for God’s will in my decision making and been a good and faithful servant, thinking I’m choosing His ways over my own.” So my thoughts!!!!!
    At times things don’t work out in my life even though Im sure Im on the right path. But then again, if you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plans.

    So don’t worry. Its God who wants us to learn by our mistakes at times.

  9. singlesouthernlady on March 15, 2011 at 9:41 am

    I think you can worry too much, but not overpray. I definitely worry too much – especially about relationships – am I dating the right boy? Will we break up? Will we get back together? If I move to this town, will I have friends? Should I stay where I am because I have friends?

    My nature is anxiety but the Bible says to be anxious for nothing, but to go before our Lord in prayer and supplication, so I have gotten into the habit of turning worry filled thoughts into prayers…as I start to obsess over a relationship or decision, I immediately turn them into prayers, expressing concern, asking for guidance and handing the worries over to our Lord. In some ways, I can’t help which worry-filled thoughts come into my head, but I can help what I can do with them, and taking them to the Lord is not only biblical, but comforting.

  10. Shellybell on March 15, 2011 at 10:52 am

    The question for me is am I praying or fretting? Am I wrestling and trusting or trying to control an outcome?

    Great post and great thoughts…I call myself an “overthinking blender”. I over think just about everything and anything. I know this plight all too well.

    Maybe I will get to see you this weekend.

  11. Rick C on March 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Wow, there are truly a lot of ways to respond. I just can’t make a decision as to which response I want to go with. 🙂 Just kidding of course.

    Good luck to you. God is more willing to hear your prayer than you are willing to make a prayer; no matter what God deeply loves you and all of us!

  12. Lily on March 15, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I believe God causes all things to work together for my good, because He knows my heart (Rom. 8:28). I usually ask the Holy Spirit for direction and wisdom whether its a small or big decision I’m facing. But then prayer is much more than asking God to do something. Its our way of communicating with Him, building up our spirit and receiving strength. Thus its never too much to reach out to our source, in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

  13. Emily on March 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    was JUST talking to my counselor this morning about how obsessive I am. Another good thing to note is that although you may be obsessive or anxious about things you shouldn’t be, try to see the positive that you are PASSIONATE and DILIGENT about the good things that you are supposed to do. We over-thinkers must accept the brains we have been given and learn to give ourselves boundaries and accept God’s grace.

  14. Katie on March 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I had it explained to me once that asking God questions like which grad school to go to is like a parent asking a child, “Do you want an apple or an orange?” The parent doesn’t really care as long as the child picks one. God will use you in either place, which specifically you choose isn’t as important.


  15. stephanieamber on March 21, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Word, Andrea. I think it’s also worth asking what exactly is God’s will and how does one do something outside of it? Someone once referenced that it’s like making a sandwich. God says “make a sandwich” and lays out ingredients and options. We could pray “Dear Lord, would you have me put American or Cheddar cheese?” and his response would be “make a sandwich.” and after not receiving a response we’d decide to not use either, and go on to the meat and ask “ham or turkey?”… and at the end we are left with an empty plate and have not yet accomplished God’s desire for us because we were too busy being anxious with the choices.

    Which isn’t to say that God is not a part of the decisions. In my own life, I’ve found that when I’m looking at a decision and weighing the options the more important thing is not “which one is God’s will for me?” but is how much I include God in the decision making.

    I was talking to a friend recently who has so many options about what to do and wont’ address them because they’re praying that God would show them big huge signs or very clearly eliminate options, but I think it takes a certain amount of trust in God’s grace to approach something in prayer and “just go for it.” Trust that even if we’ve made a foolish, awful, stupid decision.. that God will be there to catch us and pick us up in the end.

    Anyway, I don’t think prayer can ever really happen “too much,” but I think we can use prayer as an excuse to not be thinking through choices or acting on “gut feelings” and what not.

    But I think it’s worth a thought over what “God’s will” is for us – is it an unchanging, fixed thing that we kind of are trying to stay squeezed into? Is it a list of options that will please God, and anything aside from that pushes us out of it? If so, how does one get back IN the will of God? Do we fix our mistakes and call it good, do we have to make up for it with “right” choices?

    I don’t know, it’s crazy to think about.

    Anyway, I enjoy reading your blog; it is thought provoking and I think we are at comparable stages in our lives and so you bring a bit of “safety in numbers.”

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