Don’t Try To Pray More…
Prayer is one of the most elementary aspects of a life with God as well as one of the most personal ways that we communicate with Him. In terms of having a relationship with the Lord Jesus, children typically learn prayer first, from thanking God for food at meals to praying to Jesus for protection at bedtime. Children learn to pray first because anyone can do it and because its role in a relationship with God is so important.
Prayer is also one of the most profound gifts given to us by God.
Through the gift of prayer God reveals to us three main truths:
He reveals His phone number;
He reveals that He is always home to answer our call;
He reveals that He wants to talk with us.
If we could say the same thing about a celebrity—pick your favorite—wouldn’t we be ecstatic, telling all of our friends that a certain celebrity was our friend who wants to talk & spend time with us regularly?
And wouldn’t we also talk to that friend—that celebrity—often and with great joy and anticipation?
If this is true with mere humans, it is especially true with the LORD, the God of the universe, who is described as a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29 NIV).
So yes, prayer with God is a fantastic gift…
…So why is it so hard to pray?
Does prayer accomplish anything?
Why can prayer be so mundane?
Firstly, prayer is difficult because it primarily requires faith in God. Come on, we’re speaking to a Person whom we have never seen, and we’re listening to a Person whom most of us have never audibly heard! Prayer requires faith in God, and we are not naturally faithful people (Romans 3:9-18). Both adolescents and adults tend to rely and focus on our five senses—taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell—in our daily lives, and thus our faith in God atrophies and weakens like an underused muscle. We are so focused on the here and now, on the visible and sensible, on the practical and plausible, that we can disregard those practices that don’t produce immediate results or that don’t even involve a tangible audience. Since “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV), our natural predisposition to rely solely on our five physical senses weakens our faith in God and therefore makes prayer difficult.
Secondly, and similarly, it can be easy to doubt whether prayer is even worth our time, whether it accomplishes anything. Prayer requires us to:
slow down and stop,
to quiet down and listen,
to “be still and know”
(Psalm 46:10 NIV).
Could anything be more punitive to us Americans?
Prayer certainly runs upstream against the current of our culture. I mean, come on, with all this slowing down, stopping, listening, and being still, how can I expect to get anything done when I pray? Some people won’t even make it this far in the article, and this proves my point precisely!
Yet the very nature of prayer with the LORD teaches us that we pray in order to
know God better, that His will be accomplished;
not for God to know us better, that our wills be accomplished.
We pray in order to be with Jesus,
for when we pray we “approach the throne of grace with confidence”
(Hebrews 4:16 NIV).
And it doesn’t hurt that the personal benefits of prayer also happen to be fantastic!
Since Scripture teaches us that the people we spend the most time with affect our character (Proverbs 27:17, 1 Corinthians 15:33), how much will our character, heart, mind, and soul benefit from spending time with the LORD!?
Scripture also teaches us that
“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results”
(James 5:16b, NLT).
Yet we do not produce the results;
the One to whom we pray does.
So we can settle down and pray, confident that it is
not our energy that needs to work,
not our hands that need to produce,
not our efforts that need to succeed.
Prayer invites us to stop relying on ourselves and to start relying on the LORD—
it’s a much more effective arrangement that way!
Finally, prayer can become mundane when we focus too much on praying,
when we try to pray.
Prayer becomes draining when it becomes an assignment;
prayer refreshes when it is done as a response to who God is and what He does.
We don’t have to try to pray, whether more frequently, more intentionally, or more deeply.
We will pray naturally, deeply, and out of necessity as:
- We know Christ more personally
- Our love for Christ grows deeper and broader
- Our faith in Christ grows stronger
And these three things above will happen only when we strive for holiness more faithfully. (I DO NOT mean that we strive to earn God’s love or that we try to earn His grace! Not at all! But once we have received Jesus’ free gift of grace, His free ticket to heaven, we then have a daily role to play in following Him wherever He leads as He prepares our character for heaven!) In other words, we’ll pray more when we make the decision each and every day to obey Christ, to put our faith in Him into action every day and in every sphere of our lives. This is so difficult to do that it will cause us to choose to pray, and it won’t feel like a chore; it will feel like relief.
The longer we stay comfortable as servants and friends of Christ—regardless of where we are on the maturity spectrum or how long we have been believers in Jesus—the less we will pray and the further we will drift from our King.
Prayer will be less frequent and more difficult when we are
living on our own strength,
accomplishing on our own power,
conducting business as usual,
(as we’ve always done it)
fulfilling our own dreams,
focusing on ourselves.
The tented and temporary nature of our earthly lives implores us
not to get too comfortable
(e.g. seeking only the easy paths),
but to respond in faith
as Jesus invites us
out of our boats
to walk on the roaring waves.
This life is too short for us to get comfortable,
Eternity is too long for us to get comfortable,
Our appointment with Christ our Judge is too near—
for us to get comfortable.
Prayer is easiest for those who are in the race,
for those who are
Prayer is easiest and most natural for those who are shining, for those who are
and enjoying Christ.
When sweat falls, prayers rise…
When (spiritual) bellies grow, prayers shrink…
When our fruit rots, so do our prayers.
“God is more concerned with our character than with our comfort” (Mike Woodruff).
So don’t try to “pray more”—just obediently put yourselves in situations that require more than you have to offer, and you’ll start praying before you know it.
Don’t try to “pray more”—just try to be more like Jesus, and you’ll pray. Trust me. You’ll need to—you won’t have to.
Don’t try to “pray more”—just get out of the boat and follow Jesus. The wind and the waves will make sure that you pray without ceasing…