I just read ahead in my devotional “Comforts from the Cross” by Elyse Fitzpatrick because tomorrow’s topic was on prayer. Prayer. . . what a struggle! While I enjoy it, and long for moments of stillness and silence before the Lord, some days it is such a struggle. She says there are 2 reasons we don’t pray, both rooted in not fully believing the gospel:
1) We don’t really think we need to (self reliance)
2) We don’t feel comfortable in the presence of God (shame and guilt).
I think there is a 3rd reason too . . . we don’t know how! I really think the struggle in prayer is just getting there. We don’t need to read a book on prayer, listen to a sermon on prayer, or talk about prayer, we just need to pray!
When I first started to pray I think I read 10 books on prayer. There are so many thoughts on prayer, “how to pray. . . start like this . . . ask in this way”, etc. I started to feel like a robot in my prayer time and like I was doing it “wrong”. It was too formulaic for me. So I finally put down all the books on prayer. I went to God and said “I love to pray, but I have no idea what I’m doing! Is it okay if I just talk to you?” I started to imagine myself at coffee with Jesus or resting in the arms of my Heavenly Father . . . and it was like a weight lifted off of me!
I’m reminded of Romans 8:26-27 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” We don’t know how to pray, the Word of God says so himself!
Even as I’m writing this, so much scripture is coming to mind about prayer. Abraham asking God to save Lot; Moses interceding for the people-God relents; Hannah praying for a baby-He answers; Daniel praying, and the angel reminds him God has heard, but there is a battle going on in the heavenlies delaying the answer; Psalms-David sometimes crying out, sometimes praising, sometimes confessing anger and fear; Jeremiah praying for mercy on the people, God says stop praying, it’s time for judgment; Paul teaches us in Colossians to pray watchfully and thankfully; Jesus teaches us to pray humbly, yet also telling the story of the persistent widow to continue asking, etc.
So, I don’t have a formula. I believe Jesus taught his disciples to pray a certain way-Praising the Father, praying for His will and provision, and to be humble before the Lord with our sin. But, I don’t think it was to show them how to get what they want from the Father, as much as it is getting the Father-fellowship and communion with Him. His will for us is not to give us the idols we crave (health, wealth, relationship, jobs, etc.). His will is for us to be sanctified to look more like His Son. His will is that we know Him and make Him known!
Which is why we don’t know how to pray. We don’t know how to ask for things like that! We wouldn’t, we are in too much pursuit of self, to pursue Him and His kingdom.
So can I encourage you to be honest about prayer with our Heavenly Father? “I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know what to ask for”, and bring yourself to the place where his disciples were, where I am regularly and say . . . “Lord, teach me to pray.” I sort of think that’s what He wants from us anyway-to be like Mary, to sit and listen, to have a teachable and humble heart, and submit to His way.
Let us be intentional about carving out time for the Lord, be honest with Him when we go to the Throne of Grace that we don’t know how to pray and then just start talking. No need to be intimidated, God already knows your heart. No need to feel like you don’t know how, none of us do (Romans 8:26). All we need is to be intentional and honest, to go to the throne of grace and . . . pray.
(Just some things that have helped me when I’m stuck in a rut in my prayer life.)
1. Start with just 2 minutes a day. Don’t overwhelm yourself thinking you have to pray for 3 hours, the hardest discipline is doing it daily. Pick a consistent time each day for 2 minutes.
2. Read a Psalm or listening to worship music before you begin. Get the attitude of your heart right before going into his presence.
3. Be honest-don’t add fluff, don’t recite quotes you’ve heard people say. Talk to him the way you would talk to a friend on the phone. (Not that you don’t revere Him, He is the Lord, but be real and pure before Him too.)
4. Keep a notepad next to you if anything pops up while you pray (groceries, etc.). The enemy will try to distract you, write it down, and persevere!
Prayer: A Holy Occupation by Oswald Chambers
Alone with God by John MacArthur
Genesis 18-19 , Exodus 32-33, Daniel 9, Nehemiah 1, Matthew 6-7, Luke 1, 11, 18, John 17, Colossians 4, Ephesians 3, Romans 8
Leave a comment with some things that have helped your prayer life too!