March 10, 2014
I often find it really hard to pray. And, as far as I’m aware, most Christians do! We all know it’s something we struggle with, though we hate to admit it. So, in an attempt to kill the elephant in the room, here are my “Top Three Reasons Not to Pray.”
Our lives are filled to the brim with restless, over-filled daily schedules, mostly of our own choosing.
But wherever He went, Jesus was confronted by hundreds of people demanding His immediate attention. And what about Paul, who is regarded as the second greatest example of prayerfulness in the Bible? These are both examples of lives marked by gruelling activity, as well as extreme suffering and a distinct lack of external peace. And yet they prayed.
The busyness of our lives is not an excuse to avoid prayer; so must we.
We often don’t know what to pray for. We fain interests in distant news reports, whereas the things we really care and worry about we pass off as too selfish or not important enough.
But the worrying reality is we struggle to pray because we struggle to believe that God can do anything about it. When my requests seem too big, it is because I have a deflated view of God. When they appear too small, it is because I have an inflated view of the strength of my faith, on my own without God.
Our big problem, then, is our trust in and opinion of God. We need constantly to remind ourselves, from the Bible, that this is the God for whom all things were and are possible, and “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” (Ephesians 3:20). He is also our “Father [who] knows what you need before you ask Him,” (Matthew 6:8).
We need a sober and right perspective of ourselves and God, because genuine prayer demonstrates a dependence on God, and it offsets our own self-interest and self-sufficiency.
Sometimes we believe the lie that we need to get to a certain level of personal holiness or peaceful state in order to pray.
Once in a while we even hear this wrong understanding from our unbelieving friends – “Can you pray for me, because God will listen to you…”
Unwittingly, they are exactly right! But not for the reason they assume. God does listen to Christians, not because we are good (we’re not anyway!), but because, and only because, we have been saved by the blood of Jesus.
This is because Jesus was completely perfect in every way. The One through whom all things were made, still actively entrusted every area of His life, and any needs that He encountered, to His heavenly Father. Is it any different for us?
Jesus – The Only Mediator
That is, after all, exactly what Jesus came to earth for: to bridge the great divide between God and man created by our sin. So that now, through Jesus’ death in our place, the way is open for anyone who truly believes, to freely and intimately approach and communicate with none other than the living God!
Like anything we struggle to start in life (a diet, regular exercise), talking to God isn’t as hard as we make it out to be. We do have the time. And we do have the space. It might involve (like it has for me), a small decision to set off a bit earlier for work, converting a five minute cycle ride into a twenty minute walk. Or it might be that you find a quiet place over a lunch break to ask God for help that day.
We can enjoy meeting with our heavenly Father at any point this week, speaking to Him exactly what is on our hearts. We can remind ourselves of how big and how loving a Father and God He is. But we must always remember that it is Jesus, and not prayer, that makes us acceptable and gives us access to God.
But, if we grasp this, we can stop using our situation as an excuse not to pray, and start seeing it as a reason to pray.
Good books on Prayer:
A Call to Spiritual Reformation, by Don Carson – a more in depth book on prayer
Our Father, by Richard Coekin – a simple and practical handling of the Lord’s Prayer
A Praying Life, by Paul Miller – an easy read with helpful encouragement to pray
By Rob Newham