Prayer can be difficult. Have you tried it lately?
I mean, the kind of prayer that bookends meetings or Bible studies is not necessarily difficult. Just thank God for the day and bringing us together or something like that.
Nor is the prayer in front of a crowd all that hard. It’s a good opportunity to use your old English words like “furtherance” and your “thees” and “thous.”
What’s tough in that case is talking to God as if He is in the room more than the folks listening.
Then there is the promise to pray for someone. That’s easy too. “I’ll pray for you” typically is a polite way to end a conversation. Or “I’ll pray about that” is a polite way to say you’re NOT going to do something.
The kind of prayer that is difficult is the kind Jesus spoke of, the kind where you go into your room, close the door, are all alone, and pray to your Father who is in secret because He sees what is done in secret and will reward those who pray without trying to impress anyone.
Even I can go into a room and close the door behind me (you learn to do that as a parent!) And generally I don’t mind being alone. But, prayer still doesn’t happen that frequently.
On the list of typical “Christian” struggles many will list their “prayer life” (as if they have multiple lives.) And so on their recurring issue list almost all Christians will put the frequency and depth of their prayer.
Why is this so common?
Well, we are busy people. We have more pressing things to do like binge watching our favorite tv shows, taking photos of what we ate for dinner, or taking care of the kids. Well, the last one seems important generally.
We also want quick results. And we don’t like being alone with our own thoughts. We like noise and distractions too.
Plus, our minds drift when we try to pray. I have hard enough time focusing in a conversation with someone I can see (just ask my wife). But, when I throw in closing my eyes and talking to someone I CAN’T see, who won’t verbally object if my attention drifts, or won’t show any body language of frustration, and won’t generally speak up to where I can hear it, then of course I am going to tend to think of my grocery list, rehearse a conversation coming up, or wonder when that movie is showing.
And then there is the tendency to go to sleep. Most of us live slightly sleep deprived. And so if you tell me to shut myself alone in a room, get quiet, close my eyes and again, talk to someone I can’t see, then prayer starts to be spelled N-A-P.
Here’s some more reasons that prayer is tough…
Generally, our prayer is all about us and as long as we feel like our lives are doing fine, then why pray? If we’re all good then why pray, right?
But then, Jesus taught us what to pray about too. He said we should praise God and pray that God’s kingdom would come, His will would be done on earth as in heaven.
I guess I can always pray that, but it seems risky cause maybe that might mean I have to be a part of doing His will on earth as in heaven. Better to just stick to praying about my will.
And the final thing I think makes prayer so difficult is, well, frankly our theology doesn’t really require it. We believe the right things and that’s most important. Our goal then is to get other people to believe the right things. Then we can all go to heaven when we die, right?
So we think we got this thing until this thing gets out of control. Then we pray.
We haven’t stopped to realize that the goal of life is to know God and be transformed in Christ’s image. And to see that happen, I have to want it, but to want it means God has to help me to want it because I have already shown I would rather watch NBA basketball and argue politics on Facebook.
So there you have it…praying is difficult. And that’s no excuse.
(Well, it is but it’s not sufficient.)
After all, what’s easy doesn’t really pay off all that much in the long run.
“Lord, teach us to pray…” Luke 11:1