Hope for those struggling to pray
I am sure I am not alone in confessing that a consistent prayer life is a challenge. We sleep in, only to scramble out of bed and rush into the busyness of the day, later wondering why our souls draw near to almost anything and anyone else before they ever draw near to Christ.
Or perhaps we have had a long day at work or school, and simply desire a snack afterwards and a ‘few minutes’ in front of the television to ‘relax.’ “I’ll pray before bed” we tell ourselves, or, “As soon as I’m done supper.” Only, it never comes. The allure of entertainment and social media has gripped our minds with a seemingly firmer grasp than the gospel, turning our ‘few moments of relaxation’ into a modern-day golden calf.
And when we do pray, we find our minds wandering into the bottomless pit of worries and that always-replenishing list of daily tasks and responsibilities. When we manage to focus, our prayers resemble that of a legalistic checklist, in which we attempt to tick all the boxes as quickly as possible. It is in these times that I often think back to precious moments in prayer where the Spirit of God seemed to carry me through and an hour in solitary supplication with the Saviour felt like a mere 5 minutes. Then I wonder, “Why do such moments of prayer never seem to last till tomorrow, or the end of the week?” or, “Where is God’s presence now?” or, “Why do I feel as though I’m merely spitting words into the air, doubtful that they will ever reach heaven?”
In all these questions and frustrations, I realize that I am preaching just as much to myself here as to anyone else.
However, there is hope, encouragement and wisdom to be found in the Word of God. First off, Christ has not left us alone to white-knuckle our way to more consistent prayer by simply striving harder. He has left us an Advocate, a Helper. As John 14:16-20 says,
“ And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
And 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."
Be honest with God. Let Him know you are struggling to pray. Ask for strength to love Him more. Ask for greater manifestations of His Holy Spirit, that He might drive a stake through the heart of your apathy. Plead for more of Christ, that He might renew in you a desire to seek His face with ever-increasing fervency and joy. Do not be afraid to be open with God about your struggle to pray. Ask for help, and He will honour that, just as Jesus says in John 14:13-14:
"Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."
So Christian, do not fear to come before God with your beaten and bruised prayer life. He knows your hardship, there is nothing to hide. Do not try to get by with lackluster, legalistic prayers, and certainly do not try to live the Christian life with no prayer at all. As John Piper says, “If you don’t pray, you won’t live.” So, come before the throne of God and ask that He might give you grace to spur you on in prayer, to stir up your affections for the Saviour, to fight for joy in Christ, and to seek His face.
Remember, that as great as your struggle to pray may be, His grace and mercy are far greater.