Overcoming Challenges to Pray
I wonder if you’ve had this experience- you sit down to pray, and immediately your mind wanders. To-do list items float to the front of your mind, dominating your thoughts like lily pads covering a pond. Before you know it, your prayer time is finished, and it’s time to face the day. Secretly, you wonder whether it was even worth the effort. Why can prayer be such a challenge?
Reason #1: We’re in a battle.
It has been suggested that the most disbelieved verse in the entire New Testament is Ephesians 6:12. There Paul says that our real battle is not against other people but against the spiritual forces of evil. The enemy of our souls and his henchmen actively work to keep us from praying.
Reason #2: We are weak.
Our flesh actively resists the spiritual work of prayer. Jesus puts it this way, “The Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mk. 14:38). Ugh. We know that feeling of weakness all too well.
Reason #3: We are distracted.
Are you preoccupied by the latest tragedy in the world? Worried about how to pay for your children’s college bill? Uncertain about what the test result will reveal? According to Jesus, the worries of this world choke out the fruitfulness of God’s Word (Mk. 4:19), which in turn quenches our desire to pray.
Reason #4: We have misplaced longings.
If we’re honest, many times we do not pray because we do not want to be with God. We naturally long for comfort and ease, not difficulty and pain. Prayer is difficult. We are constantly tempted to amuse ourselves to death in this age of entertainment, smartphones, and YouTube videos.
The Path Forward
All is not lost. It is possible to grow in your desire and ability to pray. Here are some suggestions for your journey:
1. Come as you are
Jesus loves the real you, not the Facebook version of you. You do not need to pretend before your gracious Savior. He knows you. He will not be surprised by what is on your heart…so pour it out before him (Psalm 62:8). You don’t need to be theologically correct when you speak to him. You don’t need to use King James English. Come as you are. He accepts you. You are safe in his presence.
2. Remember what prayer is
Prayer is not a system. It is not a formula that you need to get “just right.” Prayer is a conversation with the living God. A relationship. He has initiated the conversation, and remarkably, he has invited you to join. You will be changed for the better in his presence.
3. Ask for Help
Prayer is a spiritual activity, and we need God’s help to make it effective. Ask for his help. Ask him to give you a greater desire to pray. He loves to answer such petitions from his children.
Friends, to grow in prayer, you must build a relationship with Jesus. More accurately, you must respond to the relationship he has built for you. He has initiated, and he longs for you to know him better. There is freedom to make mistakes in this relationship, but the worst thing you could do is give up.