Someone once said that there are at least two ways to make a group of Christians feel guilty. Talk about witnessing or talk about prayer. Say hello to the guilt trip. Christians often feel as if they aren’t doing enough of either, if they’re even doing them at all. This article is not intended as a guilt trip. However, since the Bible talks about prayer (a lot), there are a few things that should be said about it — things that most of the prayer books, pastors, and conference speakers don’t talk about.
We underestimate the power of prayer.
Chances are, you’ve heard this one before. “Prayer is so powerful, so why in the world aren’t you doing more of it?” There’s a big difference between hearing that prayer is powerful, and then actually praying ourselves. It is sometimes hard to realize that merely whispering or thinking a daily prayer is going to make a huge world impact. Of course, we hear the stories of amazing answered prayer, but we’ve never really seen it ourself. Prayer becomes one more meaningless Christian ritual to add to a busy day. In other words, it’s the first thing to go when things get tough. Let’s realize that prayer is a command (1 Timothy 2:1-2). James urges discouraged Christians to pray (James 5:13-14). We must come again to realize that prayer is indeed important, even if we can’t feel or see such importance. We can accept this in faith.
We make prayer too complicated.
Here’s the kicker. Christians have made prayer way too complicated. There are seminars on prayer, classes on prayer, books on prayer, and blogs on prayer. There’s nothing wrong with many of these materials, but the net result is that we’ve made a complicated conundrum out of something that God created to beautifully simple. Prayer is simply talking to God. That’s it. Sure, there’s more to it than that, but that doesn’t mean we need to follow all the acrostics on P.R.A.Y., download a prayer list app, and grit our teeth to pray for a certain number of minutes each day. Again, acrostics, apps, and timers may be a wonderful asset to your prayer life, but they’re not necessary. Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated. It is refreshingly simple when you step back from your discouraged and nonexistent prayer life and realize that you can simply talk to God. That’s it! And what about unanswered prayer? We too often rack our minds thinking, “No! What did I say wrong! Is my technique off? Do I have bad form?” Let’s get back to the basics about what Jesus said on prayer: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). That’s it. That’s pretty simple.
We make prayer unattainable.
One common barrier to prayer its status as a super-spiritual gift of the sacrosanct select saints. We read of George Muller who prayed for hours each day. We read about Martin Luther who said that the busier his day, the more he had to pray. “What a joke!” we think, as we slosh in some caffeine, rush out the door, and dive into the car (buttoning our shirt and shaving at the same time). “Monks like Luther may have thought they were busy, but, oh baby, let me tell you about my day!” When we think of prayer as the property of the spiritual elite, we tend to give up. They can do it, but not us. Unfortunately, this is a twisted way of thinking about it. We need prayer just as much as Luther and Muller. We don’t need to pray four hours a day to qualify as “spiritual” (whatever that is). We simply need to talk to God. It’s simple, really.
The bottom line is that we don’t pray. Here are a few suggestions:
- Whenever you feel guilty about not praying, just stop and pray for a quick minute.
- If you use a schedule, schedule time to pray. Make it a part of your day.
- If you have a daily commute, train yourself to pray before you reach for the radio dial.
- If someone asks you to pray for something, ask them if you can do it right there and now with them (rather saying you will, but end up not doing it)
Prayer is a discipline — a spiritual habit that may be hard to do sometimes. You’ll probably never reach a spiritual plane where praying comes naturally. You may never even attain to the lofty heights of praying five hours a day. But you can pray each day, and watch the practice change your life.