Why is prayer so difficult?
The Bible repeatedly teaches the value of prayer. “Pray continually,” Paul tells the church in Thessalonica. Pray “in every situation,” he advises the church in Philippi. And to the church in Colossi he says, “Devote yourselves to prayer.”
So the bible gives us a clear message that Christians should pray...
And indeed even in this increasingly secular age around 43% of the people in the UK (according to new research by ComRes) still pray - including 12% who pray every day.
There is a surprising amount of prayer going on, including by those who claim to be unbelievers!
Apparently something like one in five non-believers turn to prayer on occasions. Work that one out! We'd have to think a bit about what unbelievers pray about - but it does illustrate that prayer is almost a human instinct, something that is deep within us.
Of course, we do need to think about what we pray for.
Apparently 21% of people have prayed to win the lottery and 13% that their team would win
15% of people have prayed that a really bad thing they did wouldn’t get found out whilst 9% admit to praying that something bad would happen to someone they don’t like...
Then there is the question of how long we spend in prayer. In the UK the average Christians who pray will pray for 11 minutes per day. Still we can always rely on church leaders to take up the slack? Maybe not. 13% of church leaders pray for less than 15 minutes per day, and 3% not at all. Scary!
I think most Christians feel a bit guilty when the subject of prayer is brought up. We believe prayer should be a big part of being a Christian, but we just don't seem to do enough of it.
Why is prayer so hard? Now I’m going to be completely honest here – and say that even I feel a bit guilty about it. In truth, I’m just not that great when it comes to prayer
I mean, I DO pray. And I suspect I pray more than most of us. Not because I’m amazing at prayer, but because quite a few of us don’t actually pray much or at al. I’ve been around long enough to realise that lots of Christians really struggle with prayer. We know we should – but we just find it hard to do!
This week we’re going to think about some reasons why we struggle with prayer. Look out for a part 2 – some practical steps we can take to get started, re-started or better at prayer
Here we go then with FOUR reasons that we find prayer difficult...
1. We don’t know HOW
I suspect this is where many of us – if we are honest – are right now. We just don’t know how to go about praying – we’ve never been taught or shown how to do it!
Again this is entirely understandable. Even the disciples asked Jesus to show them
Luke 11.1 When Jesus had finished praying, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray”
If nobody ever showed us HOW to pray, then how would we know?
Or perhaps you saw people praying, and they prayed for five minutes straight, with lots of big religious words and you thought: 'I could never do that'? So you formed the idea that if you didn’t couldn’t pray in flowery language for five minutes straight, you shouldn’t pray?
But Jesus shoots this myth down when he says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)
2. We are too busy.
Busy lives. Fast moving schedules. Overwhelm.
There are so many needs in our lives, our family, church, city, and world, we don’t know where to start
This feeling is entirely understandable, indeed it was often felt by the writers of the Psalms
For example, look at Psalm 69
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.
Prayer takes time.
It flourishes in stillness, quietness, and serenity, all things that are becoming are becoming increasingly hard to find in our busy, hurried lives.
For some of us, prayer is something we will do if we’ve got nothing else going on.
The problem is there’s always something else going on. Prayer never happens accidentally. We have to be intentional about it.
3. We don’t know if God hears us
And we aren’t sure that even, if He does - which He does - that it makes any difference
Or perhaps we think He is too busy to hear our petty prayer requests.
Picture Jim Carrey from Bruce Almighty rapidly checking his inbox of all the prayer requests that come in. The movie shows that there are so many requests that even God can’t keep up (...not true, by the way).
But if that’s all that you think prayer is - a cosmic drive-thru window where we pop in and order something and God just gives us whatever we ask, then we’re always going to be disappointed
Prayer’s not magic; it isn’t simply submitting a grocery list to God. Prayer works – just not always in the way we expect or want.
4. We think we can get by on our own.
This is the fallacy of self-reliance, which is seen as the wrong path for Christians in the bible
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. Proverbs 3.5-6
All of us tend to rely too much on our own resources and we don’t even think to turn to God in prayer. Have you ever heard someone say – usually when someone is really seriously ill – ‘all we can do now is to pray’
It’s like prayer is the last resort, when it actually should be the first thing we do
Even in Christian circles, we have lost the core value of reliance on God rather than reliance on ourselves. All of Scripture tells us that life was meant to be lived, not in reliance on ourselves, but in full, joyful reliance on the One who made us and who is with us always.
Life was meant to be lived in vital, intimate, daily turning to God in all we do, knowing our need of God and trusting that God will make clear the path before us.