Allow me to share a few thoughts about prayer that have been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about prayer a good bit lately. It seems to be one of those aspects of my Christian life that is a constant struggle (I suspect I’m not alone in this!). I’ve had seasons in my life where prayer has been a sweet time of communion and intimacy with God. But maybe even more often than that, I’ve had times where I tried to pray and the words won’t come, or I mumble the same empty phrases and get distracted, only to give up feeling worse than I did when I started.
There are a few things that come to mind that are helpful to remember when we struggle in these ways.
- Prayer is not just a duty, it is a privilege: Yes, we are commanded to pray, but more than that, we must see prayer as one of the greatest privileges we receive as children of our heavenly Father. We get to go to our Lord, rest in his presence, place our cares and concerns in his hands, and tell him about our hopes, dreams, and fears. We impoverish ourselves by not praying, as the old hymn says: “What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!”
- God listens to our prayers: In 1 John 5:14 we are given this wonderful promise: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” We can have confidence that he hears us because he hears Jesus (Jn. 11:41-42). The Father listens to his Son and all who come to him in his Son’s name! We can have confidence that when we pray, our loving heavenly Father never turns a deaf ear to us, but always hears.
- We also have the wonderful promise that both the Son and the Spirit pray for us (Heb. 7:25, Rm. 8:26ff). Think about that for a moment: God not only invites you to pray to him, but he helps you by praying with you and for you. In prayer we experience the Trinity, praying to the Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Spirit!
- Have a plan: Prayer is something we can do anytime and anywhere, but too often we end up doing it never and nowhere. We should plan time where we can pray. Plan to pray when you do your devotions or when you drive to work. Also plan what you will say. While prayer doesn’t always have to be structured or overly formal, it can help to have a plan for organizing your prayers. This can help you fight off distractions and wandering thoughts, and it can help us not to fall into the trap of only asking God for things and not praising him and confessing our sins. There are many helpful ways to do this. Here are a few that I am trying to incorporate into my prayer life on a more regular basis:
- Using the Lord’s prayer as a framework
- Praying the 10 Commandments
- Praying Scripture
- Praying in circles (Start with self, family, church, move out to the world)
- Structuring prayer with the acronym ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication)
- Remember grace. As with everything else in the Christian life, we pray by grace. It is only by God’s grace at work in us to give us the desire and the ability that we can even want to pray (Phil. 2:12-13). We must always remember that God doesn’t love us because we pray – we pray because God loves us. He loves us perfectly, and we are accepted as righteous in Christ. We can do nothing to make God love us any more or any less. He loves you just as much when you don’t pray as when you do pray. So let the grace and love of your heavenly Father draw you into his presence to pray rather than letting your guilt and shame drag you there. And rest in his promise: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (Jas. 4:8).
With all this in mind, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).