A central focus of my life and ministry has, for some time, been prayer. I strive to spend regular times in prayer. Part of this includes a daily prayer time, a weekly period of a couple hours where I get away to pray and let God speak through authors and Scripture, as well as making a habit of lifting before the Lord anyone who comes to mind through the day.
Before you look at this and gush that Pastor Ken is so holy, understand that this is what I strive for. I fail at it often. For the last few weeks, my daily prayer time in the mornings has been sadly, and sinfully, lacking. I, like anyone else, can let other concerns get in the way. This morning, I started thinking about the things which keep us from going before God in prayer. I considered four causes (they are not in order):
First, we get busy. “Sorry Lord, but you know how busy I am this morning.” This has happened to me with my educational efforts. I have a great deal of homework, and only a limited amount of time to do it. It is easy to get tempted to lay aside the prayer time to concentrate on other work. Pastors are notorious for this, because the work we most often do is in service to the Lord. But this is the problem. It assumed we can serve the Lord without going before him on our faces, seeking his presence and his power in our lives. In effect, we say, “I’ve got this God. You sit this one out.” We don’t have it. We need God’s active presence in everything we do. This is true for me, as a pastor. It is true for you in whatever vocation or trade God has placed you in.
Second, has to do with getting busy. In the first, we get so busy doing good that we try to do it without God. The second is different, but subtle. We have a limited time of day to do everything. If I don’t finish this assignment or project it effects my grade, gets me in trouble with my boss, cuts into my profit margin, etc. However, if I don’t spend time with God, he will forgive me. This is true. But this consideration shows something about our heart condition. Can you think of any greater reason to spend time with God than his mercy and love? He forgives me because he loves me, and it is in his nature to do so. Now, I respond by taking advantage of that love. Rather than cherishing the relationship, I take it for granted. This is just not right. God, the loving and merciful, deserves far more attention than the squeaky wheels in our lives.
Third and fourth have to do with maturity and relationship. The third reason I considered for not praying is that we find it boring. Many do find it boring to pray. I used to be one of them. For me this is confounded by the fact that my mind was always running after things I needed to do. However, this is the problem. Consider your relationships. I was once a young man—a long, long time ago. My wife and I were once dating—my kids can’t even imagine such a thing. When we were dating, she was fascinating. I loved to just sit and look at her, consider her face, hear her voice and just spend time together. We didn’t even need to talk. Just being in her presence made my head spin. Now, after thirty years of marriage, we it’s harder—much harder. It takes restraint sometimes when we sit down to eat to not pull out the phone and check email, etc. Is it possible that you are bored when you pray, because you are living on an old relationship? Everything new grows cold. Fan into flames your love for Christ. Build desire, like you once did in the relationship. How? That will depend on yourself. Find your passion in Christ. What about him still brings you excitement? What gives you a desire to learn, to listen, to implore?
Fourth, is related to the third. Some of us don’t put off prayer because of boredom, or being busy, but because we just don’t know what to say. This is the easiest fixed, but also one of the most commonly cited causes. Imagine someone who longs to have a deep relationship with you, but you avoid them just because you don’t know what to say. If they want such a relationship, perhaps they will do the talking. There’s an option! If you don’t know what to say, open your Bible and ask him to speak to you. Then, sit silently for a while. From time to time, read and pray the words before you on the page.
Prayer is the work of a disciple. It is the one thing we can do which requires no special gift—we all receive that gift when the Holy Spirit comes upon us in salvation. Prayer is also the most powerful thing God has given us. Imagine, the God who spoke the universe into existence, wants to hear how your day is going. Imagine, he loves you enough to take not only an interest, but also an active role in your day.
Lay aside the excuses. Go to God; spend time with him.