This is the one-hundred-fifty-fifth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
It’s okay to admit how challenging it is to pray. I’ve met few believers who have not felt inadequate in their praying. I know how often I feel that way. For many of us, the discouragement comes simply from feeling that we have not prayed enough. And for those who pray regularly and frequently, there are often personal disappointments about the depth or quality or content of prayer.
Any of us can easily become paralyzed by the problems we face in prayer—and then the paralysis itself becomes the main problem.
But we can take comfort in this. God knows we’re creatures of the earth. He certainly knows that the downward pull in our hearts, operating like a powerful gravitational force, often retards the desire to pray. The Bible tells us we don’t know how to pray (Romans 8:26). Jesus said to pray, “Our Father…,” so perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us if we feel small and immature when we pray.
Question after question press upon our minds, and push us downward:
- Do I have time to pray?
- Won’t God be insulted if I just pray a bit this morning?
- Are my scrambled words worthy of God?
- What if my attitude isn’t right in praying?
- What if I ask God for things he doesn’t want to do?
- Why do my prayers always sound the same?
- Is it okay to use someone else’s prayer as mine? What’s the use of praying if God already knows what he intends to do?
Hesitation is the black hole into which a galaxy of unspoken prayers have been swallowed. The way to get past hesitation is just to open our mouths and speak up. Whatever, whenever, however.
Prayer is always an act of faith. It begins with faith, must be carried through in faith, and finished in faith. Every ordinary prayer prayed in the most ordinary way by the most ordinary person is a revolutionary statement of trust. It is to take a stand and say: I have questions only God can answer, I have a longing only he can fill, I bear pain that only a crucified Lord can understand. I need to speak with God!
When you read what the Bible says about prayer, it appears that God is far more interested in our bringing before him a steady flow of ordinary, even homely prayers, rather than great eruptions of spiritual energy. Prayer shapes us best as habit, a steady pulse of unhurried conversations with God. We have to trust that it’s the right thing to do. And then we need to do it.
To establish prayer as habit, each of us needs to understand where and how we best pray. Some people pray best when they use the words of the Psalms or another prayer book. Others find the quieter early morning the time and place where they can talk to God. Some say that taking a walk is the best opportunity for prayer.
From Scripture: A Prayer for Strength, Love, and the Fullness of God
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
[To be continued – Prayer and the Presence of God]
[See previous – Always Praying]
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel’s many books include Spiritual Leadership Today: Having Deep Influence in Every Walk of Life (Zondervan, 2016). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.