Because of my career I am given many opportunities of offer up a public prayer to God. Oftentimes I am praying for a group of men, married couples, or parents. Other times I am praying for an entire congregation as a part of a morning worship service. During those times I ask that God would meet very real concerns that people have shared, praise Him for the many blessings that He gives to the group, and petition him for a variety of the fruits of the Spirit, such as patience and wisdom. If you were to be a part of a gathering where I am leading a public prayer you might think that my personal prayer life is frequent, vibrant, and fulfilling.
You would be mistaken.
The fact is that I struggle with my personal prayer life just as much as the next guy, if not more. I envy those who talk about connecting with God on a regular basis and how much He speaks to them through prayer. I’m also astonished at how much time those fellow believers are able to devote to prayer and wishfully wonder where I would ever find that kind of time.
Can you relate?
Admittedly, finding time to pray and having a meaningful prayer life are two separate things, yet that are intrinsically connected to each other. We can’t have a meaningful prayer life if we don’t make praying a priority in our life, and yet many of us don’t make it a priority in our lives because we can’t seem to have those times we do pray be meaningful.
I once heard someone put their frustration with their prayer life this way – “I struggle with prayer on a regular basis. At times it feels like I’m just leaving messages in His voicemail and hoping He gets back to me. Unfortunately, it feels like he never does.” I have to say, there are definitely times when prayer feels that way to me.
There are other reasons why we (well, at least I) don’t make our (my) prayer life a priority:
- Independent/Self-reliant – I like to feel like I have things under control and I arrogantly think “I got this God, don’t worry about me. Help someone else, I’ll let you know when I need you.”
- Subconsciously getting back at God – Life is not turning out exactly the way that I want, so I take out my frustrations on God by not praying. (Hey I didn’t say the reasons had to make any sense!)
- Confused – I’m not sure what to pray for, or my prayers for something that I clearly felt was God’s will for my life haven’t been answered, so I just stop praying.
- Scared – What if I pray for something and God answers it, but not in the way I want or was suspecting? (This is also known as the “I just know He is going to send me to Uganda” reason.)
So how can we overcome all of these self-inflicted obstacles to prayer? Each person needs to develop a regular time, place, and method for their prayer time. What works for someone else might not work for you. Perhaps the best time for you to connect with God is during your morning commute (keep your eyes open!) Perhaps it is over your lunch break, or at the end of the day.
Some folks keep a prayer journal to help them know what to be prayer for. Others use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide each time. Still others use the “ACTS” (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) method. You can even use the prayers that are offered in Bible as a guide (Ephesians 3:14-19 is a great place to start).
If you are having a hard time with consistently spending time in prayer I would encourage you to find a prayer accountability partner. This person doesn’t necessarily have to pray with you in person each time, but rather will regularly be checking up on you to encourage you in your prayer life and keep you going. Mary and I have started getting up just a little bit earlier to start our day with some personal time of devotions. There have certainly been some days when I would love to hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and I am sure that there are days that she would like me too as well! But the commitment that we’ve made to each other keeps us going.
What has worked for you? How have you incorporated the spiritual discipline of prayer into your life?