What is your favourite part of a church service?
Some might choose the sermon, while others enjoy the musical worship. Still others might prefer the fellowship, and yet others the coffee and snacks afterwards!
I am willing to bet very few would say that the prayers are their favourite part.
Few Christians (in my experience at least) are truly excited about prayer. This is my fourth post on the subject of prayer, and I hope it has encouraged you to want to explore more in your prayer life. But does it excite you?
Have you ever met a Christian who boasted about their prayer life? Perhaps they rise very early in the morning and pray for five hours before making breakfast. Maybe they tell you all about the different things they pray for, and the miracles that occur as they petition the throne of God. As much as we know we should be happy for them, if you are like me you will probably feel somewhat small, or even condemned.
Comparing your prayer life to someone else’s is never a good idea!
When we meet someone like this, we might try to replicate what they are doing. We set our alarm extra early and are all set to rack up the hours. Five minutes in though, and we’ve prayed for everyone and everything we can think of.
We sit it out, watching the clock and struggle through an hour. Ultimately we give up and feel even worse. Why is prayer such a chore!
The Father never intended for us to see prayer as a chore. Sometimes prayer is indeed work, but was not meant to be a drag which we dread.
If you want to subdue a group of believers, just suggest an evening of intense intercession!
The early church was not like this, and never seemed to struggle to pray like we often do.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Acts 1:14 (NIV)
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:42 (NIV)
When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
Acts 4:24 (NIV)
So why does the modern church struggle so much with prayer?
I do not mean to paint a bleak picture here. I’ve met many Christians who were passionate about prayer, but often they are those with a particular gift for it. The low attendance at many prayer evenings betrays something about our view of prayer.
Some religions mandate prayer requiring its followers to pray four or more times every single day. For Christians, no such rules exist. I believe that this was a deliberate choice by God, who could have easily demanded prayer at regular intervals.
God does not want prayer to be a chore. It is not something we have to do, it is some we get to do.
If you are not all that excited by prayer, then ask yourself why not. As I think about the answer myself, I suggest these might be some common responses.
- I never know what to say
- I’m too easily distracted
- I am busy and just don’t put aside the time to do it, and I must admit it is not a priority for me right now
- My prayers seem to go unanswered
Do any of these ring true for you? They are certainly all true for me at different times!
The first three are largely matters of discipline. If we don’t know how to pray or what words to say, then we can use the Bible to help us or buy ourselves a book of prayers to get us started.
If too easily distracted, then we need to know ourselves and put aside things that will get in the way. It might mean putting the phone in a drawer for a while!
The third item was hard for me to write because it hit home. While I would never say that prayer is not a priority for me, do I actually prioritise it? It is tough to be excited about something you put off.
The last one is a complex one, and it can be very difficult when we feel our prayers are not being answered. Often we mean that they are not being answered in the way we would like, rather than not being answered at all.
We do not have the space here to discuss reasons why prayers seem to go unanswered at times. Sometimes it is simple, and sometimes not. For instance, we do not get the answers we want if we have not asked (see James 4:2). Also, if we ask but don’t really believe we will get it, then we stray into wishing and not praying.
One thing I can say for sure is that God is always listening. He wants to hear from you, and He delights in answering our prayers. Remember that if we were Him, knowing all that He knows, then we would answer our own prayers the way He does.
Let me close by reminding you of what prayer is. It is the opportunity to talk with the Creator of all things. And this is not some distant or unknown character, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He loves you and proved this love at the cross. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we cannot help but be excited by prayer.
Prayer is a powerful and extraordinary thing. We have direct access to the Father and can ask Him whatever we wish. We can stand in His presence, and seek His favour. We can ask Him to bless those we love, and to spread the good news about Jesus across the world. He loves and enjoys our prayers, and delights to say “Yes!”
Let us all stir up our hearts and get truly excited about prayer. It is not a chore, but an adventure! Praise be to the God who hears our every prayer!