Why We Fail at Prayer
Re-Frame Your Understanding of Prayer and Praying (article by Don Hester)
Premise questions: Why is prayer such a difficult thing to do? Why do we seem to hit this mental wall when we try to pray? Why is our prayer life so small and thus seeming ineffective? Why does prayer seem like work?
One of the answers is that we are at war with spiritual darkness and its #1 job is to keep us from experiencing the purpose of our creation…which is to experience God and communicate with God. Another answer is that we view and think of prayer inaccurately…how it is framed…how it operates and what the pieces and parts are. Let’s talk about this second answer:
The Apostle Paul exhorts us to devote ourselves to prayer (Colossians 4:2) and to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In reading the Bible, it is clear to see that God designed and intended prayer to be an active part of life…that He uses our prayer to shape history, events, and that He designed us and our prayers to have relationship to His plans and His intended outcomes.
Foremost…I think we have the wrong ideas about what prayer is and what the components and flow of prayer should be and where and how it occurs, or should occur. So many of us have this idea or concept that prayer is some process that is separate from all of our other life activities, where we isolate ourselves in an obligatory sense in some laborious, must-do, process that is composed of precise components of praise, thanksgiving, and requests that include religious sounding expression. And, for some, prayer is viewed to be repetitious scripts of prayers that have been prescribed for us to recite.
I believe God designed prayer as a means for us to communicate with Him for the purpose of a relationship with Him ‘so that’ we can experience Him as a Father and thus know that we can depend on Him in all things ‘so that’ we will love Him.
The best picture concept of this would be the communication between a parent and a child. As a ‘dad’… with my own children, I lived for, loved giving and receiving, the expressed reality of being deeply emotionally ‘connected’ to my kids. No matter where we were or what we were doing…we were connected. We shared space and time and every physical and emotional element that occurred was something to talk about…to discuss….to experience together. And such is the essence of sharing life and love. It sees, it feels, it touches, it expresses itself, it connects hearts, minds, and souls for the purpose of creating depth of relationship. Loving and being loved is the greatest experience of being alive. ‘Sharing’ at the deepest heartfelt level is key component of giving and receiving love.
If we were reading a book, playing in the yard, just hanging out together, riding in the car, we were connected. We experienced that ‘pleasure’ that comes from seeing, hearing, feeling, touching each other’s presence as we ‘shared’ life and living. Even in mundane activities like taking out the trash there was that constant awareness of ‘being together’…awareness that we were ‘together’. Every moment of living was sharing ‘presence’ and created and perpetuated the amazing experience of nurturing and being nurtured. The goal of togetherness is achievement of deep connection. And ‘that’..is what God, our heavenly ‘Father’….designed and desires in our relationship with Him.
When we have that connected awareness of His presence…that we are His and He is ours…that He delights in us…that He designed us to have connection with Him at the deepest spiritual/emotional, heart-felt level… then our communication with Him will become a natural and free flowing response to this awareness. And it is in and through this level of awareness that we begin to understand the purpose of our creation. This level of awareness and connection with God is a natural result of spending time with Him and loving Him. It is a shared joy of living and loving and nurturing. Communication naturally flows in such a relationship. Communication is a natural by-product of practicing the presence of God.
Can you imagine that if your child only came to be in your presence maybe once a day for 30 seconds and when they came…they came to you from an obligatory sense, with a repetitious sounding conversation that felt like it was given out of duty…and they said something like “Dear Dad…thank you for being my dad today…thank you for all that you give me…and I pray for you to fix my bicycle…and to keep me safe and secure today… and I thank you for the food you gave me today.” And then off they run to live the majority of their day without further shared or expressed connection with you…no demonstrated expression of awareness that the two of you are one and that your highest and best for them is to share life together and to communicate about ‘all’ of it, together. (James 4:3 “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”)
I love the Gospel of John where Jesus explains to us His desire and design for a relationship of connectivity with us. It is a level of connectivity that He and the Father designed for our highest and best…a relationship that starts and ends with love given and love shared. Chapters 14 and 15 are the ‘vine and branches’ verses…where Jesus communicates to us His and the Father’s desire to be deeply connected with us…to share life with us….the ‘if you love me…you will obey me and keep my commandments’ verses. If we love Him…then for sure we will be able to be obedient children to His commands. If we love Him…we will be loved by Him and the Father…and they will make their home ‘inside’ us…. Wow! Jesus says that they want to be with us all the time…to be connected with us..to share life with us… ‘in a home that they make inside us’…another Wow!
“He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” And a few verses later He amplifies that amazing promise and says “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14: 21, 23)
Prayer is the natural flow of conversation between Jesus, the Father, and us, as we share life with them. When you are with someone…in their presence…sharing life with them…you talk…you share…you share your deepest thoughts….you share your wins and losses….you share your aches and pains and you make your requests known…and you naturally…because you see and feel and constantly are aware of how much you are loved…you naturally want to be thankful…you want to say how dependent you are upon their care and constant provision for you and you want to give them praise.
So re-frame how you see yourself living life. This life is not just ‘your’ life. You have Jesus and the Father that live in the house of your life. Jesus and the Father share all of every aspect of your life…every moment…every day…of your life. If you love Jesus…if you love the Father…then they live in you…they are connected to you every second of every minute of every day.
Re-frame how you see ‘the house that you call your life’. You are not your own…you belong to an eternal relationship of constant connectivity where communication should be natural and free-flowing, spontaneous and never ending.
(I Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”)
Begin to practice the presence of Jesus and the Father in every moment of awareness in every day. Talk to them as naturally as you talk to your most trusted family member or best friend. I promise you will begin to experience what it means to pray without ceasing and devotion to prayer.
Talk to Jesus and your heavenly Father all through the day…as you drive…as you walk…at every moment where you have free space…include them in all you do. They are always with you in the ‘house’ that you call your life. They love to listen to you the way you love to listen to your children. 😊