Problems, pray tell?
The struggle is real. How do I use this hotline to heaven without getting stymied and stumbling, or wondering and wandering, or doubting and dropping the call?
How do I pray well?
Prayer is an incredible gift. At any time and from any place we can communicate directly with our Creator, per his provision and invitation. But most of us, I think it’s safe to say, don’t take full advantage of this divine privilege because it is unfortunately fraught with difficulties. Here are some that I experience, in no particular order of importance or intensity.
How do I express it?
I want to pray about something but I struggle to put into words the need I’m asking God to meet. Either my vocabulary is inadequate or the undefined contours of the situation limit my understanding of the need itself.
But must I express it at all? I’ve often wondered, since God knows our thoughts and everything about the need as well, might it be proper and sufficient to simply focus my mind on the situation or nebulous need and trust that God considers that a prayer? We are taught in Romans 8:26 that, “we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” So if in prayer I groan in angst over the proliferation of evil, lies, and immorality in our country, and God knows that I hunger and thirst for righteousness, is language even necessary?
It’s a personality thing
Some people are able to just get on that prayer train and ride it for hours. The words flow and seem to fuel more prayers, moving them from one intercession stop to the next. My guess is these people are also more talkative in general.
For those of us who are better listeners than talkers, prayer can be draining. We have to do all the talking, and God does all the listening. I understand that God speaks to us through his Word and we can gain insight into it through silent reflection, so in that sense we also listen. But prayer itself is talking to God, and some of us just aren’t talkers.
Can I just say Ditto?
Jesus taught us to be persistent in prayer and that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” These exhortations are needed because we often don’t see an answer to our prayer. So we keep praying the same thing and sometimes that feels burdensome and wearying. I’d like to just assign each of these repeated requests a number for simplicity and expediency. “Thank you, Father for….. Here are my requests for today: #3, #8, #12…”
I’m fairly confident such a prayer practice would not be pleasing to God, nor effective. But I am not confident I yet understand why it would not. I have my suspicions, and a lot more I want to explore about prayer, but I’ll save that for next time.