Prayer, why do we struggle to do it?

A few months ago a friend and I were talking and the topic of prayer came up.  He made the comment that prayer was the hardest spiritual discipline for him to consistently do.  As I thought about it I had to agree with him. But wonder why, since prayer is such a simple but profound thing that can be done anywhere and anytime.

To start let’s take a look at what prayer is. The Westminster Shorter Catechism question 98 says it well by saying.  “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

Sounds easy huh?  Offer up our desires unto God, confess or sins.  How much time do we spend a day offering up desires in our minds?  I’d like this car, I’d like to eat dinner at this restaurant, I would like the new iPhone, this TV, that X, that Y, that Z, and the list could go on.  If we examine ourselves we are very good at offering up requests and desires, at a moment’s beckon call.  We are, of course, selfish people aren’t we?

Obviously the list above and others is not “agreeable to his will” as the catechism states, but to my point we are good at desiring.  So why is it hard for us to spend more time offering up desires agreeable to God’s will?  He is in fact our creator and the one we are supposed to glorify and enjoy forever, right?

A couple of thoughts that come to mind as why.

Our instant gratification culture certainly doesn’t help.  We live in a society that demands results, whether it is at home, work, or even church.  If we cannot wait a second longer for task X to be complete and positive results to come a flowing this can affect our prayer discipline if we are not mindful.  We may pray for weeks/years and there is no clear answer yet.  Or maybe we give up after a day.   In the workforce when this happens we scrap that plan and start a new one, right?  Let’s not do this with prayer.  Pray and fast more fervently!  Maybe in these cases we need to re-evaluate if we are praying in God’s will, but let’s not stop praying.  Remember “and whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:22 ESV)

Secondly I think of time.  We tend to fill our days, hours, minutes with something.  When we do have down time, we fill it with one of the many things that bides for our attention.  TV, computer, Smart Phone, iPad, phone call, txts, pick your distraction.  When there is an open moment I know I have to fill it with something.  How about prayer!

We all know there are many more reasons, but my intent here is not to continue to point out all the reasons why we do not pray, but only to list a few and then motivate us to action.

The exhortation to you and me is, let’s examine ourselves and strive to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2 ESV).  Turn off the phone, TV, computer, whatever distraction and/or reason we don’t pray and let’s have communion with God as we are designed to.

I leave you with this quote from J.C. Ryle from I Have Something to Say unto You:

“Prayer is the only way by which man can approach God. Prayer is the only messenger we can send to tell God what we want; and if we would have good things for our souls, we must ask for them. Prayer opens the treasuries of God’s mercies like a key; if we ask, we shall receive. Prayer is the means that everyone can use if he will—and yet for all this many people never pray.

Reader, beware lest your neglect of prayer should prove your condemnation. If Jesus is to save you, you must pray. If your sins are to be forgiven, you must pray. If the spirit is to dwell in your heart, you must pray. If you are to have strength against sin, you must pray. If you are to dwell with God in heaven, your heart must talk with God upon earth by prayer. Oh! do not be a prayerless Christian, whatever others may think right. Begin to pray this day if you never prayed before. Remember if you and I are to meet each other with joy at Christ’s appearing, you must pray.”

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3 Responses to Prayer, why do we struggle to do it?

  1. Daniel Ray says:

    Thank you for this important reminder Stephen.

  2. This is what we need to be hearing more of! Thank you.
    “We learn to pray by praying…” – Richard Sibbes

  3. Robert Lee says:

    Well written Stephen – lots of good stuff here,

    “With all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints.” Eph 6:18

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