Few true disciples are totally satisfied with their prayer life. We all aspire to do better and to be better, but the goal we seek remains tantalisingly out of reach.
While setting up a literature table in a town centre recently, I was approached by a lady who said “I need help”. “You must help me to pray”, she continued. “How do I pray more effectively?” It’s a question I have asked myself on more than one occasion. We conversed for a while and she took some literature with a promise that she’d be back for more. It was only after she’d gone that I realised the one thing I hadn’t done was offer to pray with her! Ironic, but the way to be more effective in prayer is to pray about it! What is it that we are dissatisfied about? Where do we perceive that improvements can be made? How do we wish to be more effective?
COMFORT ONE ANOTHER WITH THESE WORDS
A recent survey amongst a few Christadelphians revealed that the overwhelming issues that bother us are our consistency and the content of our prayers. Of those who were surveyed, 86% wanted to pray more regularly (i.e. be more reliable so that they remembered to pray each and every day with less variation) while 79% wanted the scope of their prayers to be wider and to include more than just themselves. It was rather humbling to receive the responses I did. It had never been the intention, but inadvertently I had opened a window into people’s souls. I had asked them to reveal intimate information about their spiritual lives. Prayer, rather like reading the Bible on a daily basis is something we take for granted and assume that everyone must be doing. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a rather convenient motto when it comes to life in the Truth, at times we all feel the danger of having a veneer of respectability behind which we might hide. Yet strangely, when we are under the spotlight and our flaws are revealed, when hidden truths come to light and it is evident that we are not as spiritual as we would like (or have made ourselves out to be,) there is a vulnerability that endears us to others. That which is embarrassing and shameful, which we did our best to conceal from our brothers and sisters, is in fact the real us, and is what can strengthen the bonds of fellowship more than the “How’s life, how’s the family, how are you feeling?” conversations that are often the norm of our ecclesial communication. Knowing that there are many of us who struggle with prayer is such a relief, such a reassurance. To know that others “forget”, or “fall asleep”, or who “struggle to find the right words at the right moment” is such a comfort.
CONSIDER ONE ANOTHER
The “one size fits all” answer of ‘Just pray’ may seem over simplistic and may not take into account the different challenges and circumstances that we face. The truth is however that we can over-analyse, worry too much, question ourselves into oblivion when all we need to do is open our mouths and talk. Praying about prayer may well be the first step to recovery.
If you struggle with what to say, why not start with the words of Scripture? Find a Psalm, or a Biblical prayer; or the words of a believer and start with that. Read it aloud, as if it were your own and eventually your own words will come, your own thoughts will take over and you will find yourself back in communication with the Almighty.
If you struggle to ‘fit-it-in’, choose a set-time and a suitable place and make that your “hour of prayer”. It may only be five minutes, but the routine will help and the more you do it, the more habitual it becomes. You find that it becomes second nature and you come to appreciate its value, and realize it’s worth. It is a moment of peace, of quiet contemplation, of private time between you and your God. It may be at home, in the bathroom (perhaps the only room where you can get any privacy); it may be in the car; it may be on your lunchtime walk or on the way home; it may be last thing at night at the side of the bed. It may be all of these and more, for there are no limits. We worship a God Who never sleeps, Who is available 24/7, with Whom time is not an issue.
If you struggle to remember, write a note and put it on the fridge or by your bed, set your alarm, create a calendar alert, ask someone else to text or e-mail you. Go out of your way to make as many reminders as you can. Be your very own “troublesome widow” (Luke 18:1-8) until you get so wearied that you have to pray! Or you might like to use a Prayer Diary, such as that published by the Christadelphian Office and available free if you contact us by email with a postal address within the UK.
If you want to widen the scope of your prayers, try watching the news, reading a church magazine, making a note of all the recent baptisms and pray for the new ‘babes’ in Christ. Make a note of all those who are no longer in fellowship and pray for the lost sheep. Make a note of forthcoming Campaigns, Bible Schools or other events and seek God’s blessing on those activities. Make a note of recent marriages and pray for the happy couple. Make a note of those who have fallen asleep and pray for those who mourn. Ask others to include you in their prayer and include them in your prayers. Listen diligently to announcements on Sunday and write down anyone or anything that you could pray about.
It is not accidental that Paul in almost all his ‘Ecclesial’ epistles should mention prayer and more importantly highlight the need for its frequency. Consider: “be instant in prayer” (Rom 12:12), “in everything by prayer” (Phil 4:6), “praying always” (Eph 6:18), “continue in prayer” (Col 4:2), “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). What further exhortation do we need? The time is short, the Lord is near, the kingdoms of this world are crumbling, let us pray that we “may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man”. James tells us that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” so we know that prayer works… we just have to believe in its power.