Like many people, I take quite some time at the start of the year to reflect on the past year and envision what the next year could look like. One of the key reflections of last year was that my prayer life isn’t what it should be. Perhaps this is where you find yourself, feeling as though you aren’t hitting the mark in this area. We have all heard stories of these people who have powerful encounters with God in prayer and while it encourages, often it can feel like you have missed out. In the following blog posts we will be exploring prayer and its various facets. To begin with I want to share some of my own personal problems with Prayer:
Dwelling in the past
Initially when God saved me and this “following Jesus” thing was new I spent a lot of time thinking about where I had come from. My times in prayer followed suit. Repenting of sin that I had committed, seeking God for forgiveness and bringing my past before God. It became a habit from then on only to pray for things when I had stuffed up. So my prayer time was backward facing (past) and not forward looking (future). Often times I would lose sight of the hope and vision that I was called to because my focus was about things that had taken place in the past.
Have you caught yourself praying the same things in the same way for a very long time? For me prayer became a mindless ritual that was numbing and sleep inducing. I was confessing the same sin and praying for the same break-throughs. I remember times that I’d come home from the gym, park in our driveway and sleep in the car. Instead of coming to God in passionate, blood pumping prayer, I would repeat a few prayer requests then fall asleep.
So then moved to a more structured prayer time, thinking that this would solve my problem of apathy and complacency. So I did the good Christian thing and downloaded a prayer app (one that my bible college lecturer at the time recommended, as it must have been more holy!). I began entering in all the different things I could pray for into the app and then it would select what I prayed for on each day, along with a pre-written prayer and a bible verse. Fool proof I thought! While it was helpful for a time, it wasn’t the solution to my issue.
Creating such a structure, for me at least, lead me to lose sight of the goal all together. Instead of cultivating a relationship with the person of God, Jesus Christ, I was manufacturing a slick program to follow. As I reflect on this time I realise that the human condition wants to make good things the definitive things. We take a bible app, in my case, and turn it into a god. Like the app is going to save me from my spiritual condition… Rookie mistake.
Rebounding from a highly programmed prayer life I sought a more organic prayer life of “Jesus and me.” This type of prayer life has its benefits as it became more personal and intimate, however this type of prayer has a fatal trap. Prayer times became less about God, His mission and the world around me and more about me, my day, my issues and Jesus was my personal counsellor. While it is important to bring all your needs and experiences to God in prayer, it can’t stop there. I would argue it shouldn’t even start there. After a season of this “organic prayer life” I still felt dry and empty.
So in pursue of a richer relationship with God and a stronger spiritual life once again I changed the way I did prayer again. I stopped bringing my needs before God and focused my prayer on those around me, the mission of the Church, various pastors overseas that I met, unsaved people and the city I was in. It was refreshing for a time thinking about things outside of myself. While the concept sounds noble I was still narrow in my focus and rigid in my approach.
Lack of Time
Through-out the many lifestyle changes and contexts I have found myself in lack of time has been the common thread weaving through it all. It probably isn’t really amount of time that I have but the prioritization of my life. There isn’t a God app on your phone that is consuming your attention like the various social media options. Often times the thought, “I’ll just check my notifications” turns into hours of scrolling and surfing videos. To be honest I am quite embarrassed at how little time I have spent in prayer.
So here are just a few things that I have wrestled with when it comes to prayer. I’m still on a journey and have no concrete answers how to solve the prayer dilemma. However, I have discovered quite a few things that have been beneficial in cultivating a strong prayer life.
Stay tuned as the coming posts will be less of my struggles and more of the lessons learnt.