Prayer should be easy right? I mean, if we seriously love God then why wouldn’t we talk to him? But for me prayer is difficult. I want to know why it is this way. Why do I find so hard to talk to God? It would just be weird if I rarely spoke to me wife. Yet, even though I love God more, I find it hard to talk to him. I’m sick of feeling guilty about it. It doesn’t help, it just makes me want to avoid it more. As I’ve been trying to think through some of my struggles with prayer, I’ve come up with 5 things worth considering.
1. Physical & Emotional Cues.
There is a significant value in physical presence. When I’m talking to someone in the same room, there is a real sense in their presence. I can read their body language. Hear their voice. Sometimes smell their perfume and feel their touch. These things set off emotional reactions for me. It may be affection, desire or distrust. When we talk to God these things are all absent and so it feel surreal or mystical. I don’t really know how to overcome this challenge but somehow I know that it makes prayer harder. Perhaps it is worth trying to find a physical space that helps me connect with God. Some people find it helpful taking a walk in nature, or setting aside a specific time or place.
2. I Need to Ask.
One of the first things a spiritual teacher does is pass on guidance on how to pray. This is true across all religions. If they don’t then they are failing to help their disciples to connect with god. Even John the Baptist taught his disciples how to pray. But Jesus doesn’t. I know, I know, there is the Lord’s Prayer, but notice how it’s context in Luke 11. It comes in response to the disciples’ asking. It’s almost as if they are saying ‘Come on Jesus you haven’t done your job properly until you teacher about prayer!’ Could it have been that Jesus was waiting for them to ask? Could it be that I find prayer so difficult because I haven’t yet said ‘Jesus teach me to pray?’
3. God is Father.
It’s so easy to take for granted the simple words ‘Our Father’. If like me, you were raised in the church then you know The Lord’s Prayer back-to-front. We’re taught from childhood that God is Father. In doing this we fail to realise the depths of intimacy God calls us to. It is an invitation to enter into his family. The word used is ‘abba’. In English it isn’t really Father, or Daddy, but more like ‘Dada’. It’s the language of an infant. As a father I have celebrated when each of my children have called me Dada. If this is true of me, how much more of God when I come to realise that he is my Dada?
4. Prayer is Talking to God.
To even have to put this point shows I’m a bit of a slow learner. It’s so simple but so often overlooked. Yes, we give it lipservice. It forms our basic definition of prayer but when we are alone we fail to apply it. We think our prayers. My brain is too scattered for this. I get distracted, confused, sidetracked, sometimes I even fall asleep. Did I mention distracted??? When asked how to pray Jesus used the word ‘say’. Even though it seems weird, maybe if I actually spoke my prayers I wouldn’t get so distracted.
5. I Am Not Alone.
I’m not the only person who finds prayer difficult but I’m not giving up hope. Praying reminds me that I’m part of a bigger family – a family of God-followers. Even more important, prayer reminds me that I’m joined by the triune God. I can speak to the Father – the one has called me his child. I speak through Jesus – when I pray I ask him to sign the prayer I make, and he now he is before the Father praying for me. And I pray in the Spirit – he brings things to mind for me pray for, even teaching me when I don’t know what to pray. If I was a boxer, I would have God in my corner. That’s pretty good. So, even though I may pray by myself, I am not alone.