We know we have an inclination to pray. We especially sense our internal compulsion to talk with God when all hell seems to be breaking loose around us.
We know we have many commands to pray. We cannot read the Bible for very long without hearing God calling us to adoration, thanksgiving, confession, and supplication.
We know we have instruction in how to pray. In the Gospels, Jesus teaches us how to converse with our Heavenly Father.
We know we have the ability to pray. The Holy Spirit helps us within. The Son of God helps us above. By the Spirit, through Jesus Christ, we can boldly approach the throne of grace.
We know we need to pray. The world, the flesh, and the devil are potent. We are impotent. God is omnipotent. Therefore, we ought always be engaged in prayer. Charles Spurgeon states, “Without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind or chariots without steeds. Like branches without sap, we are withered. Like coals without fire, we are useless.” Clearly, we need to pray.
We know we have incentive to pray. Through prayer, God increases our enjoyment of him, he increases our enlightenment of his Word and the proper application thereof, and he gives us power to walk in the Spirit and serve the King and our neighbors.
We know we have models of prayer. Throughout God’s Book, saints are found conversing with God before altars, on mountains, in deserts, within tents, around the Temple, in upper rooms, in house churches, and in personal closets. True worshipers are found communing and communicating with God, and their stories are mesmerizing and inspiring.
So, having all this, why do we have such a hard time praying? Why do we not practice that which is righteous, beautiful, needed, and beneficial? What’s wrong with us?
Here are my thoughts as I engage in prayerful meditation and Spirit-led self-inspection. Perhaps, we are similar.
I am arrogant. I have far too much confidence in my own abilities to work things out.
I am materialistic and cold. I seek far too much pleasure in the things of this world and do not lust for greater experiential communion with God. I am distracted. I place too much passion in broken cisterns that cannot hold water and satisfy.
I am ministerially selfish and apathetic. I am far too disinterested in the King and his Kingdom. I do not love my Father’s glory and my neighbor’s salvation and discipleship as I ought. I also do not care for my hurting brothers and sisters in the church as I should. My priorities are sinfully skewed.
I am theologically foolish. Because I cannot always square the mystery of God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, and the power of prayer, I end up disbelieving the potency promised by God.* I end up discounting that which I cannot fully comprehend.
I am angry. Because God has not submitted his will to mine, and because God has not made my kingdom first and foremost in his plans, and because God has not chosen to answer former or current prayers according to my wisdom and preferences, I distrust God’s wisdom and goodness. I don’t want to talk to him because he has not done what I desire and might not do so now.
I am sinned against. I have been sculpted by church leaders who have discounted the Holy Spirit and his continual influence in his church. Sadly, I have become one who has followed in their steps.
I am legalistic. I think my goodness grants me access to God. I have heard I have to get rid of sin in order to have God hear me, and I can’t get rid of all my sin. Therefore, I think my sin disqualifies me from speaking with My Father. I think he has something against me. I put myself in some self-imposed timeout. And then sometimes, horribly, I actually think I can be good enough to merit his ear and answers.
Ultimately and primarily, I am faithless. I tend to disbelieve My Father’s love, wisdom, power, and declarations. My adoption has not adequately moved from my head to my heart.
Friends, this is my list. Is this yours? Do you have other additions? (Send them to me.)
So now, what should we do? I suggest we take our list and have a transparent talk with our Heavenly Father. He already knows our issues. He sent his Son to die for them. So, let’s have a talk with him today and see which of these issues he would have his Spirit address.
* The Sovereign God — who decrees all and providentially brings all he decrees to pass — has promised that prayer is potent. Prayer is a God-given means by which he brings about that which he has already immutably determined. Christians who believe in the sovereignty of God are not fatalists — at least they are not supposed to be.