A Better Prayer Life

I don’t feel like praying. I almost never do.

This used to slow me down, but here are some principles that have greatly helped.

Christ in Gethsemane

Why don’t I feel like praying?

I have an aversion to changes of context. If I’m doing chores around the house, I want to keep doing them. If I’m reading or typing at my computer, I want to keep doing that. When it’s time to go to bed, I don’t want to. And when it’s time to get out of bed I don’t want to. It takes emotional energy to shift your context, to drop an activity, and to orient yourself to a new one.

Prayer is a huge change in context.

In one moment I go from being the seeming master of my surroundings to bowing before the Almighty Creator and Lord of everything. It’s no wonder I’m hesitant. I don’t feel ready, and I certainly don’t feel worthy. If I’m going to pray, I want to put my whole heart into it. Sometimes I feel I’m not able to do that. The context shift is hard.

Here’s a clue: if the context shift is hard, it’s because I’ve set up a context that doesn’t include God. If prayer feels hard, the logical question to ask is, “How long has it been since I prayed?” The more often we pray, the easier it is to be prayerful. The Puritans used to say, “Pray until you pray.” They were aware of the resistance. And how well they understood the principle: the more you pray, the more you will want to pray.

When do I least feel like praying?

It’s right at the time the thought first occurs to me, “I should pray right now.” That’s the moment when I haven’t yet committed. That moment comes several times each day. When this moment comes, I’ve learned not to resist it. I should pray. It’s not as if I have something more important to do. When I resist the moment of prayer, the thought tends to come back less and less frequently.

Let yourself pray. You have the Holy Spirit, so pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). Pray on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. Keep the Lord’s presence in mind. Be alert to it, and “always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Over the next several posts we’ll look at the examples of history. We’ll look at Daniel, Nehemiah, Peter, Abraham, and Rehoboam. We’ll see what happens when people forget to pray—and what happens when they remember.