Have you ever casually mentioned you will pray for someone and then completely forgotten? Conversely, has your prayer ever been answered in an extraordinary fashion, and you’ve forgotten to acknowledge the graciousness of our Father who is the provider of all good and perfect things (James 1:17)? This is an all too common theme for the present-day Christian who struggles with the practice of disciplined prayer and thanksgiving (myself included). So, what exactly makes prayer so challenging these days? Why do we hesitate to offer up continual prayers for our brothers and sisters who deeply need God’s presence and healing in their lives?
I want to write some ideas for the Christian who finds this area a consistent challenge. Keep in mind, these are just truths that have been laid on my heart and clearly don’t address everyone’s situation as it relates to prayer.
1. Discipline – Generally
Most of us can acknowledge that discipline itself is challenging! Whether it’s training for an athletic event, deciding to stay away from certain foods, or studying for a class, discipline is difficult and demands consistency. The way we manage discipline in other areas of life is through practical steps of planning, documenting, and goal setting. I believe taking some practical steps such as documenting our prayers or defining the subject of our prayers ahead of time is beneficial. For instance, dedicating a week of prayer to family members or coworkers can be a useful tool for loving them well throughout the week. This can also help us look back to review what God has done in our lives so that we can give Him due praise.
2. Forgetfulness of God’s Promises
When we reflect on the basic tenants of Christianity, we quickly realize our lack of prayer life must to some extent be related to our forgetfulness of God’s love and faithfulness to us. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine us acknowledging these truths consistently and not coming before Him more frequently. The following passage from Titus 3 conveys our transformative beliefs.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” – Titus 3:3-7
Here’s another passage from Romans 8:
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” – Romans 8:31-34
I firmly believe many of our prayer lives would radically change if we simply made a point to remind ourselves of God’s promises for us as sons and daughters of His Heavenly Kingdom. After all, He did not even spare His own Son for our sake!
Whatever joy we might experience in this world, His is greater. Whatever trial seems insurmountable, He has already overcome.
His love and mercy towards us is simply unfathomable.
3. Loving our Neighbor
This is likely the most challenging obstacle for us to acknowledge when it comes to our prayer life. Let’s revisit our calling as it pertains to our neighbor.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35
Passage from Mark 9:
“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” - Mark 9:35
Scripture clarifies that we should be identified as followers of Christ by the way we love one another. Therefore, our desire to be in continual prayer for our neighbor should stem from our interest in God’s intervention in their lives. Perhaps that means sacrificially overlooking our current insecurities and challenges for the sake of the betterment of another. This is the extremely difficult and high calling we have received as Christians to consider others before ourselves. The more we love our neighbors, the more we will pray for our neighbors.
Clearly everyone falls short of the perfect model of a daily prayer life. However, this is simply one aspect of our calling to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Within our role as disciples we must never forget that (1) we will always fall short of the perfect standard, (2) confess our shortcomings to the Father and plead for His strength, and (3) challenge ourselves continually to better align our lives with that perfect standard. One thing we know for sure is that God is faithful, and He is a worthy investment for our lives.