We are built for conversation. When the first dude Adam was created, God noticed that he wasn’t having any meaningful conversations with the animals. We’ve all said some things to our cats and dogs, and they’ll even look at us with people-ish expressions. But we all know that it’s a one-sided conversation. Take dogs, for example: dogs are loyal companions motivated by many things, mostly food. And cats? Cats just want you to leave.
We are built for conversation. Prayer is difficult because it can feel like a one-sided conversation. There is no audible back and forth. Just back. Or fourth. But not both. Prayer can feel rather lonely. Yes, I know He’s there and that the Holy Spirit talks back to us in a way our ears could never comprehend. But I’m like you, is that I’m always a mix of fulfilled and frustrated when it comes to my conversational practices with the Lord. I want to talk, I want to hear, and if prayer doesn’t meet my expectations, I’m immediately discouraged.
I struggle, too. I figured that instead of giving three ways to improve our prayer life, I would maybe point out some common things we do that derails the whole thing from the beginning. I bet you could think of some limiters, too, and I’d love for you to share them.
What keeps us from getting into the groove of prayer?
We wait for a feeling that never comes.
Because our spirituality includes our minds and our emotions, we often wait until we feel like praying. Prayer doesn’t work like that. Prayer is a conversation that we have with the Lord regardless of our feelings. Yes, our emotions are involved, but they don’t get to call the shots. Don’t wait until you feel like praying. Just start talking and let God do His thing.
We wait for perfect conditions.
I fall into this trap quite a bit. As a fella with an artistic personality, I need structure to keep me organized. I have a pretty good daily routine that includes prayer time, which saves me from my own excuses! But when my routine gets thrown off, it really throws me off. Make the decision to pray anywhere, anytime, and even all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Where are you? Pray there. What time is it? Pray now.
We expect immediate results.
“I prayed for 20 minutes about a situation but it didn’t improve. Should I have prayed longer?” That’s a fair question if prayer is merely a transaction. Prayer is not a 1 to 1 give/take. It is a conversation with a friend who is deeply interested in you, your life, and your spiritual growth. If I pray for 20 minutes, it doesn’t mean that I get 20 minutes of blessing. God owes me nothing! Sometimes God answers our prayer instantly, and sometimes eventually, but never not at all. My suffering is not nearly as authoritative as the Holy Spirit’s work in transforming me to be more like Jesus, which is the immediate result.
What are some limiters to your prayer life? Where have you derailed? What obstacles stand in the way now?