If you are anything like me, praying regularly does not always come naturally. I’m up and down, I’m in and out. But I want to be a person of prayer. I believe it is important and I’ve seen God work amazingly in and around me through prayer. So why do I struggle praying regularly?
Here are my top five obstacles to consistent meaningful prayer and a few ways to knock down those obstacles.
Prayer is confusing
Let’s face it; it’s hard to understand what is happening when we pray. Are we changing things? What are we changing? -God’s mind? Can we even change God’s mind? Doesn’t He know what’s best anyways? These are all thoughts I’ve struggled with in the past, and to be honest I haven’t resolved all of these questions completely. But I’ve come to understand that prayer is critical for all followers of Jesus. First, we are told dozens of times in the Bible to pray, so there is a good reason right there. But there are many other reasons, some of them are listed below...
You don’t feel like it
One of the main factors dictating whether I pray or not is my emotional state. My spiritual temperature rides in the sidecar of how I am feeling. Am I together and self-confident? Then prayer gets forgotten. Am I discouraged or ashamed? –Then prayer is avoided. Some days I’m too busy. Some days I’m too self-focused. But you can tell a lot about where someone puts their confidence by their prayer life. I have found the times I don’t feel like praying are the times I need to pray the most. And often it turns out to be some of the most meaningful and effective prayer times in my life.
You don’t really believe anything will change
Maybe you’ve prayed for something in the past and the outcome you prayed for didn’t happen. Or maybe it just seems like you’re praying to the ceiling and no answers are coming. I’ve felt like this many times in my life. Then I started keeping a prayer-list book. It’s like a little black book, except mine is red. In it I list prayer requests with details and the date I started praying for it. I try to be as specific with what I’m praying for as possible so I can track how God answers. On the left side I list prayers with dates and on the right I list answers with dates. All I can say is, I no longer struggle with believing anything will change. Since I started keeping this prayer-list books there have been many amazing answers to prayer. I literally have books full of answered prayer. I could show you cancers that have inexplicably disappeared, struggles turned to victories, broken things restored, and many, many more. Which brings me to reason number four.
You’ve forgotten what He’s done
I think one of the greatest tragedies of life might be forgetting the things we ought to never forget. Oh how intensely we pray for some situations…and how quickly we move on once they’re resolved. We are quick to ask, inconsistent with our gratitude, and seldom to remember. Keeping my prayer-list book produces hard, irrefutable evidence I can look to and remember what God has done. Someone has said, “the faintest ink is better than the strongest memory.” Some amazing things God has done I think I would never forget…and then I look back a year or two and I am astounded at what I’ve already forgotten. Remembering what he has done helps me pray regularly for what he will do.
You don’t plan for it
If you don’t set aside a specific time and place to pray, the likelihood that intentional meaningful prayer will happen is very low. The number one thing I can do to pray regularly and consistently is to plan a time and place to pray. Sure, I pray spontaneously throughout the day. But that prayer is usually driven by the circumstances I find myself in. We need space for intentional and meaningful pray time…and we almost always have to create that space. I wish it weren’t that way, but over time I’ve discovered it just is. Pick a time and place to pray tomorrow and the likelihood it will happen goes up many times.
I hope these ideas help you engage in a regular meaningful time of prayer with your Father in heaven. Deep and rich moments await you if you do.