For the podcast version of this episode with (it’s more organic conversation-style), click here.
I feel for you, because I have been you…
I know what it’s like to have a passion for Jesus, to really, truly believe in your deepest soul that He is the essence of life, but to also just feel like prayer is a burden, not a joy.
You try praying, but it never really seems to do much.
You start a prayer journal, resolve again to go through it each morning, but fall short only three days in. The time felt so dry anyway, like you were talking to air. You resolve that maybe the Christian life is meant to feel dry all the time.
You go through the Psalms, try to pray them, but they just don’t seem to, well, come out of your mouth naturally. You didn’t really mean them.
You begin to wonder if prayer is really all that important.
You are slowly being lured by the Enemy into a life of subtle, passive prayerlessness, if you haven’t already fallen for the trap.
This post is for you, from a girl who used to be prayerless, who now can with confidence say her life is more prayerful than ever. These are the few things I want you to truly consider, to roll over in your mind, and ponder in your heart for a little while. These are the things that have made me more prayerful than ever, and thus—have given me more spiritual freedom and intimacy with the Lord than I have ever experienced.
If we are being honest, the real reason most of us don’t pray is because we don’t really want to. It seems dry, and you just don’t have the real desire. (Because if you did, you would be doing it. We chase after what we truly desire; that’s the nature of desire.)
However, by showing you how I actually began to love prayer in this post, I believe you will desire it, and therefore, it will naturally become a habit.
Firstly, take the advice of c.s. lewis to “bring before Him not what ought to be in us, but what is in us.”
The problem with the prayers we most often hear is that they aren’t usually the deepest cry of our soul, or like Lewis says, they aren’t what is actually in us.
They are things we heard others pray, but aren’t true of us. The truest thing on your heart today might not actually be that you want to be kind to your annoying classmate (like you said in prayer group this morning), but that you are infected to the bones with insecurity, or that you are so massively hurt by a thing a friend said, or that you feel dirty and nasty from something you said, or that you are so emotionally exhausted, or that you have a sin that you can’t overcome and you don’t know your way out.
Sure, please do pray that you are kind to your annoying classmate. Ask the Lord to give you the desire to be kind. We want that to happen.
But also, before that… pray that hurt that feels like it is going to pour from you, explode from you. Pray the secrets that you don’t want anyone else to know.
Pray the prayer you’re afraid to admit, even to God, even to yourself.
If you pray that prayer, you just might find that God will sanctify you from the core, in the deepest below cry of your soul, and then, the prayer to be kind to your classmate will become much more naturally, because you will have experienced the healing power of prayer, which is to be known in your deepest parts and be loved by God in spite of it all.
And that’s the essence of kindness to a classmate: knowing and loving them, no matter what. And you will want to show them the love God has shown you, so as you bring before the Lord what is truly in you, the prayer to be kind to your classmate will eventually happen, in a more honest sense.
So, dear prayerless believer, I beg you to “bring before Him not what ought to be in us, but what is in us.”
This will change you from your foundation, which will change everything else. And actually, this is simply the old-as-Eden, beautiful, freeing art of confession (which I talk a lot about in my book, Contemplations of a Collegiate Christian). In my opinion, it’s the meat of prayer, it’s the thing that will ignite your prayer life like nothing else.
SEcond, ask three essential questions.
In order to bring before Him what is in us, we have to actually discover what is in us.
Here are three questions that I have that will get to the heart of this:
What do I most desire right now?
What do I fear the most right now?
What brings me to the most joy right now?
Like I said earlier, most of us have heard a million prayers that sound like “Dear God, please help so-and-so do this, please heal so-and-so from this, bless this food (aka these donuts) to the nourishment of our bodies, Amen.”
Though those prayers really can be spoken from a place of honesty, though there are many people who are sick in this world, and though we definitely want our food to sustain and fuel us to His glory, many of us have a million other little and large struggles on our minds that aren’t physical ailments and blessing for food, but we don’t know how to bring them to the Lord because the model for prayer we have is always about sickness and usually before a mealtime.
So, by all means, take those requests before the Lord! Ask for healing, and praise God before a meal.
But also, especially in your private prayers, dig into the deepest parts of yourself and ask these questions.
If you can answer these questions honestly and bring them before the Lord, ponder them, wrestle with them, ask Him to intervene in them, consider the Scripture that answers these desires and fears and pray them over the situation, then congratulations:
You have hit the heart of prayer.
thirdly, pray for dependence.
If there is one way to be sure you will learn how to pray, it’s desperation. Even people who don’t even believe in God pray when they feel desperate. I have had agnostic and atheist friends who are comforted by and even immensely thankful for prayer, even from strangers.
Essentially, the practice of true confession (often revealed in the questions above) is a practice of dependence. It shows that there is nowhere else to run, nowhere else to hide, no other safe place, nowhere else to find satisfaction, safety, and joy but in God Himself.
Fourthly, pray for the desire.
Almost half of the time I go to prayer, I don’t actually want to pray. My flesh is what is screaming out the loudest, not my new creation self.
So what do you do when you don’t want to pray?
You go into the secret place of your heart with God, and you confess that you don’t want to pray, and you ask for the desire to pray, and you pray anyway.
Lastly, just show up.
Earnestly seek. Get your whole heart into the game. Ask a friend to come over and pray with you. Pull out a verse that always gets your heart lit up, and pray it.
The true work of the believer is against spiritual authorities, rulers, and darkness. The true work of life in Christ is in the heart. So don’t lose this battle. If you feel like you don’t want to pray, but you know you need to, then do the things above and pray anyway.
More than likely, you’ll get lost in conversation with God and wonder why you didn’t want to in the first place.
that is all I have…
I am going to write another post about practical habits that have helped wage war against the Enemy in prayer, so be on the lookout for that!