As we begin to develop a life of prayer we will have many fulfilling and exciting times with the Lord. Jesus is leading us into an adventurous relationship with the Father. But it is also the case that every Christian I know or have read about confesses to having great difficulties at times. The most common problem in prayer is dryness. It’s like a desert here Dryness is that experience in prayer when you feel you’re not getting anywhere. It feels like God is very far away and your prayer doesn’t seem to be accomplishing anything. Perhaps you used to be able to pray with great freedom for an hour and the time passed quickly. Now praying for fifteen minutes is just hard work. Your attention span is very short and you are distracted very easily. You will start out trying to pray very fervently and end up very quickly thinking about the strangest things and you’re not sure how you got there. In the midst of it all, these difficulties seem insurmountable. But if we are able to respond well to this challenge, the very problems we encounter can lead us into an even more fulfilling relationship with God.
When going through these difficult periods in prayer we are met with various temptations. The most common one for me is “I’ll do it later.” But, of course, later comes and goes away, and so does prayer. Another excuse is “I’m too busy and besides my whole life is a prayer.” That sounds very good, and indeed, our whole life should be a prayer. But if we use that as an excuse it’s like saying that my whole life is a marriage so I don’t need to have time with my spouse. Another temptation is to say, “I don’t want to be a phony. God
will know my heart isn’t in it.” To that I would say who really is the phony? Is it the person who is disciplined enough to not be a slave to his emotions and to pursue that which he knows to be the correct course? Or is it the one who lets his feelings and outside circumstances determine what he does? Remember a disciple is one who is disciplined.
Lord, teach us to pray Now that we have stated the problem what can we do about it? I would suggest that you pray and ask Jesus to teach you to pray. This has become a regular prayer of mine and I suppose it always will be. Don’t stop here though; give Him something to work with. Remember that Jesus fed 5,000 people with only a few loaves and some fish. You may not have much but give Him what you have – time. At this point it’s easy to say “I don’t have any time!” It is, therefore, essential to DECIDE that prayer is important enough to do. Then make time. Arrange your day around it.
How much time? This answer to this question will vary depending on your life situation. Keep in mind that a little done faithfully is better than a lot done very seldom. As an example, let’s take 30 minutes. You may end up taking a longer or a shorter time. When faced with 30 minutes (or any amount) to spend in prayer, it seems very long when you’re already having a difficult time praying. But look at it this way. Could you spend 5 minutes praising and thanking God? That sounds easy. Then how about 5 minutes repenting from your sins and asking the Lord’s forgiveness. Could you do that? Sure. Now we may not be the best readers in the world but I’ll bet we all could read some
scripture meditatively for 10 minutes. And with all of our problems and those we are aware that others have, we could spend 5 minutes interceding. Finally, if we would take 5 more minutes in praise and thanksgiving, we would have just spent a ½ hour in prayer. When viewed from this perspective it hardly seems long at all. You can shorten or lengthen these example times depending on what amount of time you want to start with. If we could gradually increase the time for each phase of our prayer, we could grow it to where we want it to be.
Done with drooping Some people may not like the idea of structuring prayer like this, but if something is drooping don’t be afraid to prop it up. But try to not get locked into a particular structure. When your drooping prayer life is standing tall, don’t be afraid to remove the structure and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, give it a new and more life- giving structure. Problems in prayer are, in a sense not really problems. Rather, they are an opportunities to grow in discipline, maturity, and prayer.