Sunday, August 21, 2011


Of all the ingredients of discipleship, the area many of us struggle with most is prayer.
          According to one recently published estimate, a typical Christian layman spends about three and a half minutes each day in prayer. Full-time Christian workers average about seven minutes per day. This pitiful situation must amaze even the Lord himself, for Isaiah 59:16 records that when no one was found to intercede for his people, God was appalled.
          Why do we fail to take full advantage of the privilege of prayer? Is it a lack of discipline? Are we too busy? Are we unmotivated?
          Perhaps the basic cause of our weakness in prayer relates to how we view God. We may have no genuine awe for the one "who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth" (Isaiah 51:13). God seems more like a superhero from a child's cartoon, whittled down to human size.
          If we aren't captivated by God, prayer is a tedious task. It becomes a discipline that only those with wills of steel can master.
          I once regarded prayer as "gutting it out" before God. It meant trying to bring reams and reams of petitions before the Lord. The more requests I could bring, the more spiritual I was.
          I also misinterpreted statements from godly men about the importance of prayer. Martin Luther's statement that "I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer" implied to me that prayer was a guaranteed formula for success.
          Rather than being dynamic communion with the sovereign Lord of the universe, prayer was an exercise meant to wrestle effects into the lives of people and to manipulate God's hand. Prayer became lifeless and tedious. It was like castor oil: tasting terrible, but good for me.
          Yet God reminded me of the truth I was neglecting: He wanted to commune with me. What does this mean? Communion is defined as the intimate sharing of thoughts and emotions, and as intimate fellowship or rapport or communication. This is the kind of relationship God wants between him and me.
          I saw I had become hardened to the excitement of walking in this continual awareness of God's presence. I realized afresh that He desires open access to communion with me. He has little interest in the petition gymnastics I was trying to perfect in prayer. He wants me to be preoccupied with Himself.
          Seeing God this way enables us to stand in awe of Him. It stimulates our heart to vital communion and conversation with Him. Seeing God as He is requires faith on our part, but whoever is enamored and thrilled with God is then rightly motivated to pray.
          Discipline will still be necessary, but prayer won't be drudgery. I believe that's what John 4:24 is hinting at: "God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
          To grow in communion with God requires appreciation of His awesomeness and wonder. This may seem an intangible objective, but there are practical steps we can take. When undertaken in a spirit of faith, these actions can bring new life and vitality to our relationship with God.[1]"

Questions for Comment
  • Where are you at in the important area of prayer? 
  • Is your prayer life an adventure or the most difficult part of your Christian life?  
  • If prayer is difficult for you, what do you think makes it so hard?
  • Do you listen to God on a regular basis?
  •  If you don't consistently listen to God, what prevents you?   
  • What have you discovered that gives life to your prayer life?

[1] From an article I wrote for Discipleship Journal in 1981 (See “Focus on the Father” under Articles on the Listening to God Forum).



  1. I think for me one of the most important dynamics leading me to prayer has been the concept of God showing me favor, grace, and love as we talk. Sometimes it has been easy for me to consider God to be grumpy, angry, or aloof. I have to challenge myself to consider that God likes me, and enjoys being with me. This creates a sense of peace and joy when I spend time with him.

  2. I agree ... much of prayer has allot to do with how I view God and His care for me. If I sense He is truly for me, prayer can be a blessing. If I sense He eager to communicate with me, I can listen to what He might have to communicate with me about in an area I am concerned about. As I listen, He may give me His perspective about the things I am going through.