We don’t see the effects. Many of us have been conditioned to think of prayer as some sort of magic words which when done correctly will conjure up anything we dream. The problem is that prayer doesn’t work that way! Sure, Jesus invites us in Matthew 7 to ask and it will be given us. Think about when you pray most often; is it when you need something or are looking for direction in life? Our prayers are often focused around our needs exclusively which leads to frustration when we don’t get what we think we need through prayer. Often we aren’t paying attention to the way God is responding to our prayers because he is doing so in a way that’s different than we expect. Pay attention for the unexpected ways God is at work in your life.
We are too busy. There are times that prayer seems like a luxury sort of like taking some time off from our busy lives. Martin Luther purportedly said of prayer that he has “so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” Jesus too emphasized the importance of prayer in Matthew 9 when he told his disciples that the harvest is plentiful (there is a lot of work to do). Before he sent them out to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom, he called them to pray, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt 9:37-38). Prayer is not just a luxury we can afford when there is extra time; prayer is a necessity to get through every day.
We don’t know how to pray. Even though prayer has been central to the Christian life for thousands of years, too many of us (think we) don’t know how to pray. Sometimes we have the impression that our words need to be just right and that we need to sound like we know what we’re doing. Jesus condemns that type of thinking about prayer and instead simply models how to pray. He gave as a model these words:
Our Father in heaven
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
There is nothing fancy here. Just an invitation by Jesus to enter conversation with our God who created and keeps us by fixing our attention not just on our lives but on His work in the world around us. Prayer at its simplest is sharing with God hopes, dreams, concerns and worries of our lives and what we long to see him do in them.
You may not think you are good at praying or have the time but if you desire a closer relationship with Jesus, prayer is the way to start. Spend a few minutes now in prayer using Jesus’ words as a model: pray for the continued growth of God’s kingdom here, pray for the needs you and others face, pray for strength to live your life to its fullness for the honour and glory of God.