Prayer is difficult. Who doesn’t carry a burden of guilt or shame that their prayer life could be a lot better?
The simple prayers that served us well as a child don’t fit with the complexity of the issues we face as an adult. Life around us changes, we change and our understanding of God changes. How we pray and relate to God has to change too. And yet, for all the teaching we might receive on how to live the christian life, practical teaching on how to pray does not figure in the list often enough.
In my late teens I remember a powerful feeling of anger rise unexpectedly within me when a friend commented she was going home to have her ‘quiet time’. Her words cut to my heart. They felt self-righteous of her and challenged me deeply because praying alone was something I found profoundly difficult. My mind wandered uncontrollably. I found prayer lists and prayer mnemonics empty and unhelpful. I didn’t have the emotional maturity at that point to explore my anger, nor the experience to recognise we were operating as different people with different personalities and each with a different understanding of God and prayer. Looking back we probably both felt insecure in our faith and were struggling to find a way to grow our relationship with God.
If honest prayer is about meeting the true God as my true self then I have a lot to learn about both parties. It takes a long time to be honest with myself about myself. And it takes a long time to grow a meaningful relationship of trust with anyone, let alone God. It takes practice, perseverance and courage.
The best advice I received about prayer from a wise spiritual guide is to set a regular time of prayer and keep the appointment! Prayer is not a monologue with God. It is nothing to do with how I feel. But it is everything to do with honestly sitting in God’s presence to read his word and engage deeply with what it means for me. A prayer time involves scripture, conversation, silence, listening and reflection. The critical success factor is to turn up!
Jesus took time out to pray regularly, and in particular before important events. He was intentional about making time to be alone with God. If I want to make the most of the intimacy of relationship that Jesus offers me I need to give time and focussed attention to learning how to make it work.
Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
So let’s be intentional like Jesus was. Let’s make time rather than try to find time that is buried underneath the weight of other priorities. Time out with God is never wasted.
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Prayer – Father, I want to know you better and I want to make time to read your word, to talk with you and to listen as you speak into my life. Help me to be focussed and faithful to keep my appointment with you. Amen