Sunday, July 03, 2016

Five Excuses That Keep Me From Praying

I recently came across a thought-provoking quote by Carrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who helped Jews during the Nazi era. She wrote, “Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” This simple idea about prayer made me reflect on my own prayer life and my tendency towards worrying. I couldn’t help but think about some of the excuses I make for not praying.

1. God Doesn’t Care
Even though The Bible clearly says God is a loving Father (Psalm 68:5-6, Matthew 7:11), I sometimes doubt that He cares about the details of my life. The things that keep me up at night are obviously important to me, but I wonder if they are significant to God. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 55:22 which reads, "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Another encouraging verse is I Peter 5:7 which says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” So what does “care” mean? If I think about my relationship with my wife and kids, I care about their big hurts (injuries and emotional losses) and little hurts (missing stuffed animals and scuffed knees). If I love my family like this, and if God is the author of love, doesn’t He love me that much more?

2. I’m Too Busy
I grew up with parents who had devotions every morning and sometimes several times a day. As I look back, I wonder how they made the time to read their Bibles and pray so frequently. As good as it is to have a dedicated quiet time, it feels like it is next to impossible to find the time to meditate with small children and a non-stop schedule. Sometimes, I wonder if God is keeping track of my devotions or is it more important to Him that I cultivate a moment-by-moment relationship? Ephesians 6:18 says to “…pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” A vibrant prayer life demands an ongoing conversation with God. It's great to have daily devotions, but it needs to go beyond that. With this being said, I try to listen to scripture and good sermons whenever I get a chance, pray when I’m driving, and I attempt to fill my day with talking to God about everything.

3. It Feels Like I’m Saying The Same Things Over And Over
If my prayer life were a recording, it would be a bad hip-hop song – one drumbeat on continuous repeat. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-17 is a good reminder to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There is nothing wrong with repetitive requests as long as I am praying within God’s will. Daniel is a good example. Daniel 6:10 says “Three times a day (Daniel) got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Daniel had developed a persistent prayer life. The Bible reminds me that God's ways are higher than mine and His timeline uses measurements that are foreign to my finite mind (Isaiah 55:8-9). There are also times when prayer involves lengthy battles in the spiritual realm (Daniel 10:13). I think about the disciples who fell asleep while praying with Jesus at Gethsemane before His crucifixion. Jesus exhorted them for not watching “for one hour.” He then told them to pray that they wouldn’t fall into temptation. So often, I forget that prayer is critical correspondence in a war field, not an exchange at a McDonald's drive-thru. Is it possible that my lack of fervent prayer reveals my lack of trust in God and an underestimation of prayer's power?

4. I’m Afraid God Won’t Bless My Requests
Often, I don’t pray because I don’t want to hear the answer no. Contrary to popular health and wealth teachings, God doesn’t want me to have a comfortable life, but I am constantly fighting a desire to have one. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Maybe I need to be more open to what God wants for my life even if His will infringes on my plans.

5. I’m Focusing on the Wrong Things
Quite frequently, my heart is in the wrong place. I'm embarrassed to admit that I often don't care that much about what God cares about. Today I am praying for eyes that see what matters to God and a heart that breaks for the things that matter to God. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

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