Read Original Article Posted in RELEVANT Magazine:
While we might not like to admit it, most of us experience times when the thought of praying feels like a chore we have get done. We’re already so busy. We’re tired. Or maybe it’s tough to get time alone.
These reasons can feel like either hills or mountains in the way of a consistent, thriving prayer life. And yet, when there’s something we really want to do, we’ll make time for it. If we look a little deeper, we’ll see bigger reasons why prayer can feel unappealing:
We don’t get instant gratification.
People are now more accustomed than ever to having results quickly and doing three or ten things at once.
Prayer is the opposite of that.
It requires us to quiet ourselves. And we don’t know if we’ll get an answer to our burning question, or have to wait for who knows how long. It puts the decision in someone else’s hands and out of ours.
But let’s consider this: What we do get hits us deeper and lasts longer than any temporary fix. God knows what we need the most and what He brings isn’t surface level. Even the times of silence may be part of what we really need.
Talking with Him isn’t an obligation—it’s a gift.
We don’t empathize with others.
Sometimes it’s hard to feel what others feel because we are so wrapped up in our own lives. And while we care about the challenges of another person, we may not care enough to take the focus and time and put it toward serious prayer for them.
Ironically, the more we pray for people, the more we’ll care about them.
On the other hand, some of us feel overwhelmed with our prayer list. It’s okay to taper it down if it feels too long or draining. Or divide people up to different days. Or take a few days off. You don’t have to try to save the world. And you never have to feel guilty for taking care of yourself.
We forget God’s power.
Sometimes we may not realize or we may forget how much God is able to do if He has been quiet. We don’t want to put in the time and emotional energy if we think it’s going to be pointless.
God is after quality time. Even five minutes can be richer and more meaningful when it is totally heartfelt, than an hour we put in just to say we did.
Faith is something we must choose to actively nurture. The Israelites purposely recited the past times God acted for them to remember His love and power. Remind yourself of times you’ve seen Him act or testimonies you’ve heard from other people. Then tell yourself that same God is with you now. He may be quiet, but He’s there. And He can work in an instant like He’s done before.
We think God is measuring the amount of time.
Whether we were brought up that way or not, many of us believe there is a certain way to spend time with God and an amount of time we need to do it. Most people who are perfectionists are this way—they are preoccupied with the doing aspect rather than being, and think God is too.
But a thought can’t be helpful to us if it keeps us from spending any time with Him or if it burdens us with guilt and fear. I also don’t believe we’re focusing on what God wants.
When we spend time with friends are we watching the clock to make sure they’re with us a certain amount of time or do we just enjoy them? And if they have to leave early, do we get upset with them? The only thing that will stand out to us later is how connected we felt to them.
Likewise, God is after quality time. Even five minutes can be richer and more meaningful when it is totally heartfelt, than an hour we put in just to say we did.
We’re accustomed to the idea of it.
Truth be told, prayer can be easy to take for granted because it’s always at our disposal. Many long-term Christians run the risk of prayer seeming like something ordinary because we’ve heard about it so often.
God is described as our best friend and closest confidant. But can we consider how incredible it is that He even wants to be our friend? And not just any friend—a friend who is closer than anyone and unconditionally available?
Let’s not allow our familiarity with the idea of God loving us prevent us from grasping how amazing it is. Somehow, the creator of everything has an invested interest in our moods, thoughts and life events. He cares about even those insignificant things that we get so swept up over. He cares for us more than even the person who loves us the most. And that’s unbelievable.
Maya Angelou put it beautifully. She once said, “God loves me. It still humbles me that this force that makes leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me.”
And to show the greatness of His love, God actually wants us to ask Him for things. To put this in perspective, this is a King who doesn’t need anything from us. On the contrary, He has every right to only ask for things from us. We might believe that a servant would be allowed to ask certain things from his or her king—the life and death sort of things. But can we imagine a king who feels joy every time His servant seeks His presence for any reason? A king who listens intently to each request no matter how small and delights in responding to them?
That’s not how servants are treated. It’s how friends are treated. It’s how children are treated.
The creator of the universe doesn’t need to invite us to such intimacy. He doesn’t need to long for our communication with Him. Talking with Him isn’t an obligation—it’s a gift.
Let’s also consider that prayer is not only a privilege, but also something we need. Sometimes if I don’t take time out to pray, I almost want to apologize not just to God—who fortunately isn’t holding it against me—but also to myself. I feel I missed out on a moment when I could have gotten the peace and help I really needed.
Using the Holy Spirit for Help
Fundamentally speaking, the reason prayer can feel like a chore, is that we can easily see it as something we have to do. Now, I know that there times we are deeply thankful for prayer. But I believe that in those other moments—when prayer feels like a chore we need to check off the list, we ought to remind ourselves of the gift we truly have.
Chances are if we do, it won’t feel like something we have to do, but something we want to.
Even with all of this, there are still going to be many times when prayer feels like a chore. As Paul said, the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. It’s easy to return to taking prayer for granted, being distracted or impatient.
Fortunately, we don’t have to let guilt hang over our heads. God is merciful and understands our struggle as human beings. But while the flesh isn’t so great at prayer, the Spirit specializes in it. Besides reminding ourselves of the beauty of prayer, we can ask the Holy Spirit—who lives inside us—to help us want to pray. We can ask Him to help us appreciate it and know it’s what we’re really looking for. And He’ll do it, gladly.
Let’s just remember this: It’s always worth it.