OK, ADMIT IT. You’ve had your share of problems with prayer. All of us have them from time to time.
Regardless of where you are today concerning your experience in prayer, we want to assure you that Jesus is not mad at you. Although He longs for your presence, He understands your human frailty even better than you do.
Although praying is essential, we’ve found no one for whom praying comes easily. Even for the most committed praying person, prayer is war! It is war against the world, our flesh and the devil. Prayer will always require a measure of loving devotion to Christ and personal discipline.
Prayer is not fashionable. The world will never understand or applaud it.
We are going to take a look at some of the hindrances to a consistent prayer life. As we look at them, see if any of these things have been hindering your prayer life.
“I don’t know what to pray for.”
One of the first laments we hear from those who are just learning how to pray is, “I don’t know what to pray for.”
I (Eddie) was teaching a course on prayerwalking, when one of my students asked, “What am I supposed to pray when I am prayerwalking in my neighborhood?”
I suggested, “When you are standing in front of someone’s house during a prayerwalk, pray the things that you would want someone to pray if they were standing in front of your house.”
American Christians are so used to being spoon-fed formulas for everything that we are afraid to pray lest we do it wrong. But we think that it’s better to pray wrongly than not to pray at all! If knowing what to pray seems to be your problem, then begin by praying for that: “Dear Lord, I come to You today admitting that I don’t know how to pray as I ought. Teach me, Lord, how to talk to You.” Honesty still is the best
policy. Anything less than total transparency with Christ is dishonest. We simply cannot con or impress an omniscient God. He knows us better than we know ourselves.
Stop judging yourself. Begin where you are. Pray today for yourself. If that’s as far as you get today, then rejoice that you’ve begun your journey in prayer. Once you are accustomed to praying for yourself, then pray for your family and friends. The extent of your prayer assignments will grow as you grow. Make a list, and use it as a guide for personal prayer. Use whatever you find helpful to get yourself engaged in prayer.
GOD’S PRAYER ASSIGNMENTS TO US
God gives us several prayer assignments in Scripture. God says we should:
- Pray for God to raise up witnesses to win the lost to Jesus. (Read Luke 10:2.)
- Pray for the lost to be saved. (Read Romans 10:1.)
- Pray for God to forgive your sins. (Read Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9.)
- Pray for God to bless those who’ve mistreated you. (Read Luke 6:28.)
- Pray that you too will become a bold witness for Christ. (Read Ephesians 6:19.)
- Pray for those in authority and for others around you. (Read 1 Timothy 2:1–2.)
If you honestly ask God for what you should pray, He will lead you. Perhaps you’ve heard the term prophetic intercession. Prophetic intercession is nothing more than praying what you sense is on the heart of God. Difficult? Perhaps at first. But continue faithfully, and you’ll learn to hear and agree with the Holy Spirit in prayer.
Question: Has God ever given you a specific prayer assignment? How did you partner with him in the matter?
“My prayer list is too long to pray through.”
If you find praying through a prayer list the best way to pray, you’ll soon see your list become too long to pray in one prayer time. This can be frustrating. Here are two ideas that may prove to be helpful.
First, occasionally (perhaps at the end of each month), prayerfully read through your list, and ask God if you can omit any of the things for which you have been praying. Prayer assignments typically have a life span. There comes a time when God will release you from a specific request so you can move on to pray for other issues.
Second, begin to exercise more caution when you accept prayer requests. In too many cases people will answer a request for prayer with an obligatory, “I’ll be praying for you,” when, in fact, that’s the last time they’ll even give it a thought.
Never assure someone that you will pray for them unless you fully intend to. Here are several ways to handle prayer requests that you feel you should not accept.
- “That certainly is an important prayer request. Let me agree with you in prayer right now.” Simply stop what you are doing, and pray for their request with them on the spot.
- “I understand how important this request is to you. I will commit to pray for this for the next three days—and longer, as the Lord leads.” In this case you show respect for the person and for the request by agreeing to pray. However, tell the person honestly the limits of your commitment.
- “Yours is a serious request. I sincerely wish I could commit to join you in prayer for it, but I simply cannot accept any more prayer assignments at this time.” In other words, if someone asks you for prayer and you know you can’t or won’t pray for them, learn to say no. Your honesty is comforting at a time like this. A sincere person will appreciate your being honest, rather than giving them a false commitment in order to save face. Of course, an insincere person will never understand in any case.
Finally, “How do you eat an elephant?” You do it one bite at a time. So, consider dividing your list into daily or weekly assignments. When I (Eddie) was a local pastor, I was committed to praying for my church members by name. I could only pray for a few members each day. (Pastors of very large congregations can only pray for their people once a year, according to their birthdays.)
You might have your Monday list, your Tuesday list and so on. Wednesday might be the day that you pray for your neighbors by name. Thursday may be the day you pray for national governmental leaders, and on Friday you might pray for your church and for other local pastors and churches in your area.
Assignment: Examine Paul’s prayer life from the following verses:
1 Corinthians 14:18
2 Thessalonians 1:9; 3:8