I struggle to pray. I know this isn’t just true of me; I have encountered countless people over the last decade in my role as a pastor who report the same sort of struggle. When I ask what area of life they want to improve, many state, “My prayer life.” Over the years, I have seen two key beliefs commonly lead people away from praying.
Belief #1: “I Feel Dirty in His Presence”
This belief is simultaneously true and false. God is holy. Holy is a word we use to describe that God is different than we are, or set apart from us. In God’s case, he is perfect, without sin. We aren’t, and this reality is what causes us to “feel dirty”. We know innately that we cannot stand in the presence of God and survive. We often convince ourselves not to pursue Him because of our own perception of self.
So, what do we do when we feel dirty?
Good News! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1) Yes, we continue to sin but, if you think for one second that as an adopted son or daughter that your sin will be used to keep you out of a saving relationship with the Triune God, then you are clearly forgetting the good news and returning to the thinking of the person who didn’t know God.
When we emphasize or focus upon our sinful nature it will keep us from pursuing our God. To properly battle our flesh, we must remind ourselves of the truth, not only that we are forgiven, but we are perfectly accepted. We must set our minds on the Spirit, not our sinful past or present: the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:2,7).
Belief #2: “He Already Knows Everything”
As we learned through Acts 2:23 in Luke’s sermon Happy Birthday, Church, God has a definite plan and foreknowledge of all things. So, if God is indeed sovereign over the actions of men, why should we pray?
I’m convinced after spending 20 years as a Christian that the purpose of prayer is not to boost the ego of or manipulate our God, rather prayer is for the advantage of His followers to know His will for their lives. Prayer is about our communion with God. In the midst of that relationship, God trains us into ministerial maturity with the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). This glorifies God.
There simply is no chance for us to grow in “…love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” if our spiritual hearts aren’t aligned with God through prayer.
In closing, prayer focuses the Christian away from his flesh, toward the living God. I appreciate how R.C. Sproul expresses this thought, “Prayer, like everything else in the Christian life, is for God’s glory and for our benefit, in that order. Everything that God does, everything that God allows and ordains, is in the supreme sense for His glory.”