We Christians sometimes take prayer for granted. We claim that we pray often, but many of us find it rather difficult. Prayer is, simply, communication with God, but talking to God is easier said than done.
When we pray, there are many things that hamper us from coming to God in freedom and peace. We are afraid that God will not answer our prayers. We feel uncomfortable confronting such a mighty, holy God. We have become resentful after facing God’s eternal silence in the midst of tragedy.
This is the first of two articles in which we will discover how to pray more effectively.
First thing we need to realize is that our biggest problem with prayer is not prayer itself, but with us.
When I had a first girlfriend, I was a very uncomfortable partner. I was always anxious about the relationship because I was insecure with myself.
You know how it is to be that age: Teens are so self-critical, and their perceptions sometimes get in the way of having authentic relationships with others.
I thought that my girlfriend saw me the same way I saw myself. Turned out that I was more critical of myself than she was of me, and my insecurity ultimately sabotaged my relationship with her.
Sometimes that happens with God. We think that God sees us like we see ourselves, and we fail to recognize that God sees us through the eyes of forgiveness, mercy, and compassion.
God wants us as His very own and to not be hampered by our purblind hang-ups and insecurities.
A second major hindrance is that of guilt. When we finally settle down to pray, take a moment from our busy day, and come before a holy God, some of us feel so guilty that we cannot pray whatsoever.
Eventually, this guilt builds to the point that we become resentful towards God. We question ourselves: How can we impress God? Why does God make us feel so guilty?
Our guilt keeps us from praying, but when we realize that our guilt is unfounded (remember, God forgives us and is merciful), we then feel guilty about feeling guilty. This is a vicious cycle indeed.
One biblical passage that can speak to our guilt is in the book of Revelation (3:7-13). In the third chapter, God has some important words for the church of Philadelphia.
God tells the church that they have little power, but because they love God, Jesus gives them an open door that no one can shut. Jesus is a key holder that provides the church opportunities to come into God’s presence.
This recalls a time when Jesus spoke about prayer in Luke 11. He said that persistent prayer inspires us to ask, seek, and knock. “Knock,” Jesus said, “And the door will be opened to you.”
We need to realize that guilt can be healthy when God calls us to repentance, but chronic guilt can be a ruse of the devil that keeps us from encountering God.
Guilt makes us weak and powerless, but God promises that Jesus gives us the key to come to God’s throne with confidence. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.
Biblical confidence not a type of confidence that makes us flex our muscles; it is a type of confidence that brings us to our knees and leads us to the foot of a stained cross.
These are just a few hindrances that keep us from praying effectively. Until next week, when we broach the topic again, let our prayer to God be a simple one, like that penned by St. Augustine: “Here is our heart, O God. Here it is, with all of its secrets. Amen.”