Why is it so hard to pray? We start but lots of the time we falter. It is very hard to be consistent. Why?
A life of Struggle
One of the facts which is either not very clear to us, or we refuse to accept is that prayer is a life of struggle. Nothing worth while comes easy.
In order to build any habit, it take persistence and follow through and failure. We fall and we get up. Let's look at every day examples:
Any thing we want to excel at, it needs persistence, commitment and struggle. We have to keep the ultimate goal in our minds always.
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may [i]obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize [j]is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 24-26)
Let's say I'm in a sports team and I want to get a scholarship. I have to excel, but in order to do so, I need to:
- Dedicate hours and hours in training
- I have to wake up early before I go to school and excercise
- I have to practice with my team
- I come back home all sore
- I have to go on a specific diet to maintain my weight
Success isn't easy. It's hard work. It's a lot easier to sleep in and eat what I want and be lazy. But what does that get me at the end? Nothing. Zip. Nada.
However, success brings with it a sense of achievement; a brighter future.
I can guarantee you that any successful person have went through time where he just didn't want to get up. But because the goal was clear in their mind, they didn't give up.
Prayer is no different. It requires even more work. But what should the goal be?
Is it just spiritual enlightenment?
Is it to get things?
What does James say?
Where do [a]wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and [b]war. [c]Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)
The goal of prayer is God. The goal is not to achieve or gain something but to have oneness with God; to have unity with God.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you[b] will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
Prayer is therefore a means to abide in God, like the vine branches abide in the vine.
The next logical question is what is acceptable prayer? Like anything in life there is a constructive way to go about achieving a goal and there is a destructive way. A right and a wrong way. Obviously, when we say "right", we don't mean that there is exactly one way of acceptable prayer, rather that there are general aspects which make out what an acceptable prayer is. The exact way we pray can be different.
Some people might like to sing hymns, other may like to read, others may want to help. People can pray standing up, others can pray sitting down. Some might pray with many words others with few words. No matter the form your prayer takes, these are the guidelines:
- With faith: “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full”
- With persistence and trust in the gifts of God; e.g. the widow and the unrighteous judge
- With thanks; each prayer in the church begins with “We thank the beneficent.”
- With submission and humility: Submission to the will of God; “Thy will be done, O Father, not our will.” By this, man comes out of the prayer room certain that in everything God works for the good of those who love Him.
- In secret, without showing off; e.g. the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector
- With a pure heart: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”
A biblical example
As you read the prayer take note the tone which Daniel takes. It embodies the guidelines above. He prays in Faith. With persistence. With thanks. With submission. In secret and with a Pure heart.
He constantly gives glory to God. Daniel made this prayer when he was old; in his eighties. But let's be clear. He didn't start to pray in his eighties. He started to pray when he was very young. He built a habit of Acceptable Prayers.
We should learn from Daniel's persistence. We should learn how to start a life of prayer from a young age and not say that we have time. It becomes more and more difficult to build good habits when we get older. Take the opportunity when you are young and malleable to exercise discipline and solidify good habits which will serve you for the entirety of your life.
It is not an easy task, but it is necessary.
9 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
3 Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. 6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.
8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. 10 We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. 11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. 12 And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.
13 “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!
16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake [a]cause Your face to shine on [b]Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”