Sometimes I Don’t Enjoy Praying

Before I was born again prayer was non-existent in my life

Oh, I prayed the prayers along with everyone else from the book of prayers during the Sunday morning service

Prayers that 50+ years later I can still repeat by memory (head) – but not from my heart

Then I met Jesus and prayer took on whole new dynamic (November 9th, 1976)

It was a very personal and private conversation between Jesus and me 

A time for solitude and stillness when I reconnected with my own heart and the heart of the Father who loves me unconditionally

A very special – and sometimes quiet – time when I experienced God’s peace and His presence that was different than what I experienced during any other time 

Three months later I received the experience we know as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and this added a whole new dimension to prayer … (February 9th, 1977)

Praying in tongues … a whole new spiritual dimension opened up immediately

I learned to pray from my spirit and not just from my mind – needs, wants, dreams

Then there were the prayer meetings

When nice people would get together and stand in a circle and pray together “out loud”

I didn’t like “out loud” in front of other people

I don’t do “out loud” if I can help it!

I didn’t like holding hands with others in the circle

When the prayers would heat up, some of the more spiritual people would start squeezing my hand harder and harder

If I was wearing a ring, it would dig into my other fingers and leave a painful mark

One time I even asked the guy not to squeeze my hand so hard

He reminded me that Jesus suffered for me and that I shouldn’t complain

I wanted to give him something to complain about

There were other uncomfortable times in public prayer

People had sweaty hands – that’s just plain gross

Something seems very weird about holding a slimy hand while seeking God’s heart

But the worst was the dead-fish hand

Occasionally someone would hold my hand so limply that it didn’t even deserve to be called a grip … completely lifeless

Even now the memory of it makes me shudder

Now, you may think I’m really shallow

You may ask, “where’s your spiritual passion?”

The truth is – I have never liked prayer meetings

Most of them are too long, too boring, and they involve more “sharing” than actually talking to God — and seldom do they take time to listen for God!

But, never mind all that…

Sometimes, I don’t even enjoy praying – private prayer

It seems that at times my personal, private prayer times are:

          • Half-hearted
          • Inconsistent
          • Routine (although the prayer book is no longer in use)
          • Lackluster
          • Burdensome (something I have to do)
          • Simply a discipline

I have met many other wonderful Christians and even numerous Christian leaders who can identify with my somewhat lifeless prayer times or seasons

Prayer seems to me to be the “weak link” in almost every Christian’s life

And in most churches it is also a “weak link” and corporate prayer in North America is almost non-existent

Why don’t people like to pray?

Why is prayer apparently such a guilt-producing stumbling block in the life of many believers?

1> Many people don’t know how to pray

Prayer seems intimidating, foreign, confusing

Words don’t express how we are feeling and we are not even sure that God cares about our feelings

We don’t know how we are feeling

We don’t engage our feelings in our prayer time

You don’t want to say the wrong thing or ask God for something that is off-limits

People feel that their words are inadequate, not eloquent enough for addressing the Creator of the universe

So we get “prayer programs” … Prayer books / Devotional guides

2> Another reason people don’t pray is that are not sure God will answer

I mean, why bother? It seems like a waste of time

I have prayed for many things – prayed in faith and with passion – and didn’t receive an answer

At least, didn’t receive the answer that I wanted

Or simply didn’t recognize the answer when it came

The third one is the worst and most often a real issue

3> “Attention Deficit Disorder” prayers (ADD)

The other night I was praying seriously and passionately

Suddenly, I realized I needed to take out the garbage

Speaking of garbage … I left the cheese wrapper on the drain board last night. Oh, yeah. We need more cheese … but my car is low on gas … and needs an oil change … when in the world will I get all this done?   

Within seconds I had forgotten I was even praying

Besides, with all those other things to do, who has time to pray?

It scares me how quickly my mind wanders when I am suppose to be fully focused on God (ADD)

4> Boredom

This is an issue of having a “shopping list” that you repeat over and over again 

You find it boring – God finds it boring

“He knows what you have need of …”  (Matthew 6:8) 

“Pray like the heathen…”   (Matthew 6:7)

The solution to boring prayer is to listen first and then respond to what God says to you

1 John 5:13-15

5> God Doesn’t Care

Another reason people don’t pray is that they don’t think that God really cares about them and their insignificant life issues

I mean, God has to take care of countries filled with AIDS, starvation, wars, COVID-19 and other epidemics, and extreme poverty

Why would He care about my headache or the issues I am having at home and at work?

I hope you have a great prayer life

I know a lot of people who do

But, I know many more who are like me

People with good intentions but lacking follow-through

People who genuinely love God but struggle at maintaining a growing and intimate relationship with Him

For years I battled feeling of guilt

How can I be a Christian leader and not be passionate about prayer?

I deeply desired a more intimate relationship with God but nothing seemed to change

When I asked other leaders I got the “packaged” format that they found most helpful

At times I wondered what was wrong with me as none of the existing “programs” did anything for me

THE GOOD NEWS: God eventually changed my heart simply because I never stopped desiring more, better, different

I simply clung to my desire for more of Him – not willing to settle for what was

I pursued Him in my own halting, awkward, not-so-powerful way

At certain points in the journey I felt like throwing in the towel

But, step by baby step He drew me closer and closer

Over a period of years I learned how to relate to God on a deeply personal level

I had to kill a lot of sacred cows – of the prayer and religious types

I had to get over and remove the churchy, traditional prayer-meeting type of relationship

I had to find my own way to relate to Him

He wants me to enjoy my time with Him so He released me to be me and to relate to Him in a natural, me-way

I released me to be me – just as important

Your path towards an effective, fulfilling prayer life might be different than mine

But if you have struggled with consistency in prayer let me share a few of the simple things He revealed to me along my long path to a decent prayer life – focus on the “life”

1> Redefine prayer

Prayer has little to nothing to do with the religious trapping…

        • Kneeling or standing
        • Prayers before meals
        • Morning and evening devotions
        • List of needs and wants
        • Bible reading
        • Head bowed and eyes closed (and not sleeping)

These can cause prayer to be formal, stuffy, boring, and puts prayer in a box

These can be helpful but they are simply the structure around prayer and not prayer itself

The simplest definition of prayer is: communicating with God

What is communication?

It is transferring a thought, a feeling, a plan, or idea to another person

So prayer is: 

Listening as God shares with me His thoughts, feelings, plans, and ideas

Giving God my thoughts, feelings, plans, and ideas

And doing so by whatever means works best for me at a particular point in time

It doesn’t have to be formal

It doesn’t have to be long and dry

It doesn’t have to be done in a specific way

It doesn’t have to be in a specific place

It doesn’t have to be a specific time 

It is simply communicating

And communicating doesn’t even need words at times …

If prayer is communicating, then, sure, words work fine

But so do a hundred other methods

If you have been living on little or no formal prayer – that can change

Start by thinking about prayer differently

More simple

More intimate

Less formal

Prayer is deep communication between two people – you and the One who made you and loves you

2> Demolish dishonesty (pretence) 

Let me introduce you to a guy who really prayed

He’s an Old Testament prophet by the name of Jeremiah

If you look at his prayers, you will likely agree that one word summarizes his communication: HONESTY

Jeremiah never held back when talking with God

He got right to the point and said exactly what was on his mind

In Jeremiah 20:7, the prophet agonized in prayer, crying, “O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.”

The Message Version… “You pushed me into this, GOD, and I let you do it.

You were too much for me. And now I’m a public joke. They all poke fun at me.”

That’s not the perfect specimen of a politically correct prayer.

But Jeremiah didn’t give a rip

This guy never played games with God and neither should we

Now God didn’t really deceive Jeremiah

But Jeremiah wasn’t afraid to tell God about his subjective experience – what it felt like to him – and do it without pulling punches

Sometimes we pray with a formal, flattering dishonesty

We pray what we think God wants to hear

We pray hoping to manipulate Him to accomplish our agenda 

We pray flattering, polite, sterile prayer

And, when I do, I can hear God saying: “Will the real Ralph Howe please stand up!”

Jesus wants people to be real and honest, to relate to Him person-to-person in a open and honest relationship

What’s on your mind right now?

Are you hurting?

Tell God about it, and allow His presence to start the healing

Are you afraid?

Unload on Him, and you’ll feel a lot lighter

Are you battling with doubts?

Dump them on God, and you’ll be surprised at the peace you experience

Do you feel like God isn’t being fair?

Tell Him. Don’t hold back. He can handle it

God wants you to be truthful with Him

Let it rip

Give Him your whole heart

Be totally real and honest

#1 Redefine prayer

#2 Demolish dishonesty

3> Prayer is a personal conversation between you and God

Public prayer is then: a personal conversation between you and God with others listening

Jesus taught, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray … to be seen by men” (Matthew 6:5)

During his tenure as president of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson once asked Bill Moyers, a former Baptist minister who was on Johnson’s staff, to pray before a meal. Mr. Moyers was honoured to pray, but when he did, President HJohnson couldn’t hear him. The President asked Moyers to speak up so everyone could hear. Moyers replied, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t talking to you, but to God.”

Praying in public – in front of others – is good and should be encouraged

But, if we are trying to impress the people we are with

But, if we are trying to make a good impression

But, if we are being careful not to upset anyone 

But, if we are speaking to maintain an image of being a mature believer 

But, if we want to impress people with our amazing prayer life

Then, we are praying to “be seen by men” 

4> God cares about the totality of your life (Topical Totality) – no topic off limits

A pastor friend of mine … His daughter came up and asked him, “Does God care about my sick goldfish?”

He’s thinking…

“I don’t really care about the goldfish. Why would God”

Then he noticed a tear begin its long, slow trek down his little daughter’s face

His thought:

“Because I cared for my daughter, suddenly I cared for the stupid goldfish”

God is like that

Because He cares for you (and loves you) ——— He cares about what you care about

Paul the apostle seemed to know that God was into the details of our lives

He reminded the believers of Philippi, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6)

Paul didn’t say pray only about the big, hairy, important-sounding things —but pray about everything

Paul says we should pray about everything because God cares about everything

Go ahead – give it a try

Are you feeling lonely?

Talk to God – Ask Him to be with you

Then expect to sense His presence

Are you stuck in a bind and don’t know what to do?

Ask Him for advice, like you’d ask a friend

Then allow Him to guide you step-by-step

Do you know someone who needs help, but you can only look on helplessly?

Petition God. 

Watch Him intervene in ways you can’t understand

When you really realize that you can pray about anything and everything anywhere – your prayer life will take off like a rocket towards heaven

      • God, give me the words to say to this person
      • God, give me patience
      • God, bless her. Meet her needs
      • God, use me to encourage him
      • God, show me if I should buy this
      • God, help me to see him as you do
      • God, help me show her Your love

5> Don’t ever stop praying 

Praying is like breathing … 

Keep on breathing – keep on praying 

I am grateful to a women who lived thousands of years ago – Her name was Hannah

Her story is in the Bible as you know

Hannah’s example sheds light on a New Testament Bible verse that used to frustrate the snot out of me

I didn’t like the verse

I didn’t understand the verse

I always felt guilty when I saw it or thought about it

The verse:

1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray continually”

The NKJV translates it, “Pray without ceasing”

The Bible says to pray all the time!

Have you ever desired something more than anything else, and not received it?

Then you can relate to Hannah’s plight

The desire of her life was to be a mom

She had prayed and begged God for years, with no results

Still, Hannah “kept on praying to the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:12)

When everyone else told her it was no use, she kept praying.

She never gave up

You can imagine her frustration, always bringing pastel-wrapped gifts to her friends’ baby showers

Everyone was getting pregnant – everyone but her

With no hope in sight, Hannah kept on praying

How often did she cry herself to sleep … God’s name on her lips?

Hannah prayed continually and so should we

After this woman prayed for who knows how long, God finally honoured her prayers and gave her a miracle – a son she named Samuel

She prayed continually …. Keep on breathing – keep on praying 

A good portion of every day I am working I spend contacting people in nations around the world and here at home

Emails, phone calls, text messages, WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, FaceTime, Messenger, Instagram

Why do I make these contacts?

Because I care about people

Because I want to share “life” with people

Because I enjoy people

Because I feel ‘in touch’ by communicating regularly with people

Because I feel ‘anchored’ and secure in God’s love and want to share it with them 

It should be the same in my relationship with God

Constant contact throughout the day because I care about Him and He cares about me

PERSONAL COMMENTS:

For me, continual prayer has become an attitude directed to God

Not just a set of behaviours 

I work to include God in everything – It is as if God is my constant travel compassion

At times I chuckle as if He’s chuckling with me

In the middle of an activity, I just say one sentence to Him, or I might talk for an hour at a time (especially when driving)

I still forget to enjoy His presence

But the good news is that even when we forget to pray continually — — He never forgets to remain continually with us

Since prayer is simply communication

I have available a wide range of ways to pray in different circumstances

            • Sometimes words
            • Sometimes thoughts
            • Sometimes just an awareness of His presence

The whole time, at every moment, He’s here, ready to listen and ready to respond 

LET’S REVIEW …

So, why some people – maybe you – don’t pray or don’t pray regularly:

1> Don’t feel you really know how to pray effectively

2> Not sure God will really answer

3> You have ADD – “Attention Deficit Disorder”

4> Bored out of your mind

5> Apparently God simply doesn’t care

Things to think about – It might be time to:

1> Redefine prayer

2> Demolish dishonesty

3> Realize prayer is simply a personal conversation with God

4> Everything goes / anything goes – Topical Totality

5> Keep breathing – praying continually

MY LAST THOUGHT … if you are not worn out at this point…

Even with all of this in hand, prayer can still be somewhat boring at times

The solution to this comes from a regular-guy-turned-king who had an amazing understanding of prayer

The Bible tells the story of an ordinary shepherd boy with a heart for God who eventually became king of Israel

And he was certainly, if nothing else, very creative in his relationship with God

God said that David was a man after His own heart

And, I certainly don’t know anyone with a more inventive prayer and worship life than King David

        • David prayed through his instrument of worship (Psalm 108:1-3)

Have you ever turned your prayers into a song?

I have

It’s fun and freeing at the same time

You may say, “But I can’t sing”

Neither can I.

That’s what makes it so enjoyable

My singing is not for people, but for God

        • David took every opportunity to pray

 

You could pray for your neighbours while cutting the grass

You go for a walk in your neighbourhood – praying for each house you pass

Sitting in a boring meeting – pray for those in attendance / that the meeting end early

        • David shouted to the Lord (Psalm 20:5)

Don’t try that one while walking down a busy street

You might also want to avoid this one in restaurants and public restrooms

But give Him a shout when you are home

Shout praises to Him 

Shout for joy

Even shout your hurts

          • David sighed (Psalm 5:1-2)

“Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray”

Most of us don’t think of sighing as a form of prayer

“God, I love You … pause … long sigh… pause … another deep, heartfelt sigh”

God is so big 

He understands the emotions, questions, pain, confusion, and hopes all wrapped up in your sighs

Now you can’t call just any old sigh a prayer — — — but a sigh directed towards God could become prayerful

You might try…

    • Writing out your prayers
    • Praying during routine tasks (shopping, laundry, preparing a meal)
    • When making a long drive – just keep your eyes open. (After all, Jesus said, “Watch and pray)
    • Praying in different places (home, office, yard, shower, in bed)
    • Varying your body’s position (sit, stand, walk, kneel)
    • Praying by listening and not doing all the talking
    • Praying the Scriptures you’re reading 
    • Praying while watching the nightly newscast

So my message is simple…

Pray. Pray creatively, openly, honestly. Pray long. Pray short. Sigh. Sing. Dance. Cry. Shout. Pray in the morning. During the day and in the evening. Pray in the car, while working, while doing chores. Laugh with Him. Cry with Him. Experience His presence. Let your attitudes, thoughts, energy, focus, attention, desire, and love be directed towards the One who loves you. Like breathing air, allow moment-by-moment fellowship to become a way of life – starting this very moment. Go ahead. Just communicate and be yourself with God.