Why bother praying?
You know, these past few months have been a real struggle for me. It has been very difficult for me to have a regular routine of prayer. I have been asking myself and the Lord why my prayers have seemingly fallen on deaf ears. I have even been questioning the real purpose of prayer. Questions like “Why bother praying when You already know what we will ask?” have been coming to mind. I am tired and exhausted from fervently praying for lofty things and seeing the opposite come about.
I know from past experience that whenever the Lord seems to pull back from me, it is usually to either 1) see how much I really believe in what I am professing, or 2) lead me on a deeper exploration of the true meaning of the subject matter at hand. I have this sense that the Lord is trying to teach me some foundational truths about prayer.
Silence and stillness
Over the past couple of weeks, the same message has been popping up repeatedly for me, often in the most unexpected ways and places. The message? That I need to be still and silent, resting in the presence of the Lord. Everywhere I turn, I hear the same thing: “Be still and know that I am God.” It took me a few days to catch on, and a few more days to start obeying His directions for me. So now I am finally spending quiet time with the Lord.
Cart before the horse
During one of my quiet sessions with the Lord, a realization struck me. I was putting the cart in front of the horse, so to speak. I was working so hard to develop my intercessory prayer repertoire that I had totally neglected the most important part of prayer – that of listening for His voice speaking to me. Yes, I did set aside a little bit of time for quietness and silence, but it was always at the end of my prayer times, and often almost an afterthought. I really had put the cart before the horse, no wonder I was not getting anywhere with my prayers! Like the picture above, I was trying to pull the wagon with my own feeble strength instead of allowing the mighty horse-strength of the Lord to pull me and all my burdens.
The 80/20 rule
Is it any wonder, then, that so many of us struggle with our prayer lives? We come to Him with a laundry list of requests and demands, and we get bent out of shape when He doesn’t give us what we ask for, at the moment we ask for it, and in the manner that we ask for it to be given us. (Silver platter, anyone?) We conclude that our God either does not care for us, or does not listen to us, and eventually withdraw from prayer like it was a failed experiment.
I propose that we simply have it backwards. Instead of spending 80 percent of our time talking to the Lord and 20 percent listening, the Lord wants us to reverse this ratio – 20% praying and 80% listening. The writings of the saints down through the ages support this, as well as the example of the Lord Jesus Himself.
Oh my dear Lord Jesus, I am so sorry that I put the cart before the horse in my prayer life! I hear Your voice in my heart, and do want to return to the heart of prayer. Give me the grace to be silent before You, and to be attentive to Your words to me. Help me to quiet my heart and silence all the worldly distraction so that I can hear You clearly. My dearest Lord, I love You, I bless You, I honor You, I adore You, I praise You, and I worship You!
Luke 5:16 (NABRE)