Many prayer traditions of the church have been passed down from one generation to the next; and in spite of all of the traditions and teachings we have on prayer, I have heard people give so many reasons for not praying. Let’s take a look at the three most common things I hear from people about why they don’t pray, regularly. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
#1: I DON’T KNOW HOW TO PRAY
A young mother stopped me once after Bible study to ask for ways she could teach her children to pray. My first instinct was to tell her, “Just pray with them!” But I thought that seemed a bit too simple and I knew she was asking for something more. Instead, I listened beyond her words to understand what she was actually asking me was, “I want my children to have a lifetime of prayer. How do I change from being the one who prays to being the one who teaches that value and that pattern?”
We talked about several ideas to get the children excited about praying for others and she decided to join the church’s prayer team with her children. They dedicated one night a week to pray, specifically for the needs of their church family. It was a wonderful way to teach the children how to pray for others!
If you’re wondering how to pray, simply start by asking God to lead you. Keep asking questions and grow still to hear the answers.
#2 GOD WON’T HEAR MY PRAYERS
The second thing I have heard people say is this, “I don’t pray because I’m not pure enough for God to hear me.” It’s tempting to presume that we must be “pure” in order to speak with or listen to God. In our culture, we often think of children as the most innocent, the least corrupted, and so, if that is the case, then maybe we can learn to pray from the prayers of children.
Children are often encouraged to imagine that Jesus is sitting with them, his light shining on them as they simply share with Him. Imagination can help children and adults pray. Focus on the love of God and the presence of grace when it is difficult to find words, and that can be your prayer.
Whether praying for yourself or others, consider imagining them, or yourself, in the glowing light of Christ, remembering that Jesus identifies Himself as the Light of the World. In this way, you can engage in a wordless prayer; imagination is not limited to rules or protocol. So, are you tempted to avoid praying, waiting for purity? God isn’t interested in your purity, He wants your attention and your honesty. He longs to hear from you, so just pray and keep at it.
#3 I’M TOO BUSY FOR PRAYER
Have you ever found yourself thinking, “I can’t pray, I’m just too busy.”
In the first part of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs His disciples to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” It could also be translated to mean: “Take one day at a time.” Jesus probably spoke these words in Aramaic and it is a very simple, down to earth language. One of the translators of Aramaic has said that the prayer could have been translated: “Grant that what we need each day, in bread and insight, will be given.”
Another version is: “Help us fulfill what lies within the circle of our lives and let that be what we pray, no more and no less.” There may be a disadvantage to us in reading from an English translation so far removed from the simplicity of what Jesus was teaching His disciples. Jesus was teaching them, and teaching us, to face what we need daily. This includes all of our worries and stress; we can take it all to God.
If you ever feel like you don’t have time to pray, those are the very times you can’t afford not to pray! When we are feeling overwhelmed, busy and stressed, that is one of the best times to seek God’s guidance. He can help us to see our priorities more clearly when we ask.