In our modern culture, one of the primary barriers we have to effective prayer is simply being too busy. Or so we think.
In A Praying Life, Paul E. Miller provides two keen insights into breaking through this busyness barrier.
He calls us to examine our hearts. Then, we realize that busyness isn’t the problem. The enemy of prayer is a lack of understanding of the gospel.
The beauty of the gospel is that Christ graciously reaches down to save us from our brokenness. We’re messy, fallen creatures, but he takes us as we are. This same grace can extend to our prayer life.
We know that to become a Christian we shouldn’t try to fix ourselves up, but when it comes to praying we completely forget that. We’ll sing the old gospel hymn, “Just as I Am,” but when it comes to praying, we don’t come just as we are… Private, personal prayer is one of the last great bastions of legalism.”
The gospel frees us from feeling the need to “have it together” in prayer.
We can come with busy minds and packed schedules. We can come with distraction and stress. Our minds can wander.
When we set a high bar for ourselves regarding the amount of time we pray or the mental focus we will have when praying, we feel like we have to spend more time and energy preparing to pray. This is mentally draining and can result in a lack of prayer.
We attribute this to a lack of discipline or a lack of scheduling, but it’s our own legalism that is often at fault.
Another objection [to a daily prayer time] is busyness. When I first heard Martin Luther’s comment that he couldn’t get by unless he had three or four hours of prayer daily, I scratched my head. Knowing how busy Luther was, you’d think he would want to cut out prayer. Now, years later, it makes perfect sense. In fact, the more pressure, the more I need to pray. I pray in the morning because my life is so pressured.
If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life. You’ll always be a little too tired, a little too busy. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can’t do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will find the time to pray…
I, for one, am allergic to helplessness. I don’t like it. I want a plan, an idea, or maybe a friend to listen to my problem. This is how I instinctively approach everything because I am confident in my own abilities…
If we think we can do life on our own, we will not take prayer seriously. Our failure to pray will always feel like something else – a lack of discipline or too many obligations. But when something is important to us, we make room for it. Prayer is simply not important to many Christians because Jesus is already an add-on.
When you understand your sinful condition, your failure, your complete inability to do good, then you can’t help but cry out to God.
Your bouts of sadness, anxiety, and failure could be the very tools God is using to drive you to himself. He’s revealing your present need for the gospel.
Prayer becomes less about discipline and more about the desperate need for God to save you, to lift your spirits, and to empower you to do what you can’t even come close to doing on your own.
Have you seen yourself in any of these descriptions? I know I have.
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