For a lot of us our relationship with prayer can be quite complicated. We find ourselves both drawn to it and deterred by it. We long to pray and yet sometimes, or maybe more often than not, we find it incredibly hard to pray.
We believe that prayer is important and an essential part of our lives and relationship with Jesus, and yet at the same time we can experience a great divide between our desire to pray and actually praying.
This struggle in our prayer lives is often the result of us feeling distant from God.
If we are completely honest, it can be difficult to communicate with an invisible God whom we can’t see and whom we can’t audibly hear (unfortunately, this only seems to happen to a few people on the rare occasion).
This can be particularly hard when it seems that our prayers remain unanswered. Just like David we might find ourselves crying out to God: “My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer” (Psalm 22v2). We might find ourselves wondering if prayer makes a difference, if God really does hear our cries, questioning whether he is concerned by our struggles.
There are times when prayer feels like a desert place. Where we battle to hear God or sense his presence. God can feel hidden from us at times, making it hard for us to pray and lean into and pursue our relationship with him.
And yet here in lies the great mystery of prayer, that although sometimes it may be hard, and God does not feel near or close to us, it is the very practice of prayer that helps us draw near to him. That makes us aware of his presence in our lives and enables us to know him personally, in a deep and intimate way.
It’s in prayer that we seek God, pursuing him, knowing that he promises that as we do, we will find him (Jeremiah 29v13 and Matthew 7v7).
As we persist in prayer, we soon find that God really is “near to all who call on him” Psalm 145v18) and that he truly is “an ever-present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46v10).
As we contemplate the scriptures, we are reminded that God is for us and loves us dearly (Romans 8v31&37). That he longs and desires to spend time with us and to hear our voice (Song of Songs 2v14).
That we have full access into his presence through Jesus no matter our performance or lack thereof (Hebrews 10v19-22), that the veil has been torn (Matthew 27v51) and the invitation to his presence has been extended to us.
That he does hear our cries and deliver us from trouble (Psalm 37v14), that he is moved by our tears, that he sees them, cares about them, and will ultimately turn our tears into joy, wiping them away as we put our faith in him (Revelation 21v4).
That in our moments of pain he is present in our lives, working all things for our good (Romans 8v28), even when it seems to us that he is absent.
Keeping this in mind, as God’s word stirs up faith in our hearts, we can continue asking, seeking and waiting on God in prayer, with the full assurance that he is right beside us even when it doesn’t feel that way.
That even in the desert place, he is there calling us back to himself.
Perhaps this unprecedented season in our lives is a beautiful opportunity for us to grow in our hunger and thirst for God as we realize more and more our dependence on him and our need for him. As St Augustine so beautifully writes: “Thou hast put salt on my lips that I might thirst for thee”.
Perhaps it’s in the desert place that we will find our hearts yearning for God in new ways, as we earnestly seek the satisfaction that is only found in knowing him.
If the cry of our hearts is to grow in our relationship with God, in knowing him and experiencing intimacy with him in our prayer lives, how can we then practically begin to fan into flame a passion and a love for God and for prayer despite these obstacles that we encounter?
Prayer at its very core is about relationship and connection with God. The first role of prayer in our lives is to cultivate a deep and intimate relationship with him. Just like in any other relationship we share with friends or family, our relationship with God grows through time spent together. It means walking with him daily, it means talking with him intimately, and it means listening to him attentively.
By being intentional with our times of prayer (creating the time and space to do this) we make ourselves available to God to hear from him, speak to him and to draw near to him.
Sometimes specific times and spaces (places and activities) help us connect with God more easily and naturally then others, which can be particularly helpful when we are feeling distant from God. Perhaps for you it’s early in the morning with a cup of tea and your journal, maybe it’s taking your dog for a walk whilst you list to worship music on your headphones. It could be in the early evening as you meditate on the scriptures whilst sitting in your favourite chair.
Having a specific time and place where we pray helps us to begin building and cultivating a relationship with God and a life of prayer. As these times and spaces of prayer become habits in our lives, they make it easier for us to consistently show up, especially when we don’t feel like praying. And as we show up making ourselves available to God it enables us to become increasingly aware of God, who is always constantly present with us.
We might feel at times that we are too busy or pressured to sacrifice our time to pray, but the truth is there are not many times when life isn’t busy and chaotic (lockdown included). The busyness of life calls for us to prioritize the things we value most. When we remind ourselves of the incredible value of our relationship with God, setting time aside to spend time with him, as a daily rhythm in our lives, becomes easy. The time and space we set aside for God helps us to walk and talk with God in every season we encounter in life.
As humans we always seem to be in danger of trying to attain to goals that are unsustainable and overbearing. One is never more aware of this then in the January of every single year as we set out to change our lives by being the healthiest, fittest, kindest, most self-controlled version of ourselves that we have always wanted to be.
Although intentionality most certainly helps us to ignite a hunger and desire to seek God in prayer, the sparks created as we do this can be quickly snuffed out when we set unsustainable goals and expectations for ourselves. Just as the small flame of a fire is snuffed out when one starts heaping logs on top it.
Heaping logs onto the flame won’t work, instead it’s the kindling (the small sticks and twigs) that enables the flame to grow. To begin with two hours of prayer everyday will probably deter us as we grow despondent with our inability to focus and commit to the task. If we begin with 10 to 15 minutes of prayer daily, and grow on from there, we are more likely to continue on in our pursuit of God.
It’s the everyday small commitments to spend time with God that fuels a deep relationship with him and a life of prayer. It’s in the small daily moments that we begin to spend with God that our relationship with him grows in intimacy and begins to permeate into every part of our lives.
It’s an intimate relationship with him that empowers us to build and live a life that is on fire for him. Where we are increasingly aware of his presence. Where hearing and recognizing his voice becomes easier and easier. Where we become a people, who are led by his Spirit, and who are hungry for God, desiring to know him more. Where prayer becomes a joy.
PRAYER POINTS FOR THE WEEK:
Practicing the Prayer of Examen
The prayer of Examen is prayer practiced at the end of each day, before bed, whereby we reflect on and review our day with God, asking the Holy Spirt to speak to us about the moments that have filled it.
Practicing the prayer of Examen is a powerful tool that we can use to grow in our relationship with God and prayer. It does this by helping us to become increasingly aware of God’s presence in our lives and of how God is at work in our lives.
This practice creates space in our lives for us to come before God, sharing our lives with him. It provides us with the opportunity to thank him for his gifts and presence, to ask him for his forgiveness for where we have sinned against him and others, and to ask the Holy Spirit for his strength and power to live our lives for him.
So, how can we put into practice the prayer of Examen?
Over the next coming week why not spend 10 minutes at the end of every day to practice Examen by asking these questions:
Replay the Day in Your Mind, Contemplating:
- Where did I feel closest to God today, and why?
- Where did I feel furthest away from God today, and why?
- What brought me joy today, and why?
- What hurt or upset me today, and why?
Rejoice in the Day as You Remember How God Has Been With You And Has Brought You Joy:
- What do the above questions and answers reveal to me about who God is?
- Where can I see God’s presence in my life?
- Where can I give thanks to God for the grace and gifts (big and small) that I have received from him today?
- Where can I see God at work in my life, helping me in my daily struggles and difficulties?
Repent, Asking God for His Forgiveness:
- Contemplating the day, what does it reveal to me about who I am?
- Where can I see God at work in my life, shaping and transforming me into the image of Jesus?
- What moments in my day do I need to repent of, and ask God for his forgiveness?
- Where do I need to yield to God in my life, surrendering my will to his?
“Having Replayed the Day in Detail, Rejoicing and Repenting Along the Way, Let’s Turn Our Attention to the Challenges of Tomorrow, Asking for God’s Strength to Live a Little More for His Glory” (Pete Greig):
- Let’s resolve to live for God, to walk with him daily, and to continue to seek him in prayer.
- Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s presence to us throughout our days.
- Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to show us the many ways God has blessed us, helping us to rejoice always.
- Let’s ask for the Holy Spirit’s power to be at work in our lives sanctifying us as we lean into our relationship with God.
- Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to lead us throughout our days, and to enable us to follow Jesus by helping and empowering us to surrender our will to his.
- Let’s ask God for his help and grace in the areas we particularly need it.
Prayers of Intercession for our World
“This form of prayer finds its home in our desperation and desire to see God radically move – to change both lives and circumstances around us. Simply put, intercession is the place where we join with Jesus in praying for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” – John Mark Comer.
- We pray for the sick, that God would heal them and that they would recover from this virus speedily.
- We pray particularly for those who are most vulnerable, that God would protect them from this virus.
- We pray for those who have lost loved ones, that God would comfort them and that they would know his love and compassion at this time.
- We pray for the health workers, that God would protect them from this virus. That he would strengthen them and bring them peace as they go about their work.
- We pray for all decision makers around the world, whether in business, government or church leadership, that God would give them wisdom and understanding as they lead at this time.
- We pray for families. That God would give parents his grace, helping them to juggle working from home, home schooling and the pressures that come from being confined to their homes.
- We pray for children that they would adapt well to the new ways of living that they now find themselves in.
- We pray for God’s peace and joy in households and families at this time.
- We pray for the poor and for those who have been impacted financially by the pandemic. That God would provide for them in this moment in various ways and that in doing so he would be glorified in and through people’s lives.
- We pray that followers of Jesus would grow in their relationship with him and that they would come to know him in a deeper and more intimate way.
- We pray that despite not meeting as normal, that the church would be strengthened during this time.
- We pray that the church would grow at this time, as many people come to know God and start following him.
- We pray that followers of Jesus would rise up to proclaim the name of Jesus and that many who are far from God would begin to put their faith in him.
- We pray that the Coronavirus would be eradicated, whether miraculously or through the development of a vaccine. We pray that this pandemic would come to an end.