Getting started in prayer
When Jesus’ disciples asked him ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’ (Luke 11:1) they were representing every generation of believers that has lived ever since. Which of us can say that we find prayer straightforward? How many of us have sat down or perhaps knelt to pray and found that our minds are awash with all kinds of distractions? We can’t get started. We don’t know where to begin. We may even hear that accusing voice which tells us that we’re not worthy to pray at all and why should God hear us?
A significant part of the problem is that time, in our society, is a precious commodity. Whatever our calling in life may be, it is likely that our days are full of pressing engagements and the need to make snap decisions. The hectic pace of life to which we are accustomed is seldom conducive to the calmness and quietness that encourages thoughtful, deep, reverential prayer. Whilst there are occasions when we need to be like Nehemiah, firing off prayers in the activity and commotion of life, there is no substitute for focused and concentrated times, set aside for the specific purpose of worshipping and seeking the Lord.
Using God’s word
So we make time; we try to keep a regular slot during the day. But the work of praying continues to be a struggle. It doesn’t seem to come naturally. Why is this? Surely if we are believers we ought to be able to talk to our heavenly Father without any hesitation? At this point we need to remember that prayer is an essentially spiritual activity, fuelled by the Holy Spirit Himself. What is true about conversion, the beginning of the Christian life, is true of the continuation of the Christian life: ‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail’ (John 6:63).
So what should we do? We need to have our hearts and minds filled with spiritual truth and substance, and this means we need God’s word. It is far better to pray with a mind that is meditating on the word than attempt to begin with a blank sheet. So many of the psalms, in particular, will act as a springboard to prayer. Ask yourself the question – what are the truths about God and the promises of God that I find in this passage? Articulate them, then make them the source and spring of your praying. And with perseverance you should find that you can ‘pray yourself into prayer’.
Paul Yeulett is the minister of Shrewsbury Evangelical Church.