As believers in Christ, we are taught and instructed that prayer is an essential element for/in the Christian life. We know this. We hear sermons about the importance of prayer. The Bible is brimming with examples, admonitions, and commands to pray.
However, many believers, when asked if they pray as much as they think they should, and this is the crux of the matter, will shake their head. They know they should pray more but they don’t do it. They know this is important and yet the discipline to pray is left alone or ignored.
A quick browse of websites about prayer reveals that many take time to preach how-to-pray. Others provide scriptural examples and verses to bolster a reader’s resolve to pray. A check with booksellers and there are numerous volumes about the discipline of prayer. Respected pastors and scholars have written on the subject of praying. I have one in front of me right now, ‘Listening for God’ by Marilyn Hontz. Examples and admonitions are peppered throughout this excellent book. Lists and acronyms are provided for the reader to utilize.
And yet, believers, Christians, and church-goers still admit they don’t pray as they should. When asked why, people often provide answers like: I don’t have time, or My problem isn’t that important, or Praying won’t make a difference.
After a bit of online research, these additional reasons are offered: I sometimes forget, and I feel guilty about not praying more, and I can’t pray as so-and-so does, and I don’t know how to pray, and I get discouraged that God doesn’t answer.
When folks are asked, ‘If you pray, when do you do it?’ Their reply might include: ‘I pray at mealtime’; or I silently pray in church when the pastor prays; or ‘When I’m called on in a group’; or ‘When there is a big problem, I might bow my head.’
If this topic is becoming boring, wait a minute or two. I’d like to present something different. Something that may reveal an unfamiliar idea.
In the Mel Gibson movie, Hacksaw Ridge, the actor who plays the lead role of Desmond Doss, says the following: “I pray to God and I like to think He hears me but it ain’t a conversation ….”
That comment reveals something mighty important. Notice, his talk with God is considered a one-way-chat. Normally, when two people talk, there is a give-and-take as each person contributes. It becomes a back-and-forth as each one adds to the topic under discussion.
However, in prayers to the Lord, it’s always ‘us’ doing the talking. We don’t hear a response or receive a reply. This is discouraging, depressing, and turns ugly. Why pray? There’s no answer.
Some Christians might say, ‘the answer will come later’. Like when? How much later? What if I wait for days or even weeks? What if there’s still no answer, do I keep on? Most believers throw in the towel; they give up talking to God. Their prayer dialogs are one-sided and lack any reply.
Someone may pipe up and say, “I’ve had an answer to my prayer?” My question would be, “Was it answered yesterday?” Silence. “Uh, no.” My next question, “Was the answer this past week or month?” More crickets. My follow up question, “Was the prayer answered this past year?” They hesitate. “It was back when ….” That’s the idea, it’s been a while.
Having a lack of an active conversation with God changes the attitude of most people. Someone might say, “Praying doesn’t work.” Therefore, it becomes easy to find other things to do, other things more important. They give lip-service to the importance of prayer, but in their personal lives, they have ceased talking to the Lord.
“Really,” they may think, “why even pray at all?” Perhaps there are stories or situations where others have received an amazing answer, but you haven’t. It doesn’t do any good. It doesn’t work. So, why do it? And so, that aspect of the believer’s life drops off or lags behind.
This article is an attempt to paint a picture of why Christians don’t pray. If what is depicted is close to your experience, read on. There is no promise of a quick-fix, or an amazing formula, or fast answer. All that is offered are things to think about. Perhaps, just perhaps, there might be a nugget to uncover.
I contend that God talks to us every day, even hourly. The problem; we aren’t listening. I believe God wants to talk to us, He wants to fellowship with us, He desires to share with us. Again: the problem? We aren’t heeding, or we don’t how to listen. God’s voice is soft, very soft. He wants us to seek, to search, to look for Him. Listen to this:
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5 NIV)
Do you catch all that? I am supposed to be seeking the Lord, crying out for wisdom, looking for God with all my heard, keeping His commands, and searching for Him. There is a great deal of energy, determination, and struggle to find the Lord. He wants us to LOOK, not sit back and twiddle our thumbs while we wait for Him.
Our problem may likely be that we fail to put any effort into listening to the Lord. Rather, we travel through life and hope for the best. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us that we must knock, we must seek, we must look, we must ask. There must be a definite effort in our seeking God.
Do we sit back and expect the pastor or Bible teacher to feed us? If that’s the case, then ‘No,’ won’t know when God answers prayer, we won’t hear when God speaks. Why? Because we aren’t listening. We must set aside our personal ‘self’, our desires, and our problems. We must focus upon the Lord, not for just ten minutes, but for much longer; long enough that seeking God becomes a daily habit.
Let us pray. He will answer BUT WE MUST LISTEN.