By Jess Griggs.
If you've been a Christian for any amount of time, you know that prayer is an essential element to your spiritual life. You've probably heard such trite phrases as, "why wish upon a star when you can pray to the one who created it?" and, "I'm too busy not to pray." These are all well and good, but altogether unhelpful when it comes right down to actually having a meaningful conversation with the God of the universe. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try and stick to the plan, our prayers seem unfruitful and discouraging. Have you considered that maybe you have the wrong mindset from the very beginning? Here are a few all too common attitudes towards prayer that will ultimately choke out your communication with God.
1. Focusing on yourself
Has your prayer life become a list of wants and needs that you recite before God? Maybe you feel like your prayers have become boring and repetitive, or like you've run out of things to pray for. The world is so much bigger than you, and it is full of people and problems, and social issues, and righteous causes. There is a great need for you to take the needs and requests of your friends and family members before the throne of God. Not that God doesn't care about you, and the details of your life; He does, a great deal. But you have been strategically placed where you are, right here, right now, and you have the unique opportunity to be a prayer warrior. So don’t let your prayers be only all about you. They should be all about God, and the works He is doing in His Kingdom.
2. Worrying if your prayers are worthy
Too often, we forget that God actually likes us. Our prayers are not a try-out to get into the "holier than thou" club, and the outcome is not based on how many times you said "Father God," or quoted back scripture. Prayer is about communication, and building a relationship with your Creator. He loves you, not for your eloquence or your wit, but simply because you are His. So treat Him like your best friend - talk to Him about the silly stuff, thank Him for the beauty of the sunrise, or for the creature comfort of that morning cup of coffee. Talk to Him about the heavy stuff, about the pain and the uncertainty. Be honest with God when things are difficult. One of the most simple yet gut-wrenching prayers I've heard was just, "God, I can't stop this particular sin. I don't even want to. Help me want to stop." What a raw prayer!
3. Not taking time to listen
We've all had to deal with people in our lives whoonly ever talk about themselves. They never really engage us in conversation, but more use us as a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, or complain about their week, or brag about their kids... the list goes on and on. More often than not, we are that person when it comes to prayer. We beseech the Almighty to move is powerful hand and fix our problems, but rarely do we seek His guidance and then actually listen to what He would have us do, how He would have us act. The conversation is not one-way, and if you've never made space for God to speak into your life, this may be just what you need to jumpstart your prayer life.
4. Making your prayer life an idol
My prayer time is usually spent writing in my prayer journal, which has been a great benefit, but also has a few pitfalls. One huge benefit of writing down my prayers is that I have a tangible way to collect and organize my thoughts. This easily becomes a pitfall when I find myself more in love with my words than with the One they were written for. Another benefit is that I have a record to look back on and see how God answered my prayers in unexpected ways. This sometimes leads to checking prayer off my list of things to do simply so that I don't have a missing date in my journal. Never let the obligation of prayer outweigh the holiness of prayer. A good way to avoid making your prayer life an idol, is to switch up your routine. Pray on your knees, pray out loud, write your prayer on a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror, pray on the way to work, pray in a group, wake up early to pray, go on a walk and pray - keep it fresh!
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. - Luke 11:9
Worst of all…
The worst attitude towards prayer is to believe that it doesn't work. This post was in no way intended to silence those who have doubts, or who are afraid they are "doing it wrong." Rather, this is hopefully a helpful way to troubleshoot your prayer life if and when you are going through a dry spell. The best thing you can do is to jump in head first, and pray as the Lord burdens you to pray. The Christian who prays has access to a powerful weapon.