How to Make Prayer an Adventure Rather Than a Burden

It’s been estimated that a typical Christian layman spends about three-and-a-half minutes each day in prayer. Full-time Christian workers average about seven minutes per day. Why do we fail to take full advantage of the privilege of prayer? Is it a lack of discipline? Are we too busy? Are we unmotivated?

Perhaps the basic cause relates to how we view God. We may have no genuine awe for the one “who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth” (Isaiah 51:13). And if we aren’t captivated by God, prayer is a tedious task—a discipline that only those with wills of steel can master.

I once regarded prayer as “gutting it out” before God—bringing reams of petitions before Him. The more requests I could bring, the more spiritual I was.

I also misinterpreted statements from godly men about the importance of prayer. Martin Luther’s statement that “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer” implied to me that prayer was a guaranteed formula for success.

Rather than being dynamic communion with the sovereign Lord of the universe, prayer was an exercise meant to wrestle effects into the lives of people and to manipulate God’s hand. Prayer became lifeless and tedious. It was like castor oil: tasting terrible, but good for me.

Yet God reminded me of the truth I was neglecting: He wanted to commune with me. Communion is the intimate sharing of thoughts and emotions. It’s intimate fellowship, rapport or communication. This is the kind of relationship God wants.

I realized afresh that God desires communion with me and has little interest in the petition gymnastics I was trying to perfect. He wants me to be preoccupied with Himself.

Seeing God this way enables us to stand in awe of him. It stimulates our heart to vital communion and conversation with Him. Seeing God as He is requires faith on our part, but whoever is enamored and thrilled with God is then rightly motivated to pray. I believe that’s what John 4:24 is hinting at: “God is spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

What can we do? God has graciously given us two major resources to enable us to see Him as He is: His works and His Word.

Most of us think of the works of God as His spiritual work in people’s lives. But another work of God, neglected by many of us, is His creation. The universe declares God’s glory, but many of us have lost our sense of wonder at the ordinary miracles God performs all around us each day.

God wants us to experience awe and wonder when we see the return of spring, or the variety in the animal world, or the impressive powers of wind, rain, and sea. Isaiah wrote, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?” (Isaiah 40:26). We, too, should consider the one who made it all, and we can ask God to help us see Him in His creation.

The second resource available to us is God’s Word—a vast reservoir of riches designed to remind us of the greatness of the God we serve. Many passages focus on what God is like. When you read them, think of the implications these attributes have for our lives, and talk with God about them.

The life of Jesus Christ as told in the Gospels also draws our attention to God’s character. As we read about Jesus talking with and living among people, we see vivid examples of God’s character in action.

Communion also means sharing the same thoughts as we communicate. We need to respond to God about the specific things He has spoken to us about. We often fail to do this when we read the Bible. In a particular passage, God may speak to us about His holiness. But our mind is preoccupied with how we can come up with enough money to pay next month’s rent. So when we put down our Bible and pray, what do we talk to God about? Not His holiness, but the rent money!

It is not wrong to pray about our needs, but God wants us to listen to Him and give Him a proper response. Imagine telling someone, “I love you very much,” only to hear him respond, “I sure hope I get a raise soon at work.” Such conversations don’t do much to build intimacy in a relationship.

Another way to appreciate God and commune with Him is to read and meditate on the great prayers of the Bible. When the early Christians prayed for boldness (Acts 4:24–30) most of their words recounted what God had already done. No wonder their prayer for boldness was clearly answered. Many of the psalms of David and the prayers of Paul also focus on who God is and what he has done, rather than on their requests.

Growing in reverent communion with God isn’t another burden to add to your already busy schedule. It is not an activity, but an attitude of heart that should influence your Bible study, Scripture memory, quiet times, and prayer.

William Carey said that “secret, fervent, believing prayer lies at the root of all personal godliness.” We could add that an exciting sense of reverence and worship—an increasing appreciation of God’s presence—lies at the root of all secret, fervent, believing prayer.

Adapted from Focus on the Father in Discipleship Journal, November/December 1981. Used by permission of NavPress.

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