Honest Talk about Honest Prayer
- Thursday, February 05, 2009
Praying Pastor interviewed Peter Lundell, author of Prayer Power: 30 Days to a Stronger Connection with God (Revell, January 2009). Used with permission.
Many Christians don't talk about hardships with prayer. Why do you open up about the struggles you, as a pastor, have had drawing close to God in prayer?
My first draft of the book read like an instruction manual of all the things you ought to do to be spiritual like me. I realized that the more spiritual I tried to sound, the less honest I was being. I was hiding behind my words. No reader should have to, or would want to, put up with that. And besides, it was boring.
So I determined to be totally honest. I rewrote the book and openly shared every doubt, struggle, and failure, because every reader goes through struggles. And if I’m not honest with readers, how can I expect readers to be honest with others or even themselves? This is especially important for pastors.
I’ve discovered two things: First, brutal honesty is tremendously liberating, and I don’t want to live any other way. Second, when we stick with prayer and don’t give up, answers and victories rise from these struggles. Answers and victory never rise from pretending.
I hope to connect with readers in hope that they’ll connect with me and the victories I’ve experienced—so that they will experience their own victories.
What are some of the things God has taught you about prayer over the years - especially from the perspective of your leadership roles?
It’s good to listen before I talk. If I always dive into prayer and never spend time listening, I only dump my own “give-me list” on God. But his word says in 1 John 5:14–15 that when I seek and pray according to his will, my prayer will be answered. So the key is to first get in sync with God.
We’ve got to have a hunger, or thirst, for God. Without hunger, no program or technique or anything we learn will go anywhere. But with hunger for God, we could know almost nothing and still have a great prayer life. Hunger is singularly important—which is why it’s the first chapter.
When I pray with faith and don’t get what I ask for, God will soon show me why. There is always something to learn in unanswered prayer.
What suggestions do you have for those times when a pastor or leader just doesn't feel like praying?
Read a prayer. Someone was inspired in prayer when he or she wrote it down. So if we’re feeling tired, depressed, or like a zombie, we can let the inspiration that first permeated that written prayer permeate our own hearts and minds. I find the Psalms to be the best source for this. We can do this with the Lord’s Prayer, and extrapolate on each part of it. Books of prayers are also available. I’ve also written my own.
Reading prayers in this way should be seen as a way to get prayer moving, not as the prayer experience itself. In no way do I want to direct people to simply read other people’s prayers. The purpose is to kick-start our own.
Another thing is to play worship music. Put on a CD or iPod and worship along with the music, then move into prayer. It’s no coincidence that Saul’s demonic spirit left when David played his harp, and it’s no mystery why most churches play music in the background during prayer times or altar calls. The Holy Spirit operates more in worship, and the music has the effect of lifting us up and prying us open as well.
Third, try creating a prayer notebook or just a handy list. Though this may feel forced, lists give substance and direction. And with that, our prayer is much more likely to take off with spontaneity and passion.
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