If the spiritual life is healthy, under the full power of the Holy Spirit, praying without ceasing will be natural. – Andrew Murray
It really is hard to see the forest through the trees. We can get so entrenched with the details that we never really consider the big picture. That happens big time with prayer – which oftentimes comes with some monstrous expectations and invisible assumptions.
The biggest assumption is that we're always supposed to pray more than we do! If you don't pray a lot, you obviously aren't serious about God. And if more people, like you, would just pray more, then our world and our nation wouldn't be going to hell in a hand basket, right? Verses like the following might only fuel your struggle:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. – Ephesians 6:18
Pray continually... for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. –1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Add this all together, and you might feel like a firstclass spiritual loser. Or maybe you try to dodge it by saying, "I don't have the gift of prayer." (Sorry, prayer isn't listed as a spiritual gift anywhere in the Bible, so that doesn't get you off the hook either.)
What's the problem here? Is God setting us up for failure and condemnation? Not at all. (But it should be a hint that it would be physically impossible to "pray continually" – at least in the way most of us conceptualize prayer. Driving down the road with eyes closed and hands folded? Not advised.)
The problem is much more fundamental than that. Most of our traditions, teachings, and examples miss the simple, pure, liberating essence of prayer:
Prayer is an intimate conversation with the One who passionately loves you and lives in you.
Erase for a moment, if you can, everything you think you know about what prayer looks like, how you are supposed to do it, and how much you are expected to do it. Consider again, this simple definition. Really think about it – both what prayer is and also what prayer is not.
What it the big picture? Can you see the forest of prayer possibilities through the trees of your assumptions?
Holy Spirit, I need Your help here. I'm excited about the opportunity to pray without ceasing, using all kinds of prayers and requests. Right now, begin to open my mind to the possibilities of a life praying in You. Amen.
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