It is an indisputable fact that prayer is essential to our faith. Prayerful people are found throughout Scripture, and we are instructed to pray regularly. The miracles of God are so often a result of God’s people praying. Yet so few of us do it. At least not really. Some believers put much time, practice, and effort into prayer, and some honestly have never really prayed much at all. Why are so many of us still struggling with this? Why is it so difficult to engage in a time of serious prayer honestly and effectively with God? What is the secret that we are missing?
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” - Proverbs 4:25
Are you easily distracted when praying? What are you focused on when you pray?
What Hinders Us?
We often turn to prayer when we are about to eat a meal, when someone is in dire trouble, or when we are attending church and the pastor tells us it is time to do so. We often don’t know what else we are supposed to say, or if God is really listening. Some of us simply feel insufficient at prayer, as though we are somehow not spiritual or articulate enough to be able to pray. The key to prayer is not some magical formula. You won’t find that in Scripture or anywhere else. One way to learn to pray is to look to Jesus. As we learn to pray the way Jesus prayed and learn to pray for the things Jesus prayed for, our prayers become rich and vibrant, and our life in Christ will be rich, vibrant, and magnetic.
Look to the Example of Jesus
“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” - John 17:1
When Jesus prayed, His focus was on the Kingdom of Heaven: where He shared glory with the Father before coming to earth, and the future we have to look forward to. Jesus certainly had a lot on His mind, but He did not let those things distract Him from what prayer is all about. We should pray for opportunities for God to be glorified in us, and to be willing to serve Him in any way that he will use us throughout the day. Staying focused like that sounds simple enough, but it is not always easy. In some ways, it can even be compared to driving.
Keep Our Eyes on the Road
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” - Colossians 3:1-2
In theory, driving is simple to do. Just know where you are going, follow directions, keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. One pedal makes the car go and another makes it stop. Despite this seeming simplicity, there are so many things out there waiting to distract us, and the more comfortable we get behind the wheel, it seems keeping our eyes on the road can become amazingly difficult.
For experienced drivers, it seems so easy to focus on everything but the road ahead of us. How often do we see others reading text messages, changing radio stations, sightseeing, or even watching videos on their phone while traffic is flying by all around them? Even more important, how often are we doing these things? Sadly, it has become such a problem that laws are being passed to reduce distractions and force us to simply keep our eyes on the road.
After all, how can we safely get where we are going if we aren’t watching the road? The truth is simple; we can’t. When we lose our focus, we endanger ourselves, and those around us.
Pray the Psalms!
One great way to kickstart our prayer life is to pray Scripture. Here are a few to get started:
- "Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths." - Psalm 25:4
- "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." - Psalm 51:1-2
- "Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies." - Psalm 141:4
- "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground." - Psalm 143:10
The Psalms are often written as prayers and are a wonderful way to tune our heart to God and prepare our minds to engage with Him in prayer.
Keep a Prayer Journal/Prayer Cards
Keeping a journal is another wonderful way to get the prayer conversation going, and so is the idea of prayer cards. I have enjoyed writing a prayer on an index card, and writing at the bottom when that prayer is answered. There is such a joy in it, and it gives a clear picture of how God is moving and listening. This can start with things that we are praying for personally, and grow to include our prayers for others, our community, and our families. There is no limit to the things in our lives that need prayer! One way to organize this is by making a box for index cards, or for a journal to have different sections for different types of prayers. It is up to you and how you best stay organized! Our prayers should include not just requests, but thankfulness and adoration of God for who He is and how He shows His love for us.
Remember That Prayer Is Conversation
Ultimately, prayer is not a task or a ‘system’ of doing something religious. Prayer is conversation with the God who knows us intimately and loves us. In Hebrews 12:2 we are encouraged to continue “looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” Jesus has given us an example of focused prayer, and we are to follow His example by placing our focus on Him. While distractions were swirling around Jesus that night, He fixed His eyes on heaven. He looked to the one who knows the path ahead and directs us safely through each day.
When our lives are filled with distraction, we veer off course and into danger. When we simply pretend the distractions aren’t there, or that we can handle them ourselves we quickly go dangerously off course. But when we drop those distractions at the feet of Jesus and focus on Him alone in the knowledge that He wants us to bring our burdens to Him, our prayers and our prayers become effective and meaningful. He knows our needs before we pray, and He promises comfort and strength when our eyes are fixed on Him.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/digitalskillet
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and member of the worship team at matthias lot church in St. Charles, MO. He spends his free time hanging out with his family, exploring new places, and writing about the experiences. Connect on Facebook or at JasonSoroski.net.