DEVOTIONAL — Prayer: The easiest thing rarely done (Part 1)

By Dr. Gregory B. Boyd, Pastor

First Baptist Church, Hartsville

What is prayer? Almost anyone can answer this question in the simplest way. “Prayer is talking to God.” Is that so hard? Of course not. So why don’t we pray more consistently and with better results? Right about now I can feel some readers’ objections. Like: “I pray every time I drive to work or school.” This is good, but are you praying for the other drivers’ best interests or for them to get out of your way? Are you praying to get to work on time because you were late getting out the door? Are you praying that your boss or teacher will give you grace because you didn’t quite finish the project? Listen to what God says (this may sting a little): “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:2b-3, NIV).” Someone else says, “I pray… when I’m in trouble.” This is also a good thing. Listen to the faith of a man who prayed when he was in trouble: “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me (Psalm 69:29, NIV).” Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).” But we know we need to pray much more than just when we are in trouble, right? Philip Yancey wrote a book called “Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?” He recounted the amazing prayer habits of history’s spiritual giants. Then he wrote: “In the next step I interviewed ordinary people about prayer. Typically, the results went like this: Is prayer important to you? Oh, yes. How often do you pray? Every day. Approximately how long? Five minutes—well, maybe seven. Do you find prayer satisfying? Not really. Do you sense the presence of God when you pray? Occasionally, not often. “Many of those I talked to experienced prayer more as a burden than as a pleasure. They regarded it as important, even paramount and felt guilty about their failure, blaming themselves (p. 14).” Ouch! Does this sound a little familiar? What if we could get to a place where we actually enjoyed praying? First, let’s be honest about why we don’t pray very much. — “I don’t know any prayers, except maybe the ‘Our Father’ or ‘Hail Mary.’” This thought assumes you need to memorize written prayers and recite them in order for prayer to work. While there are many great books of prayer, and many prayers recorded in the Bible, you can talk casually to the Lord as your spiritual Father. — “I can’t pray like the leaders in church.” You don’t have to. They may sound eloquent and maybe a little intimidating, but the Lord listens to your heart as you pray. Some of the best prayers come from small children and adults who have just trusted the Lord and are new believers. — “I don’t know what to say.” Start with what you know and what you need. In fact, a great way to start is Praise. Praise is declaring to God who He is in a way that you humbly honor Him. I will pick up from here next time. Meanwhile, go through the alphabet and think of names or characteristics of the Lord that you can praise Him for, beginning with each letter. Like, “I praise You because you are Almighty.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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