Prayer can be difficult. Not because it is, in and of itself, a particularly difficult thing, but rather because there are forces around us and in us that work against it.
Busyness is one of those. Our to-do-list is never finished and there is always someone who would have us add just one more thing. Not that we needed the help. We are quite capable of burying ourselves in a long list of responsibilities. Let society then pick up the pace and we become the proverbial rats on the wheel. And those rats we are, because society has picked up the pace, leaving little time for prayer.
Even then, busyness, if we are honest with ourselves, is not the primary culprit. We demonstrate often enough that we are well able to find time for the things we count most important. Perhaps it is rather a matter of priorities. We do not prioritize prayer; and the reason for that is close at hand. We live in a secular society; that is we live in a society that has decided that it can get along well enough without the help of God. The result is a plethora of self-dependent systems and patterns. Everything is built up in such a way that it seems it could hum along forever without a single prayer to shore it up. And we live within these systems and it rubs off on us. Why should we even need to pray with the human machinery working so well?
But then it can’t be the machinery alone that keeps us from prayer. With mention of self-dependence we come closer to the mark, closer to that thing which hinders us. The secular system is a fruit of the human penchant for self-dependence. If I can gain mastery by myself, why should I take the time to pray?
Even self-dependence, however, does not stand alone. Behind it lurks the desire to stay in control and call my own shots. If I bring God into the picture then He will assume control as that which properly belongs to Him and of this we are frightened. “What will He ask of me?” we wonder as we peer out from behind our own self-made defenses. “And will I want to do the thing He asks?”
We could go on. We haven’t yet talked of spiritual sloth, the inertia that grips us and causes us to say that we just don’t feel like praying. Nor have we touched the problem of unbelief, the doubt that heaven will really move on our behalf as promised. And the opposition hasn’t been spoken of either; there is one that dreads the moment we begin to really pray. All of these conspire together to hinder us in our prayers.
Stop a moment to examine yourself. Is your prayer life vibrant and strong? Be honest. Call it what it actually is. And if you find that you have been hindered ask yourself which one of the hindrances listed above has been at work in you. But then, having done this do not make the mistake of trying to remedy the lack on your own. No white-knuckled determination will help you. Rather the answer is repentance. A simple confession before your heavenly Father. “Father, I am lazy.” Or “Father, I prefer to depend on myself.” Or, “Father, I am afraid of what you might ask me to do.” With honest confession and the simple prayer, “Save me from myself” the Lord has ample room to move and make us, one by one, into a praying people.