By Ward Shope
Few, if any of us, are satisfied with our private prayer lives. And if we are, the satisfaction is short-lived. The vital prayer warranty suddenly runs out and we find ourselves struggling again, looking for some sort of technical expertise for the productive prayer life. Going into a private prayer closet and closing the door sounds more like an invitation to a nap than a spiritually reviving exercise. We are distracted; we don’t know what to pray about; and end up worrying about things that aren’t even on the prayer list. We find ourselves self-absorbed in a world of need, surrounded by people who need our prayers, and rarely get them.
Believe me, I’m not writing to solve your prayer problems. I have my own. But somewhere in searching for the secret prayer elixir, I know it’s about relationship with the Lord. More than that, it’s about what kind of relationship I have with the Lord. If accomplishing the task of prayer takes precedence over the relationship I have with the Lord, something is going to go wrong. I’ll run out of steam, lose my way, and probably not pray for the things the Spirit longs that I would pray for. Good thing he’s around to clean up my prayer mess (Rom 8:26-27).
This weekend, a number of us will be attending the seminar at New Life led by Paul Miller, “A Praying Life.” Paul emphasizes the fact that we are the Father’s children. And as children, we have typical child-parent relational difficulties when it comes to prayer. The good thing is that we also have a loving Father. He knows what to do with struggling children. Understanding this all takes some of the pressure off and opens the door to authentic prayer based on reality, rather than strained prayer driven by expectations.
There are other excellent resources as well. Tim Keller’s recent book Prayer ties prayer and Scripture meditation closely together. Besides explaining this connection well, he provides some actual meditation examples among many other things in the book. But if we’re going to pray like that, we need to slow down.
Of course, Tim and Paul both point to another resource. It can’t hurt our prayer life to look at Jesus’ own model prayer, to study it, to meditate on it, and to pray it as the Spirit leads. Not a bad place to begin actually.