Why is it that people who believe in God, believe He is as healer, believe he answers prayer, have difficulty in praying? You would think something as simple as prayer would be easy; as a discipline, as a part of one’s life, it really isn’t. You can take heart if you have difficulty because you are, emphatically, not alone.
There has been times in my life when I have been up and down, times when prayer seems to come easy, and times when prayer doesn’t come easy at all. There is something, I think, in man that makes it hard to pray, but what is it? Why should anyone have difficulty in praying?
Is it because we think that God will not hear us? That’s a possibility. I’ve heard people speak about getting on their knees to pray and having the feeling that their prayers were bouncing off the ceiling, going no higher than the ceiling, that nobody was hearing it but them. They don’t think God is actually hearing what they are saying. And there could be many number of reasons why someone may feel that way.
They may feel that way because they feel unworthy, or because they feel God is down on them. They may feel that God has somehow shut them up and won’t listen to them. They may not have a very strong belief in God in the first place.
Is it because we don’t think it will change anything? And if that’s the case, is it because we just don’t believe? Or that we believe that God is going to do what He’s going to do regardless of what we ask? “What’s the point in praying about this? I’m going to pray and I’m going to ask God to do this, but God already knows what’s best, and He’s going to do what’s best, and I’m going to say ‘Thy will be done,’ and what’s the point in asking because His will is going to be done anyway?” Maybe we don’t pray a lot because we think it isn’t going to change anything. God will just do what he’s going to do whether we ask Him to do it or not.
Is it because of pride? There are people who just can’t bring themselves to ask for anything; it’s lowering yourself to ask for anything from another man or woman. And that character trait within us, that pride, can get carried over to where we’re too proud to ask God for something that we want.
Is it because we don’t think that things that we’re praying about are important enough? That we just don’t want to bother God with out trivial little problems? “He’s all concerned with the whole world, and with wars, and all these things, and there’s no point in asking God to be concerned about this little problem of mine.”
Is it because we are too lazy to pray? But then you have to ask, “how hard is prayer?” You know, I can see laziness causing you not to weed your garden because that involves work…but prayer? Is simply praying to God, bowing your head over your meal, or getting on your knees and opening the scripture, and praying to God…is this hard?
Is it shame? Is it just that we’re ashamed to ask or ashamed of ourselves? Is it because we don’t have time? “I don’t have time to pray; I’ve got to get shaved, showered; I’ve got to get on the road; I’m going to be late for work. I’ve got to get this done, I’ve got my homework to do, my preparation I’ve got to do. This has got to be done, if I don’t get this done by a certain time…” Is it the pressures of time that make it hard for us to pray? I dare say that one of the primary reasons why prayer is postponed, and often times continually postponed, is because of time. At least that’s the way we express ourselves, or that’s the way we excuse ourselves.
Is it the cares of this world? Is it the pressures of life? Is it just so much stuff going on around us that we become confused and disoriented, and then have trouble deciding what to do next? Sometimes you do next what “has to” be done, and since prayer doesn’t “have to” be done, then prayer can get shoved off for another time.
Is it because we find prayer boring? Now, that could only be true if we find prayer ineffectual. Because there’s no way that if you thought I was going to get down on my knees and ask God for something, and He was going to do it, there’s no way that you would find that boring. That would be exciting.
Or is it, perhaps, the temptations in our lives, drawing us away? Are temptations turning us against prayer, or away from prayer? Is temptation why people put off prayer, or why they don’t feel like praying, or really much want to pray on a given occasion?
Now, the chances are the problem is some or all of the above things, and it probably varies from person to person, and it may vary from day to day, depending upon what particular problem you face. But, at the same time, even thought the particulars of it may change, there is one constant. You don’t pray! Prayer is not in your life. Or prayer, if it is there, is a toss away, throw away quickie, “let’s get this out of the way so we can get on with something else” type of thing. It’s a vast field of inquiry.
Today. I wanted to make a start in inquiring as to the reasons why people don’t pray, or don’t want to pray, or even have an antipathy to prayer.
Parable of the Sower and the Seed
In Matthew 13, Jesus explained how the sower went forth to sow his seed. Some fell on by the way side, some by thorny ground, some on stony ground, and some by good ground.
Matthew 13:18-23, “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Now, what I’m coming to see in this is God’s Word is crucial to prayer; that if the Word of God is not in your heart and in your mind, prayer is going to be very difficult for you. One of the primary reasons why we find it difficult to pray is because we have not sown the Word of God in our hearts deeply, we have not given ourselves to the study of it, and therefore the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, tribulations, persecutions, all these things can prevent the Word of God from being fruitful in our lives. This may be the simplest answer to the question that we have raised.
For those of us living in the modern world, I believe the cares of this world are the number one influence that keeps us from study, from prayer, from growing close to God, from having spiritual things being important in our lives. This world will do everything in its power to crowd out the truly important things in your life. What could be more important than being able to talk to the God of the entire Universe, and be heard, and have Him respond? And yet, it is so easy for us to find things that are more important than that to us at the moment.
I’m not talking down to you in this regard. I firmly believe that this is a big factor in our lives. And if we don’t get a hold of it and make a conscious decision, it’s going to eat us up, until we have no time left for what is really important, and that’s our relationship with God.
Consider Moses as an illustration from the scripture.
Exodus 32:9-10, “And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.”
Some people think the whole timeline of history is already laid out and God knew what Moses was going to do, but I find that very difficult, because that puts God in a position of running a bluff on Moses, and I don’t believe God ever bluffs. I think when God said, “Let me alone,” He meant what He said. When He said, “I will make of thee a great nation” and start this whole thing over with Moses, God could have done that. Does anybody have any question that God could have done that; that he could have wiped out the whole nation of Israel at the foot of that mountain and start it all over again with Moses in the place of Abraham? I don’t. He could have done it, and he said right here, “I’m going to do it!”
Exodus 32:11-12, “And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.”
Now, which one of you people has the nerve to speak in the imperative mood to God? The imperative mood is when we usually give commands. That’s what we use when we tell the dog, “Sit!” That’s the imperative mood. Moses said, “Turn! Repent!” I mean, which one of you is bold enough to call upon God to repent? That’s faith. It’s the bold persistence. It’s the nerve sometimes needed to be able to go to God and stand up and be counted.
Exodus 32:13-14, “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.”
This was not an idle gesture on God’s part. He actually thought to destroy these people. And Moses persuaded him not to do it, and I wonder how many of us are alive today because he did.
Now, are there any of us that think that we don’t have the option of being bold? That it’s just either the way we are or it’s the way we’re not? Is this a choice we can make or is it just something we’re stuck with? Do we have to sit around and wait for the gift of boldness from God? Reading the scripture, it doesn’t seem to work that way. Reading the scripture, it seems to be that something that somehow you’ve got to reach down inside of yourself and find the persistence, the boldness, to be persistent in going to God about the things that you want and demanding them.
To strong a word for you? It wasn’t for Moses. It wasn’t too strong for Jacob. It wasn’t too strong in these parables that Jesus is talking about here. So, why is it then that we are so timid about prayer and about faith, when we have witness after witness, the testimony of Jesus, the examples throughout scripture, showing these bold approaches to God?
Well, the scriptural doctrine of faith is an active, persistent, bold approach to God. We seem to think that faith is a passive virtue; that it’s a set of beliefs or a way of thinking, whereas in scripture it’s a way of acting!
That’s where, possibly, the difference may come in.