We know we need to pray. We know the Scripture commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). We know the forces of evil will do everything in their power to stop us from praying. We know all that, and yet we often find our prayer life lacking.
Perhaps the most common excuse is that we’re so busy. I can relate to this. The demands of life are ever-increasing without a single minute being added to the day. On top of the normal demands of a full-time job, kids must be taken to practice, yards must be mowed, and somebody has got to figure out what’s causing that funky smell in the mini-van. On top of all this, any ‘spare’ moment I can find is spent trying to complete my dissertation. While your situation might look different from mine, chances are you are extremely busy too. Is that the real reason we don’t pray enough?
A Deeper Issue
While it’s true we are very busy, that’s simply the surface excuse. The problem is much deeper. As Jackie Hill Perry perceptively states, “Our busy schedules aren’t keeping us from prayer, our hearts are.” Our continual lack of prayer is an indication of something deep within our heart. Maybe it’s pride telling us that we’ve ‘got this’ on our own. It could be our unbelief telling us that prayer is a waste of time when there are so much more ‘practical’ things to do. Of course, most of us would never say these things explicitly, but our actions show what a portion of our heart truly believes. These deep-seeded issues in our heart come out in many different ways:
Perhaps we don’t pray for our spouse enough because we think we’ve got the whole marriage thing figured out.
Perhaps we don’t pray for our kids enough because we subconsciously think that our ability to ‘raise them right’ is enough for them.
Perhaps we don’t pray for our fellow church members enough because we’re ignorant of the forces of darkness that are seeking to destroy their faith or the temptations they face daily.
Perhaps we don’t pray for the government leaders enough because we don’t believe it really does anything.
Perhaps we don’t pray for our pursuit of holiness because, compared to some, we’re doing ok.
Perhaps we don’t pray for God to work in a difficult situation because we simply think we’re capable enough to fix it on our own.
Perhaps we don’t pray for lost loved ones because we doubt the power of the Gospel to work in the hardest hearts.
The main problem isn’t that we are too busy (although we probably are), it’s that we are too self-sufficient, too prideful, or too unbelieving to pray. At times, God pulls back the curtain and gives us a glimpse into how needy we are.
I don’t like to think I’m weak, but the reality is I’m a needy wanderer walking barefoot in a sun-scorched desert. My pride might tell me I’m ok, but every step in the blistering sand sears my feet and elevates my body temperature. The great Accuser reminds me of past sin that zaps my mouth of any drop of moisture, causing my tongue to stick to the roof of my mouth. Every failure is another bead of sweat that gathers on my drenched forehead, reminding me that my body is slowly withering away in dehydration. At last, I see a fountain of water ahead and desperately hobble to it only to discover the mirage of my own self-sufficiency. By my own fading strength, I’m crawling through life on the verge of death, longing for a drink.
And it’s only when I see the truth about my situation that I’ll make time to pray. With a dry mouth and sandy hands, I’ll adjust my schedule to drink deeply of the water of life. Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). The truth is we are all thirsty, we just don’t always realize it. Rather than see ourselves as desert wanderers, we like to imagine our life as a well-equipped day at the beach. However, when we come to see our inabilities, insufficiencies, and unholiness, we’ll fall down before our Maker in humble desperation.
Do we cry out with the Psalmist, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1)? As Kevin DeYoung says, our life shows what we truly cherish:
If someone recorded your life for a week and then showed it to a group of strangers, what would they guess is the “good portion” in your life? What would they conclude is the one thing you must get done every day? Folding the laundry? Cleaning the house? Catching up on e-mails? Posting to Facebook? Mowing the lawn? Watching the game? I know you have things to do. I have plenty to do myself. But out of all the concerns in our lives, can we honestly say and show that sitting at the feet of Jesus is the one thing that is necessary?
My fellow desert wanderer, let us drink deeply today through prayer and God’s word that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Given our state of absolute need and desperation, and given the mighty abundance of grace and mercy available in Christ, it’s foolish not to pray. Let us not die of thirst and exhaustion when living water and strength are only a prayer away.