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Why is Prayer so Hard? A Matter of the Heart

“Be constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:2c). I hate to admit it, but I don’t pray as much as I should even though I have led ministry as both a volunteer and paid staff member. Do you lead a ministry, have family, or influence friends and co-workers? How would you rate your prayer life?

My guess is that you too wish that you prayed longer, more consistently, and more focused on God. Why is a lengthy daily time of prayer so rare for those who believe that God hears and acts in response? And what can we do about it?

I don’t have all the answers, and I hope you’ll comment with what has helped you, but here are a few things I do know. These go more to the heart than to the outside influences that disrupt our prayers. (I cover some of them here.) 

First, I know that prayer is an act of faith. When we fail to pray, often it is because we don’t believe that God is really listening or that he will act. Our perspective of God’s love for us or of his power is small. The same God who came as a man and died for us still cares. He invites us to come to him and ask. 

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb. 4:16). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you,” (Matt. 7:7). 

If you are unsure if God has the power or the incentive to listen and act, consider reading verses about his power and/or love each day before you pray. Reading a psalm or a Gospel focused on what it reveals about his power or love helps me, especially when he appears slow to answer my long-term requests.

Second, I know that prayer is based on love for God. Love desires the companionship of its object. Prayer should not be purposed only to give God a to-do list. It should be about conversing with the one who knows us and understands us, the one who accepts us because of Jesus’s sacrifice, the one who gives us grace. Prayer is a conversation with the Creator—WOW! My best prayer times are two-way conversations.

How do we grow our love for God? When I recognize that my love has grown cold, I focus on all he has done for me. It helps to reread the crucifixion story slowly, or possibly watch a movie like The Passion of the Christ. I might meditate on passages like John 1:1-18. When I take the time to listen for the voice of the Spirit in prayer, I sense the love of God for me. The more I recognize his great love for me, the more my love for him grows. 

Third, little prayer may indicate a lack of love for other people. I read this quote by An Unknown Christian: “Intercession is simply love at prayer.” How true this is! When my life is focused on me, whether in prayer or busyness, I don’t pray for the needs of others. When life is all about me, I tend to prayer less if all is going well and pray more when troubles come, but even then it’s about me. When the needs of others are in my soul, I pray more consistently. 

My tendency is to get so wrapped up in my world that I forget the needs of others. With our 24-7 access to news, it’s easy for me to grow immune to disaster and difficulties. I am praying for God to give me his love and heart for others. God, give me a heart to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

Finally, I know that I keep falling back into these problems with prayer over and over. I lose faith when I face a protracted problem and God doesn’t seem to answer. My love for God grows cold when I don’t focus time on him in the Word, just as love for a spouse would. And I grow immune to the trials and circumstances of those for whom I should pray when I don’t keep them in mind. I have to work to keep my prayer life constant and vibrant. 

How do you revitalize your prayers?

This was originally posted on The Aroma of Influence blog on June 30, 2014. 

Kay is a life-long Texan whose favorites are Tex-Mex, books that feed her soul or make her think, good movies and travel to new places. Her great joy is to serve God by teaching the Bible and developing women as servant-leaders. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Beyond Ordinary Women Ministries, which provides free videos, podcasts and articles as well as low-cost Bible studies to prepare Christian women for leadership. (beyondordinarywomen.org) Kay spent ten years leading women’s ministries on church staffs, most recently at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas. Kay is the author of From Ordinary Woman to Spiritual Leader: Grow your Influence, a practical guide to help Christian women influence others by applying foundational leadership skills to their lives and ministries, and a number of Bible studies for women, some are available at bible.org and the newer ones are found at beyondordinarywomen.org. Kay earned an M.A.C.E. from Dallas Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Effective Ministries to Women. Kay’s family includes a husband, two grown children, one son-in-law, two hysterical granddaughters and a Goldendoodle.