Prayer, real mountain moving prayer, is not something that comes naturally. It is certainly not easy. This is evident in request Jesus' disciples made when they asked, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). If prayer is so easy, then why did the disciples have to ask Jesus to teach them to do it? Take heart, then, if prayer does not come easily for you. It doesn't come naturally as some pretend that it does.
First, the very nature of prayer is pride-killing because it is God dependant. Prayer is the act of asking for something you feel unable to provide for oneself. It follows then that if you are a talented, self-assured, self-confident person, you will not be naturally inclined to pray often or fervently. Pride is the enemy of genuine prayer because pride causes us to under-estimate our need and over-estimate our ability. Is your prayer life sporadic and less-than desperate? It is probably because you are proud.
The second reason that our prayer life is listless is because prayer is not meant to be for our own sake. At first glance, that statement may strike you as completely wrong. After all, if you were convicted in the last paragraph that you were indeed too proud to pray, and you asked God to humble you, is this not for your own benefit? Consider first the words of James, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions" (James 4:3). So, if you ask God to cure you of pride so that you might become a person of prayer in order that you may simply soothe your own conscience for being a bad prayer or so that you might consider yourself a better Christian, then you are asking for God to kill pride to build pride. What folly! The purpose of humility is to make us better servants of God and others. We must be a praying people in order that we might be a serving people. We do not become good prayers that we might boast in our praying.
Let me illustrate what I mean. When we read James' warning, we naturally and rightly think that he is speaking of a selfish prayer where someone might simply want a newer car, a better job, or a pretty wife just because he isn't content with the car or job or wife he has. That is an easy selfish prayer to spot. But think of this, when you pray for yourself, do you pray because you are aggravated that you failed your own standard or because you failed God's standard? Are you more upset that you failed yourself or that you failed God? And in your heart, are you hoping that God will make you better so that you will feel better about yourself or because you long to be a self-denying servant like Christ? Are you more concerned with how your failures effect you or others? Examine yourself before the Lord and see if you aren't praying to boost your own self-image instead of the Christ-image in you.
Your prayer ought to be born out of a self-despair but a Godward hope. Ask yourself a few simple questions: Can you convert a single soul? Can you kill a single sin that plagues you? Are you strong enough to beat down your own selfishness? Can you keep your children alive? Can you keep your spouse faithful? Can you pray as you ought? Do you have the strength to love as you should? Can you help your friend in sickness? Can you lend them your might? Can you heal the broken hearted?
We can't do any of those things. Before we can really pray, we need to realize how impotent we truly are.
But then we must ask more questions: Can God convert a single soul? Is He mighty to save or not? Can He destroy the sin that plagues you? Is He strong enough to beat down your selfishness? Can He keep your children alive? Can He keep your spouse faithful? Can He pray for me when I cannot pray as I ought? Does He have the strength to love? Can He help a friend in sickness? Can He lend them His might? Can He heal the broken hearted?
We then, are we not praying? Isn't it because we are altogether selifsh? Prayer is flesh-killing, pride-destroying, Christ-exalting work. Please pray for yourself, friend. Not so that you may boast in how awesome you've become, not that you would ever say that out loud, but so that Christ Himself might shine through you for His glory.
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