Home > Brian's Blogs, Prayer > The Challenge of Prayer

The Challenge of Prayer

I believe that there are at least two things that Christians from all places and all times agree upon: prayer is necessary and prayer is hard.

That prayer is necessary in the life of a Christian is to state the obvious.  It is obvious from the biblical text where examples of prayer abound in the lives of the people of God and Jesus Christ himself.  It is also obvious from church history where a discussion of the practice and theology of prayer is everywhere.  Who would deny that Christians – both individually and corporately, must pray?

But for all people who affirm the first point, the second point becomes just as obvious.  Prayer is hard.

I’m sure there are a million reasons why Christians find prayer difficult, but here are a few I thought of from personal and pastoral experience:

  • Prayer is hard because we treat prayer as a task to be accomplished rather than the nurturing of a relationship.
  • Prayer is hard because we don’t really believe that we are praying to a personal God who wants to be involved in our lives (Christian Smith calls this “moralistic, therapeutic deism”).
  • Prayer is hard because we only pray when we need something and then become discouraged when we don’t immediately get what we want (again, moralistic, therapeutic deism).
  • Prayer is hard because we think prayer is only intercession for others and we quickly run out of things to pray for other people!
  • Prayer is hard because we don’t allow ourselves sufficient periods of time and silence to pray.
  • Prayer is hard because in goes against my firm belief that I am an independent being who creates my own destiny and doesn’t need help from anyone else.

I’m sure there are more reasons out there, but the point remains: prayer is hard.

I have to admit that prayer has often been difficult for me for the reasons stated above.  However, God did two things in Spring 2009 to help in this area.  First, at my annual physical my doctor told me I was too fat.  That insight immediately led to a routine of 30-40 minute walks 6-7 days per week which I still continue.  Second, a seminar at Fuller Theological Seminary introduced me to the history and practice of Christian spirituality.  This included a lot of reading on prayer.  Not only did it lead to a lot of reading, but I experimented (and continue to experiment) with these new insights on prayer during my morning walks.  I think this last year has taught me a lot and improved my prayer life a little.  More than anything it has definitely convinced me that I’m barely an infant in the life of prayer and have a long way to go.

So I’m going to blog about prayer for awhile (full disclosure: Andrew threatened to remove me from this blog I didn’t write something).  I hope anyone who reads this will learn something about prayer.  More importantly, I hope anyone who reads this will experiment with new forms of prayer that help you grow in your relationship with the Triune God.

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  1. April 12, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks to Andrew for the threat. Thanks to you for the post. I’m looking forward to spending some time with you guys in June. =)

  2. Brian McLaughlin
    April 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    We are looking forward to having you here as well. It is always good to hear from you, plus it is always good to have more Buckeyes up in this neck of the woods.

  3. April 21, 2010 at 7:17 am

    How timely that I should stumble upon your blog right now. I’ve been looking to learn more about prayer. I have just finished “What Happens when Women Pray” by Evelyn Christenson and am moving on to “With Christ in the School of Prayer” hoping to get a real prayer life and learn what it means to experiment with different types of prayer etc. I shall be following with interest. I’m glad Andrew threatened you.

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