Prayer is one of those issues that almost all of us, I believe, have a relationship of guilt with. We know in our minds that prayer is important; that prayer effects change; that prayer is our lifeline to God Almighty; and that without prayer, we will shrivel on the vine and die. Prayer is one of the most primary means by which we do the work of abiding in Christ.
We don’t. We can’t concentrate. We fumble around. Despite all our classes and training, all our best intentions, all our alarm clock settings that get moved to snooze, we fail to pray as much or as long or as fervently as we ought to. When we ask ourselves why we don’t pray, then, there are a myriad of reasons we come to:
- I’m too busy. I’ve got so much going on that it’s difficult to devote a sustained amount of time to something that in the moment can feel so frivolous.
- I’m too distracted. Even when I do sit and pray, my mind can’t slow down and focus on what I’m doing. I eventually always devolve into musings or making my to-do list for all the stuff that has to be done after I’m done praying.
- I don’t know how. I know I should, because it should be as easy as having a conversation, but I still don’t know the best technique, the right acrostic, or how this works with the whole journaling thing.
I totally get it. I feel all those things, too. But I think there is a greater reason why I fail to pray, and maybe there is for you too.
The real reason we fail to pray isn’t because we’re too busy, too distracted, or too untrained. The real reason we fail to pray is because we’re too confident.
Ultimately, I find inside myself the lurking idea that I actually know the right thing to do and have the capacity to do it. I find the notion that I can affect real change in my life or in the lives of those around me based on my sheer will, intelligence, or charisma. I find the lie that I am actually a pretty good person with pretty good ideas and character. I find inside myself a dramatic overestimation of myself, and the result is a failure to hit my knees with the fervency I should.
I am confident in me, so what need do I have at the throne of grace? Prayer becomes an easily disposable segment of my daily routine, something that can be dropped out as soon as something else comes up to take its place.
May it not be so. May we have a “sober estimation” and “think sensibly” of ourselves (Romans 12:4), and may the result be a renewed compulsion to approach God’s throne of grace.