I know many people who have dealt with various heart issues. The only way to permanently fix their physical problems is to repair the heart. When that isn’t possible, lifestyle changes in eating and exercising often help.
Our last post considered root problems with inconsistent prayer: little faith, lack of love for God, and self-centeredness instead of loving others. To grow as pray-ers, we must deal with these central issues for the best results. At the same time, however, there are practical changes that can help us stay persistent and consistent in prayer. Our lifestyles often breed prayerlessness.
In my mind the Number 1 lifestyle problem with prayer in the U.S. is busyness. Lack of time is the most prevalent excuse that we give ourselves for not talking to God. Being Superwoman crowds out prayer.
When I find myself too busy to pray, the only way out is to assess why I allowed myself to get there and what I can change. We can never blame 100% of our busyness on others. We are the masters of our time and must take responsibility for our choices.
Yes, life looks a lot different for a mom of four, a woman who travels in her job, and a retiree. Different personalities handle more than others. That is why there is no set formula for simplifying our busyness. Here are a few questions, however, that have helped me think through some changes.
Why have I agreed to take on so many things? Does it involve peer pressure, pleasing others, going after more money, the desire for power or recognition, or cultural expectations for me or my children? If so what needs to go, not only to relieve busyness, but also to let go of something that has hold of me?
Problem Number 2? Wrong priorities.
Do you relate to these morning thoughts? “Yes, prayer is most important—but I’ll just do these urgent things so I can pray later with better focus.” Now, I do not legalistically believe that prayer must be done first thing every morning. Frankly, as a non-morning person I cannot even think first thing in the morning, much less focus on prayer. But if I put off time with God too long, I end up prioritizing other things. Then my prayers end up short and unfocused, really done more as part of my daily checklist than as precious moments spent with my God.
To make room for God, we must prioritize him on the calendar and the daily schedule Ask him to help you get everything else done that really needs to be done that day. Remember Jesus’s example of doing only the works that God had planned for him. He didn’t get distracted by things outside of his mission and was able to say that he completed the work that God gave him to do. (See Luke 4:42-43; John 17:4.)
Problem Number 3? Expectations
We often make prayer a measure of spirituality and holiness. Instead of anticipating a time when God’s Spirit determines what happens, we expect it to live up to the stories we hear from others. When God doesn’t work quite that way with us, we see ourselves as failures at prayer. Just as God spoke to the heroes of the Bible in a variety of ways, he doesn’t work with any two of us in identically either. Just as we treat our various children differently depending on their needs and personalities, God chooses the best way to relate to each of us. We should not expect our relationships with God to be alike.
When I assess my time with God against what I hear from others—particularly those who write books on prayer, I feel like a failure. Instead, my expectation should be that he is there listening and will answer in his way and at his time. My silence and stillness allows him to give me the gift of his presence in abundance, even if I don’t have a long list of answered prayers or mountaintop experiences to impress others. He has a way of speaking to me that is for me, and I can access that by being consistently there and open to hear from him.
All in all, I have learned to just pray even when it seems hard or pointless. You too might ask God to change you so that you let go of busyness, change your priorities, and adjust your expectations so that time with him becomes vital and precious.
In what ways have you worked through these issues or what others have made prayer hard for you?