Last week at college we had week of prayer to pray for the mission teams that we would all participate in the following week. This meant that we prayed more than usual in our morning chapel times and chaplaincy groups, usually in small groups rather than being lead from the front.
At some point in the week I suddenly felt exhausted from praying. I didn't want to pray anymore, I was tired of praying and it had tired me out.
I was shy of admitting this here. After all, I'm a Bible college student, I've chosen to study my faith full time, shouldn't I love praying? Shouldn't I be good at it by now? I shouldn't be feeling like I don't want to do it.
But in case there is even just one other person out there who feels the same way as me sometimes, I thought I should share this. And I want to be honest here not just about the good things, but the struggles too.
I know I can come up with a number of reasons to explain away why I was tired of praying. I'm an introvert and praying in groups for 20-30 minutes each day with people I don't necessarily know well, if at all, is emotionally taxing. I'm also shy about talking in groups so often praying out loud is a push out of my comfort zone. Then there's the fact that you have to reword and add-lib on the fly because simply reading out the prayer point doesn't quite feel like I'm praying sincerely (even though that's a totally legitimate way to pray, particularly with the detailed points).
But honestly, I don't want to let myself get away with excuses for my attitude to prayer. Prayer has often been hard for me, in groups and alone. I know that I'm not alone in this. Pray is hard, that's the truth. It's hard to keep at it, to keep trying, because it feels so weird. There's nothing else that we do like it. And often we wonder what's wrong when we pray because we don't feel any different, as if feelings are the gauge of God hearing us.
But my thought that day last week shocked me. Because while I don't expect that I will always love praying, and I certainly don't expect to be good at it without a lot of hard work, I shouldn't let that stop me from persisting. And I shouldn't want to opt out from doing it. Prayer is our lifeline to God. It is our expression of our utter dependence on him for everything, and a product of our relationship with him. How can we have a relationship with God if we never speak to him (prayer) and if we never listen to him (reading the Bible)?
It was my sinfulness that said I was tired of prayer. And I know I'm not disgusted enough with my sin, but the shock at my sin was good. I was glad it shocked me because it showed me that God is changing me, little by little, working in my heart to make it like his and to despise my sin and love his righteousness.
We visited a mosque today as part of our mission, to learn more about Islam and what Muslim's believe. I've often been impressed with the amount of praying that pious Muslims do (at least five times a day according to the rules of their faith). But I shouldn't need rules about when to pray to get me to pray. Paul says to pray continuously! (1 Thess 5:17). I know that God has made it possible for me to approach him in prayer without any need for special words or special actions. Jesus has interceded for me before the Father and made me clean. Praise be to God. I need to remember this and keep trusting in God for everything, knowing how much of a privilege it is to come to him in prayer.
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.
(“What a Friend we have in Jesus”, lyrics Joseph Scriven)