A Christian Who Can’t Pray

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I’m a Christian who has a a hard time praying. Wierd right? That’s like being a bee who has a hard time making honey, or a fish that has a hard time swimming. Prayer seems like one of those things that should come naturally to someone who was raised by a pastor and has been a Christian her whole life. But alas, it is something I struggle with. There are lots of different things that make prayer difficult for me, but the major one is that I often don’t know what to say or exactly how to pray. I don’t just want to give God a laundry list of things I desire. I want prayer time to be meaningful and to be a conversation, but I don’t always know how to do that.

My small group leader a few years ago taught me that prayer has four parts: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. I remember it as ACTS. This little acronym has helped improve my prayer life immensely. Whenever I go to pray and am just completely stumped as to what to say, I write out ACTS on a piece of paper and start at the top.

Adoration- First, tell God how great He is. Repeat his attributes to Him. For example, “God You are wonderful, You are the creator of heaven and Earth. You are Alpha and Omega. You are loving and kind.”

Confession- Confess your sins. All the sins…even the little ones.

Thanksgiving- Thank God for everything. I make it a regular habit of thanking God for my car and my iphone because without those two things my life would be much more difficult.

Supplication- This is wherre you get to ask God for things for yourself and on behalf of other people. Don’t be afraid to ask for big things! Obviously, we shouldn’t be asking for needless material possesions but there are major life issues that require serious prayer. Pray that your mom is healed of cancer. Pray for God to take away your drug addiction. Pray for the salvation of your coworker. Pray that God miraciously provides food for your family even though your out of money. Pray for a job. God love us and wants to bless us and hear our prayers but you have to ask!

This may seem too structured and too much like a formula for some people. If you don’t need it, that’s fine, but if you are struggling with prayer I strongly suggest you use it. Think of it this way: do you always have meaningful coneversations with important people in your life? Are you able to have a deep emotional conversation with your roommate every time she walks in the door? Do you and your husband always have a million things to say to each other? Does your family talk non stop at the dinner table? Most likely, no. In those times we all revert to formulaic questions to get the conversation going. For example, we ask “How was your day” or “What did you do this weekend?” Think of this formula as a jump start to the conversation with the Big Guy. Its something to help you get in the habit of prayer so that eventually, it just comes naturally to you.

So there you go, my quick little guide to prayer. How do you pray? Do you pray out loud or write in a journal? Do you pray for big things? Share your thoughts in the comments below

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7 responses »

  1. I try to really just talk to Jesus like I would anybody else. I often begin by telling Him I love Him, that I appreciate Him, etc. It’s not uncommon for me to just say, “Mornin’ Lord! How are you today?”

    I also find that the better my relationship is with Him, the easier it is to “talk.” Kind of obvious, I guess. But for those just getting going, or those who feel distant from God, I do recommend just talking normally. And don’t forget that He is CRAZY about you, even if you don’t think He should be, or that you deserve that. It’s the way God rolls.

    • Thanks for the comment! I love what you said “Don’t forget that He is Crazy about you, even if you don’t think He should be.” So many times my difficulty with prayer comes from the fact that I project my feelings about myself onto God. His view of His children are drastically different than our view of ourselves. When we remember that He wants to hear from us, He wants to listen to everything we say, then prayer becomes easier.
      P.S. I took a quick peek at your blog and its awesome. I think its so cool that you are using the blogosphere as a witness tool. Keep it up!

  2. “I’m a Christian who has a a hard time praying. Wierd right? That’s like being a bee who has a hard time making honey, or a fish that has a hard time swimming. Prayer seems like one of those things that should come naturally to someone who was raised by a pastor and has been a Christian her whole life.”

    THAT is a projection. For whatever reason this image is out there that everyone does/should/can have an immediacy with God. I don’t think that’s true and in fact I think that it can be a damaging image. It can lead to discouragement and a “I’m not god enough at praying so I must not be a good Christian” thing. Christians have always had a hard time praying as evidenced by the many prayers that have been written down and passed on for the past 2000 years. The Book of Common Prayer is a wonderful yet underused resource.

    Plus, I don’t trust impromptu prayer. It can so easily slip into narcissistic wallowing and paganistic jabbering (obscene repetition of the words Jesus, God, Lord, just).

    • So, you NEVER do impromptu prayer? I agree that sources like the Book of Common Prayer, and the Bible itself, are great resources to teach us how to pray and to even give us the exact words sometimes. And yes, I agree can impromptu prayer CAN slip into narcissistic wallowing. I think its important to be aware of that pitfull and avoid it at all costs. But people who are earnestly seeking a relationship with God are able to come up with their own sincere prayers. And what about intercessory prayer? How can we pray for other people if we are confined to prayers that were already written. And what about praying in tongues? There is no script for that.

  3. DJ, I have to ask the “why” question. Are you really saying that we SHOULDN’T have immediacy with God? I cannot find this teaching anywhere in the Bible. What I find is the exact opposite. James 4:8 for example: “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

    The Bible says that God already knows us intimately. It says that He wants us to know Him intimately. In every healthy human relationship, if the people are close, they don’t have a problem talking. They also don’t have a problem just being together WITHOUT talking–just for the enjoyment of being together.

    The reason some christians have problems with prayer is that we treat God differently. I have done this myself. We somehow believe that we have to approach Him differently. That the way we talk to our other close friends is somehow not enough with Him. It’s not true, and the enemy of our souls uses it to drive a wedge in what should be a very close relationship.

    I am not against written prayers…I’m not saying that. In fact, there are a lot of good and different ways to pray, like the one that the owner of this blog gave. As long as it builds the relationship, there is no harm in trying different ways. But I would be very concerned if I couldn’t regularly come see my Friend and greet Him with my own words. If we can just wrap our minds around it, it is all so normal and natural.

    • Matt, I completely agree. BUT, do you think that sometimes people think of God too casually? I agree that He is our friend and we need to be comfortable talking with Him the same way we talk to friends. But DJ brings up a good point, I think, in that sometimes impromptu prayer can become “narcissistic wallowing.” I think this is most likely to happen if we forgot the sovereignty of God and view Him as just another ear we can gab too. Do you think is it possible to forget to revere God and do you think there is any harm in that?

  4. I believe if we focus on keeping a good relationship with Jesus, that all other problems just vanish. If we know Him, we will not forget Who He is. If we know Him, we will communicate in a way that fits the relationship. I think of my own earthly father. I respect him, I honor him, but I am also very comfortable in his presence! The relationship is very strong, as it should be with our Heavenly Father.

    It is the Devil that works hard to convince us to “keep our distance”. He gets us hung up on how we talk to God, how we approach Him, even pushing us to “show reverence for God” in a way that separates us from the close, intimate relationship that God wants us to have. A relationship, like mine with my dad, that is very comfortable.

    God is so committed to us, and so committed to building a relationship with us, that He will put up with our mistakes along the way. Have I ever prayed wrong? Of course! Are there times when my relationship with Him is not what it should be? Of course! But to God, He would rather us pursue the relationship, and goof up with that A LOT, than to keep a respectful distance!

    Oh Bri! He is so gracious and kind! He is pursuing us, and He wants us to yield to His pursuit. What immense, indescribable joy is ours when we do!

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