1. I can’t concentrate
Each time I start to pray, all sorts of thoughts come into my head: “I need to pay that bill”, “I must remember to phone that person”, “my neighbour hasn’t returned my mower” etc. and I ruin my prayer time. Often my prayer time is interrupted, I stop praying and get caught up with other things !
Small suggestion: before you start to pray, make sure you have a piece of paper and a pencil to hand. As soon as a “parasitical” thought enters your mind, write it down. Note down all these thoughts on paper. Once you have finished praying, you can transform these thoughts into subjects for prayer and create a list of things to do during the day, grouping them based on their priority.
2. I don’t feel like praying
When I don’t have any urgent needs to present to God, I often don’t feel like praying. However, I know that I am always in need of the wisdom, power, direction, and influence of the Holy Spirit.
Small suggestion: as the old saying goes “the more you have the more you want”. We don’t just eat because we want to but because our bodies need the food. Our soul needs this contact with God through prayer. In a short prayer, you can express how you feel to God. David was aware of the need for purification and an internal transformation which only God can achieve: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalms 51:12).
3. Praying seems like a chore
I have been praying for years but it has become a legalist chore. I pray so as not to feel guilty! I pray about the same topics, I say the same things; it’s tiresome, repetitive and boring.
Small suggestion: create a plan to add variety and a bit of “spice” to your prayer life. For example:
- Monday: Praise – prayer focused on God’s attributes.
- Tuesday: Thanksgiving – prayer focused on the good works and blessings of God towards you.
- Wednesday: Prayer on a Bible passage – Psalms 23 or Colossians 1:9-12.
- Thursday: Intercession – pray for your family, neighbours, pastor, the government etc.
- Friday: Listen – after reading a short Bible passage aloud, ask God to speak to you through his Word.
- Saturday: Personal requests – speak to God about your spiritual, physical, emotional and other needs…
- Sunday: reading and contemplation of the “why” prayers which appear in the Bible. We find many of these prayers in Psalms, for example, Psalms 44:24 “Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?”; Psalms 74 1, 11 “O God, why have you rejected us forever?”, “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?”. When we are confronted with incomprehensible situations which are difficult to accept, we can share our doubts, disagreements and grievances with God in prayer. It can do us good and comfort us.
4. I don’t have the time
I am so busy with work, home, family, the Church, exams, hobbies, emails and personal projects etc.
Small suggestion: It isn’t difficult to find 3-5 minutes to pray every day. Choose a moment when you are feeling good, fresh and alert; not at the end of a tiring day when you are exhausted and irritated. Martin Luther said: “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
5. I’m in “spiritual fog”
Sometimes, when I start to pray, I sense an opposition, a wall, discouragement etc. which makes praying difficult.
Small suggestion: this is normal! We are in a spiritual combat against demonic powers (Ephesians 6.12) who don’t like prayer. The forces would like to stop us from praying. When we pray we need to use all of God’s armour (reread Ephesians 6:10-18) to protect ourselves and be on the offensive. John, in his epistle (1 John 4:4), reminds us that “the one who is in you (the Holy Spirit) is greater than the one who is in the world (the devil)”. On the cross, Jesus vanquished death, sin and the devil. Thanks to his work on the cross, we can proclaim victory in his name.
Behind the name of Jesus is his work and behind his work is his power and authority. I encourage you, at the start of your prayer time, to read aloud a Bible passage which speaks about Jesus’ victory (for example Colossians 2:14-14). Then thank God for this victory. Cite the names of Jesus in your prayer – I found 150 names for Jesus in the Bible: the Lamb of God, Jesus the good shepherd, Jesus is the Way, Jesus is the source of our deliverance, Jesus is our hope, Jesus is our strength, etc. Notice that Jesus asked his disciples to preach in his name, to baptise in his name, to chase demons in his name and to pray in his name. Let’s use the name of Jesus in our prayers.
6. I haven’t had an answer to my prayers
I brought up issues close to my heart in prayer and haven’t had an answer.
Small suggestion: God never makes mistakes. Receiving no response may mean “no” or “wait”. “No… because you have been disobedient”, “No… because I have something better for you”, “No… because that isn’t part of my plan”… I found thirteen reasons for why God remains silent. I won’t reveal them here. You can look for them yourself! For now, I’ll let you reflect. I would be interested in hearing your ideas on the subject! Why not drop me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org ?
7. I always pray for the same people
It is good to persevere in prayer for people whom you care deeply about. But it is also a good idea to expand your horizons, open a window on the world.
Small suggestion: buy a map of the world or an atlas, open it and ask God to put a country, region or unreached people who require intercession in your heart. Learn about missionary organisations which work in that country, contact a missionary on the ground, and ask for precise information so you can pray with discernment. You could also ask for a list of people at your church and pray for a different person each day.
Why not join the prayer meeting at your church and intercede with others. Between the ages of 18 and 21, I prayed for France with a group of young Scots… and God called me to serve in France for the rest of my life! Prayer really is a great adventure!