What is the first thought that comes to your mind when the idea of prayer comes up? For me as a person who thinks in “pictures and examples,” I think of someone praying during hard times. I think of the moments in small groups and worship when the leader asks if anyone has a praise or prayer. I think of people kneeling during a worship service, of people kneeling beside a bed, and I also think of the Lord’s Prayer. In other words, I think of moments in which I have seen prayer in visible ways. After some difficult self-reflection I have discovered that I identify prayer through others and not myself. Like so many others, I have struggled to pray all my life. It is not that I do not believe in the power of prayer because that truly is not the reason. Simply put, the reason that I have not developed a strong prayer life/discipline is because PRAYING IS HARD!
This week, the Castleton UMC staff went away for a few days for a staff retreat. During this time we grew together through fellowship with one another, we prayed together, we worshiped together, and we learned together. During one of our sessions, Dr. Rev. Frank Beard spoke on the topic of prayer. During his session he gave us practical ways in which we can grow in our prayer life and the overall importance of prayer. During this time, he said three simple words that made me go into an instant moment of reflection; PRAYER IS HARD! I am certain that I have heard these words before but for some reasons this time they acted as words of confirmation for something I had been feeling all my life. You see, as a religious leader I have been surrounded by some amazing prayer warriors and I wanted to be like them. After a couple of days of trying to pray for hours on end, I quickly became discouraged and gave up because I lived into the deception that prayer should be easy.
Prayer is not easy. Say it with me, “prayer is not easy.” Once we live into this truth we can start living into a prayer life without all the guilt. Just because it isn’t easy does not mean that we should give up. Theodore Roosevelt once said,
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
I think the twenty-sixth President of the United States makes a good point. Some of the most difficult things in my life have turned out to be the things that I am most proud of (for several reasons). Right before I officially joined Castleton UMC I asked Pastor Frank if there was anything he wanted me to start reading before I started and he said, “as a matter of fact there is.” He then proceeded to give me a box of books about prayer. By no means have I made it through all the books but I am realizing very quickly that prayer needs to be an important part of my life, your life, and the life of God’s Universal Church. Over a month has gone by and I have started a prayer journal, finished a 40-day prayer challenge, started to be more intentional with prayer in the life of my family, and I have continued my daily Bible readings. It has not been easy and I still struggle…big time! What has changed is my understanding that it is ok to struggle and to be challenged.
So, what does your picture of prayer look like and how are you going to make some changes to make prayer a priority in your life? Start small, go for the “low hanging fruit” first, and get a victory under your belt. For me having a group of people to keep me accountable has been the difference. For you, it might be putting prayer on your daily calendar, it might be reading a prayer/devotional book, and it might be committing to 5-minutes of intentional time with the Lord each day. Hey, we all have to start somewhere so no matter where you are…just start praying!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on prayer. My hope for everyone reading these words is that you will have a blessed week and that you will find moments throughout the week to fall more in love with Christ and His people.