02 Difficulties in prayer

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: (1 John 5:14)

To pray is to open our hearts to Jesus. And Jesus is all that we sinners need both for time and eternity. He “was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30, RV). This gives us the biblical view of the purpose of prayer, it’s place and significance in the divine salvation.

Jesus said once, “without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). He knew how literally true these words are, how entirely helpless we are without Him. But at the same time He said “ask, and it shall be given unto you” (Matthew 7:7) – all that you need and more besides.

He never grew tired of inviting, prompting, encouraging, exhorting, even commanding us to pray. The many and various admonitions to prayer in the Bible shed remarkable light upon prayer.They show us that prayer is the heartbeat in the life of a saved person. Permit me to cite a few of the gracious admonitions to prayer which the Lord has given us:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Mattew 7:7-11)

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.         (John 15:7)

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6)

If I were to give an expression to this meaning in my own words, I would put it as follows: Jesus comes to a sinner, awakens him from his sleep in sin, converts him, forgives him, and makes him His child. Then He takes the weak hand of the sinner and places it in His own strong, nail-pierced hand and says: “Come now, I am going with you all the way and will bring you safe home to heaven! When you get into trouble or difficulty, just tell Me about it. I will give you everything you need, and more besides, as long as you live.”

My friend, do you not also think that that is what Jesus meant when He gave us prayer? And that is the way we should make use of it. That is why He desires to answer our prayers, graciously and abundantly. Prayer should be the means by which I, at all times, receive all that I need, and, for this reason, it should be my daily refuge, my daily consolation, my source of rich and inexhaustible joy in my life.

From this it is very apparent also that a child of God can grieve Jesus in no worse way than to neglect prayer. For by so doing he severs the connection between himself and the Saviour, and his inner life is doomed to be withered and crippled, as in the case with most of us. Many neglect prayer to such an extent that their spiritual life gradually dries out.

Why do most of us fail so miserably in prayer? I think we will all admit, both to ourselves and to others, that to pray is difficult for all of us. The difficulty lies in the very act of praying. To pray, really to pray, is too much of an effort. That the natural man that prayer is an effort is not strange in the least. He “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him”  (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The natural man looks upon prayer as a burdensome task. Most unspiritual people never assume this burden. Some do, however, and pray to God a little each day. But they feel it a heavy requirement, and they do so only because they think that our Lord is strict regarding this and insists that it be done. It cannot help but to  surprise us when wee find that this view is also prevalent also among believing Christians. At conversion we were led into a life of earnest, diligent prayer. Our seasons of prayer were the happiest time of the day. But after a longer or shorter period of time, we began to encounter difficulties in our prayer life. Prayer, which was once the free, happy, grateful communication of a redeemed sloul with God, had become a matter of duty, which we performed because we had to. And the more of an effort praying is, the more easily it is neglected.

However, two certain requirements must be maintained if the art of prayer is to be acquired; practice and perseverance. Without practice no Christian will become a real man or woman of prayer. And practice cannot be attained without perseverance. There are, however, a few pitfalls that we fall into that can cause extra difficulties in our prayer life. Although there are many of these, I will concentrate on three major ones in this chapter of the study:

1. We think we must help God to fulfill our prayer

This has never been God’s intention. We are to pray; God Himself will take care of the hearing and the fulfillment. He needs no help from us for that. It is remarkable to what extent we are influenced by the thought that we, by means of our prayers, must help God to some extent to answer our prayers. If nothing more, we at least think that we ought to suggest to God how He should go about giving us the answer. To most of us prayer is burdensome because we have not learned that prayer consists in telling Jesus what we or others lack. We do not think that is enough. Instinctively we feel that to pray cannot be so easy as all that.

When we get to know Jesus better and better, we learn to trust Him with everything. We lay everything at His feet, and our prayers become quiet, confidential and blessed conversations with Him, our bets Friend, about the things that are on our minds, whether it be our own needs or the needs of others. We experience wonderful peace and security by leaving our difficulties, both great and small, with Him and find that He knows our needs even better than us and is able to supply all our need – and more.

2. We make use of prayer for the purpose of commanding God to do our bidding

This is the second great and very common mistake which wee make in prayer. But God never intended that prayer should be used for that purpose. God does not permit us to issue orders to Him. God has not given us His promises and the privilege of prayer in order that we might use them to pound a demanding fist upon the table before God and compel Him to do what we ask.

Most of us have a great deal to learn in this connection. We are too impatient at all times and not least when we pray. This is especially true when there is something urgent, either with us or with someone who is dear to us. We go to God, speak imploringly to Him, and expect Him to intervene at once. The distress of our dear ones and our love for them give us boldness in prayer, and we become almost importunate. Often, too, we have wonderful confidence that God will intervene.

3. We forget to pray in the name of Jesus

Every believer who has lived for God for some time has had  a greater or less number oof blessed experiences in his prayer life, hours when God, so to speak, lifted us up into His lap and drew us unto His own heart, hours when He whispered into our wondering souls words that cannot be uttered. Our hearts were filled with unspeakable joy. We had never realized before that it was possible to experience anything so blessed here on earth.

Then we begin to pray. We simply could not refrain from it. Our hearts were full, and it felt so good to speak with God out of a full heart. It was easy to pray now. We saw God plainly because we were close to Him. We saw how good He is. Our hearts were so full of love and gratitude that we could happily have carried the entire world to the Lord in prayer upon our shoulders.

While praying one day we failed to experience our usual joy and the usual zeal which we had been experiencing for some time. We thought “It will return. Right now I will pray only for the most necessary things. I will intercede for others  when the right zeal returns to my heart.” But the blessed feeling we had once experienced in our hearts did not return, and gradually we fell back into our old ways of praying.

Why did this happen? Simply because we had not learned to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Not even when we sat in the lap of God and our hearts were full of the bliss of heaven, did we learn to pray in the name of Jesus. We prayed in the name of our own heart, in the name of our own love and solicitude. This became very apparent later. When our solicitude had disappeared, our boldness to continue in prayer as we formerly had done also disappeared.

To pray in the name of Jesus is, in all likelihood, the deepest mystery in prayer. We have seen that Jesus wills of His own accord to come in to us and, in His power, deal with our needs. Our prayers become real prayers as we live in Christ and our prayers are also Christ-like. Our prayers to God should not be offensive in any way or go against the will of Jesus Christ.

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