It’s hard to pray because humbling ourselves, getting over ourselves, and coming to the end of our stubborn and sinful selves is hard. When we pray, we die to self, and death hurts. That’s why our flesh fights so hard against prayer. When we pray, we are entering into real warfare against our flesh and against the flaming arrows of our accuser and his host. Although they are not afraid of us, they are terrified of the One within us and who is for us, and they despise that we are praying to the One who has crushed them and will destroy them.
Moreover, it’s hard to pray because our focus is too often on praying itself and not on God. We learn about prayer not so that we might know a lot of facts about prayer, but so that we might pray with our focus on God. By His sovereign grace, we know Him, and we know He is there and that He not only hears but listens—that He is not silent but that He always answers our prayers and always acts in accord with His perfect will for our ultimate good and for His glory. When we recognize God’s sovereignty in prayer, we are also reminded of His love, grace, holiness, and righteousness, and we are thereby confronted with the harsh reality of our own wretched sin in the light of His glory and grace.
We will always to some degree in our lives find it difficult to pray, but, nevertheless, we must always pray.
Thus, Christians don’t actually believe in the power of prayer—we believe in the power of God, and that is why we pray. So, when we pray, we are reminded of who we’re not—we’re reminded that we’re not God and that we’re not in control. We’re reminded that God is sovereign and in control, and so we must recognize that prayer is our daily and continual surrender of our perceived control over our lives to the One who has control of them and cares about them more than we do.
If I thought for a second that my feeble prayers changed God’s mind and His perfect will, I would stop praying altogether. I’m sinful. I don’t know everything, and I can’t control everything. Yet because God is omniscient and omnipotent, and because He has our ultimate good and His glory in mind, we can trust Him. Sometimes, God’s answer to our prayer is “no,” sometimes “wait,” sometimes “yes,” and sometimes “yes, and beyond what you could even imagine.” We will always to some degree in our lives find it difficult to pray, but, nevertheless, we must always pray. We must also pray for God to help us pray, treating prayer less like a grocery list and more like a letter of love, not simply talking to God but communing with our closest and most loving companion.
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is cotranslator and coeditor of A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.