Sometimes we speak of prayer as if it were an easy exercise. Prayer is often difficult. There are ongoing struggles in prayer; distractions, temptations, fatigue, and lack of focus (to name a few). And though we should not blame the devil for our troubles, he does not want us really praying. He does not mind our religious utterances that are thoughtlessly spoken, but he hates fervent prayer.
I regret that I have not prayed more and especially that I have not prayed better. Too often prayer has been something quickly and thoughtlessly uttered. I do not deny that faithful prayer can and often needs to be quickly and spontaneously offered. I am sure that to pray without ceasing means, in part, that our days are to be filled with spontaneous prayers, offered as we go through the day.
I write not as an expert in prayer but as one who often struggles. I have started to pray and within seconds found my mind wandering to all sorts of thoughts and plans for the day. I detest my wandering heart. I have even started to pray and fallen asleep in prayer--once (at least) I fell asleep in mid-sentence while leading family prayer.
My objective is not to heap guilt on you or me. Jesus lived perfectly and prayed perfectly and our confidence is in him and not in any merit--not even our best prayers. Let us look to Jesus! We are fellow pilgrims in the desire to pray more and to pray better by faith. We are also fellow sojourners in the difficulties of prayer.
Praying through the Psalms is helpful to me. There I find both the fuel to energize and move my prayers and the content of my prayers. I invite you into my quiet place where this morning I had the joyful opportunity to meet with God. I bring to that place my bible, paper and pen, some books and my computer. I make notes and pray as I read. Most of the time I am praying as I read more than after I read. Sometimes I write my prayers. Here are today's rough prayer notes from Psalm 119: 17-24.
1. Deal bountifully with my family and me that we may live and keep your word (17).
Lord, heaven above is the perfect Jerusalem where prayers for peace are ultimately fulfilled. Heaven is where joys, unmixed with sorrow, are fully known. Heaven is where love abounds, sickness has ceased, friendship is real, sin is absent and where all eyes are eternally fixed on you. Yes, to die is gain. To go to heaven to see and live with you is my great desire. But Lord, I want to live here, as long as I can, in good health, in prosperity and especially that you may bring forth much fruit from my life. So much time, I have wasted and I ask for your mercy and forgiveness. And though I have wasted much time, I hold out hope, as I cry out for mercy, that days yet to come may be used for your glory; that I may keep your word and that it might be good for others that I am alive. Please deal bountifully with your servant and with my family.
2. Open my (our) eyes (18-22).
Open my eyes God of light and truth. This is a constant need. My eyes grow dim, my vision is clouded and life often seems dark and hopeless. I tend to see the troubles around and lose hope within. I need fresh vision, fresh sight, fresh eyes a fresh look to the hills (Psalm 121), and a fresh vision of the enthroned one (Psalm 123). Though all of creation declares your glory with dazzling magnificence, there is nothing comparable to your word. Open my eyes that I may--not simply see, but to behold. Help me to grasp what it means to behold your word, to see wondrous things in your word. I am but a pilgrim on this earth and yet I am drawn by it's temporary glitter. My eyes are easily fixed on comforts and dreams of temporal pleasures. Lord, let not your commandments be hidden from me as I walk the paths of my daily life. Let my soul long for your word, all the time. Let me not be among those who are rebuked because they wander from your word. I confess that my heart is prone to wander. I want to ponder more the riches that you have given in your word. Open my eyes, the eyes of my wife and children that we might see wondrous things in your word.
3. Anchor my heart regardless my circumstances (23-24).
I pray that I might serve you in peace but when I am mocked, ridiculed or driven out of comfort for your name's sake, help me not to grow discouraged, but to meditate on your statutes and to delight in your word. When I delight in things that you have created, drive me quickly to the source of creation. Drive me back to you and your word that I might delight afresh in your goodness. When I need wisdom, and it is my constant need, give me increasing confidence in your word for counsel. Give my family confidence in your word that we might not rest on our own understanding but to trust you.
For our good and your glory, I pray...Amen.