Rebooting Your Prayer Life (Part 1)

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with the way you pray?

I’m not sure where I learned this, but for some reason I grew up assuming that prayer should be easy. Shortly after I was baptized and started taking Jesus seriously, I expected to jump right into a prayer journey with God that would be vibrant and constant. And that’s exactly what it felt like… for about 3 weeks. I’ve been all over the place since then. My prayer life has swung from barely existent to praying without ceasing. Prayer has been a struggle for me. How about you?

Not long after I was diagnosed with cancer, I was compelled to reexamine the topic of prayer and totally reboot my prayer life and start over. I dedicated a full year to this – I read classic books on prayer, sought wise counsel from more mature believers, and experimented with different forms of prayer. In this blog series, I want to share what I learned along the way.

Defining Prayer

This may seem too basic, but if we aren’t clear about what prayer is, we may overcomplicate it. At least that’s what I’ve done. Here’s my working definition of prayer:

Prayer is entering into conscious contact with God.

Whenever I intentionally engage with God, I am praying.

When I see something beautiful or awe-inspiring, I can tell God, “Thank you.”

As I tuck my kids into bed, I can hold their hands and ask God to protect and bless them.

When someone shares a struggle with me, instead of telling them I’ll pray for them, I’ll pray for God to help them right then and there.

Whenever I sin against God or someone else, I can confess it and ask God to help me overcome it.

In the morning, before my feet hit the floor, I can say Psalm 23 in my head as a way to begin the day with God.

Before I eat a meal, I can offer a simple prayer of thanksgiving to God.

I can devote myself to longer, more focused times of prayer.

This list could go on and on. All of this is prayer.

Prayer Inhibitors

I know the check engine light is blinking in my soul when I don’t feel like praying. Here are the forces that hinder my prayers:

1. Pride. My heart can’t maintain a posture of prayer if pride is running the show. When I feel strong and self-reliant, I stop praying. This is so embarrassing to say, but it’s true. Sometimes I go through my days as a professing Christian who in reality lives like an atheist – depending only on myself, leaning on my own wisdom, drawing from my own strength.

2. Sin. Sin is willful disobedience to God. This blocks my prayers like nothing else. Especially if it’s a sin I’ve been hiding. You know when Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8)? Another way of putting it might be, “Blessed are those who confess their sins completely and quickly, for their prayers will not be hindered.”

3. Marriage strife. When I’ve been harsh with Joni or if I’ve been unwilling to make amends with her, my prayers hit the ceiling. It’s as if God is saying, “You can’t mistreat your wife and expect me to listen to you.” This is spelled out very clearly in 1 Peter 3:7, by the way.

4. Disappointment. If God says “no” to something I’ve pleaded with him about, it feels like a karate chop to the throat. My soul struggles to breathe. I’m thinking of specific prayers that went unanswered like…

When someone is sick and they don’t get better

When a marriage I’ve tried to help ends in divorce

When an addict relapses or overdoses

When my kids are hurting and it won’t stop

When someone I care deeply about refuses to follow Jesus

5. Hurry. I almost said busy-ness, but that’s not the right word. Busy-ness is an external reality. I’m busy when I have a lot of things to do and multiple responsibilities to juggle. Hurry is internal. When I’m hurried, I can’t seem to settle down. My mind races from one thing to the next. It’s like my soul becomes a television that constantly changes channels. There’s no way I could ever possibly pray when I get like this.

In part two, I will list 3 proven motivators that help me start praying again after a dry spell. The post should go live early Sunday morning.

Questions for Reflection

What kind of prayer life do you want?
Why do we seem to overcomplicate prayer?
Who taught you how to pray? What did you learn from them?
Which of the five prayer-inhibitors do you deal with the most?
What other things hinder your prayers?

Suggested Reading

The Disciple Maker’s Handbook

by Dr. Bobby Harrington and Josh Patrick

Many people believe that discipleship is important, but they need help. In fact, the vast majority of Christians report that they have never been personally discipled by a more mature follower of Jesus. Is it any wonder that they have a difficult time knowing how to disciple others?

If making disciples of Jesus is the greatest cause on earth, how should we equip people to do it? This handbook is a practical guide for how to embrace the discipleship lifestyle – being a disciple of Jesus and how to make other disciples of Jesus. With contributions from pastors and teachers like Francis Chan, Jeff Vanderstelt, Bill Hull, Jim Putman, KP Yohannan, and Robert Coleman, the authors present seven elements that are necessary for disciple making to occur:

  • Jesus—the original disciple maker and centerpiece of discipleship.
  • Holy Spirit—fuels the disciple-making process.
  • Intentionality—making disciples utilizing a strategy and a roadmap.
  • Relationships—creating a loving, genuine connection with others who trust and follow Jesus.
  • Bible—using the Word of God as the manual for making disciples.
  • Journey—forging a traceable growth story from a new birth to spiritual parenthood.
  • Multiply—reproducing the discipleship process so that the disciple becomes a disciple maker.

Whether you are a parent who wants to disciple your children, a small group leader who wants to disciple those in your group, or a church leader who wants to disciple future leaders, the seven key elements in this handbook form a framework for understanding discipleship that can be applied in countless situations. In addition, there are questions provided in each section to help you think through how to apply the material to your disciple making efforts. BUY NOWother books