Blog Post

Obstacles to Prayer: Our Lives Work Against it

Most of us are busy—too busy. We regularly feel as though we are trying to fit 20 pounds into a 10-pound bag. There is never enough time to do everything that we want. In this context, it is relatively easy to squeeze prayer out of our schedules. One way to counter this is to, again, remind ourselves of the power and privilege of prayer. When we remind ourselves of this reality, we gain or regain perspective. We realize that rather than being too busy to pray, we are actually too busy not to pray. Martin Luther understood this: “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”

Another practical way to work prayer into our busy lives is to schedule it. If we broke each day into 15-minute blocks, that would give us 96 blocks of time. Knowing that we have 96 15-minute increments in each day might make it easier to schedule one or two during the course of the day to devote to prayer. We could then break the 15-minute period into 5-minute increments and use 5 minutes for praise, 5 minutes for confession, and 5 minutes for supplication, or something similar. This kind of approach ought to make the business of praying much less intimidating.

Another way to counter our busyness is to pray before bed every night and to build a habit of doing this. If you are married, your spouse can help you remember to do it until the habit forms. Most of us go to bed too late. Set a reminder in your phone to go to your room 30 minutes earlier than normal and spend those 30 minutes with our spouse on our knees in prayer. Such a practice would not only build prayer into your schedule, it would also work to further knit your hearts together as a married couple.

Life in the 21st century is not only too busy, it is also too complex. This also works against prayer, because prayer is not complex but simple. It doesn’t rely on the latest technology. It doesn’t use gadgets of any kind. It requires being still, putting the technology aside, and communing with the Lord. Prayer is low-tech not high-tech, and, for people living in a high-tech world, prayer can seem prehistoric. This is a clear obstacle to prayer.

Sometimes the complexity of 21st century life can lead us to expect that prayer should mirror the complexity we see around us. Students of the beloved Hebrew professor John “Rabbi” Duncan assumed this of their professor’s prayers. But when they listened in to his prayers, what they heard surprised them. Rather than praying in Hebrew or with a sophistication reflective of a highly educated seminary professor, he instead prayed very simply: “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child. Pity my simplicity, and suffer me to come to thee.”

The more complex we believe prayer should be, the more inadequate we will inevitably feel about actually engaging in it. The simplicity of prayer should be a glorious reality for us to celebrate. No matter how complicated our lives may be, we have recourse to the glorious simplicity of prayer.

Tomorrow, the final obstacle: unanswered prayer.