I have never met a believer no matter how old they were in the Lord who said, “I have mastered prayer!” I myself am not good at it. The activity of praying is frustrating isn’t it? Paul Miller in his excellent book A Praying Life says,
“We last for about fifteen seconds, and then out of nowhere the day’s to-do list pops up and our minds are off on a tangent. We catch ourselves and, by sheer force of the will, go back to praying. Before we know it, it has happened again. Instead of praying, we are doing a confused mix of wandering and worrying. Then the guilt sets in. Something must be wrong with me. Other Christians don’t seem to have this trouble praying. After five minutes we give up, saying, ‘I am no good at this. I might as well get some work done.’ Something is wrong with us. Our natural desire to pray comes from Creation. We are made in the image of God. Our inability to pray comes from the Fall. Evil has marred the image. We want to talk to God but can’t. The friction of our desire to pray, combined with our badly damaged prayer antennae, leads to constant frustration. It’s as if we’ve had a stroke.”
Then to add to the frustration we are assaulted by what C.S. Lewis calls, “The Kingdom of Noise.” Some device always calls for our attention and brings noise and distraction. Cynicism sets in as well. Why pray if God is sovereign? Does it really change anything? All of these things make prayer very difficult.
But I am encouraged by the disciples asking Jesus to teach them not how to preach, but how to pray (Luke 11:1). As D.L. Moody once said, “They’d all soon know how to preach if they only knew how to pray.” This tells us that praying has to be learned. It is hard and not natural. We are built for it, but it is not easy. A lot of us do not pray because we think being a Christian means praying should be easy. And since it is not easy for us, we think we are simply bad Christians and as a result, have stopped praying. Prayer takes learning.
Praise God that He saved us not because He knew we would pray well. Praise God He accepts us today not because we pray well after knowing Him, but because of the finished work of His Son. God turned His face away from His Son because of our sin, and now turns His face toward us because of Jesus’ work. May this truth melt our heart and move our lips and our being to pray. Lord, teach us to pray.