Today is the National Day of Prayer, and while prayer is a central part of life for some of you, I have no doubt that many of you are sheepishly reflecting on the fact that you’re not very big on prayer. Perhaps some of you are even defiantly resisting prayer, or are merely depressed and unable to motivate yourselves to plead with God when you’ve faced so many disappointments and feel so far away from Him.
Or maybe you’re like me, and you’ve been in each of these places at one time or another. When I was in the lowest point of my prayer life, I came across A Praying Life by Paul Miller and found it to be very helpful. (Here’s a review of the book by Tim Challies that explains its strengths and weaknesses.)
Beyond recommending the book, I wanted to say a word of encouragement to those who are having trouble praying. First, the greatest killer of prayer is a loss of hope. A turning point for me when I was feeling most hopeless happened when I was reading Romans 4. In this chapter, Paul is explaining that we’re the descendants of Abraham, and the heir of the promises made to him, if we share in the faith of Abraham. Then Paul hits us with a description of God that changes everything: “Him whom [Abraham] believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.”
Meditate on that for a moment. God “gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” God has the power to give your spirit the life and hope that is now lacking in you—He calls it into being out of nothing. Do you feel dead? God is the God who gives life where it does not now exist. This is who God is. This is what He does. But He doesn’t always do this immediately. Do you have the faith to trust in Him while waiting as Abraham waited?
Without becoming weak in faith [Abraham] contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform (Romans 4:18–21).
It’s likely that an end to your hopelessness, leading to an ability to pray again, seems impossible to you—just as impossible as the birth of Isaac seemed to Abraham. So, like Abraham, don’t try to focus all your faith on this happening. Instead, focus your faith on God, trustworthy and powerful, who gives life to the dead. Meditate on who He is. Don’t worry if you don’t believe you’ll ever have hope again. Just start by believing the truth about God. Like Abraham, “in hope against hope” put your faith in Him who is able to call into being that which does not exist.
Second, your soul is real. There are spiritual realities in life just as there are physical realities. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that my soul can starve just as surely as my body can starve. You need to pray and read the Bible as much as you need to eat because there is the same reality of necessity in both cases. Do you place as much urgency on the one as on the other? Do you ever decide not to eat for a few days because you’re too busy? Is your soul suffering now the way your body would be if you stopped eating? The answer to your apathy or despair might be as simple as beginning to eat again.
Let A Praying Life be a starting point for you.