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5 Reasons Real Prayer is Hard

I’m going to be completely honest with you. I struggle with prayer.

I don’t doubt the need for prayer. I need it desperately; I want it desperately. In fact, I strongly believe that without real prayer, a believer’s relationship with God will only be superficial.

Unfortunately, many of us practice a watered down version of prayer. We sit with our Bible and our “prayer list” and spend 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour telling God how we’d like Him to work in and around our lives.

Has that ever been you? My hand is in the air.

prayer is hardWhat “real prayer” is not

That kind of “praying” is fairly easy if you can stay focused and take the time. But real prayer is a lot harder – at least for me.

Real prayer is not running down our list and explaining to God how He can take care of things. Real prayer is simply giving our needs to God and allowing Him to meet them in His way.

Real prayer doesn’t seek to change God’s mind to do our will, but instead seeks God’s mind and will. Our goal in prayer is to allow God to change our heart and mind to reflect His.

What is “real prayer?”

Real prayer is not an activity limited to a time slot in our day, but an ongoing relationship with the living God. In her book “Live a Praying Life,” Jennifer Kennedy Dean describes prayer like this:

Prayer is opening our lives to God, acknowledging our total dependence on Him. It is an attitude of receptivity in which we live every moment. It is being open to Him at all times. It is living in the presence of God, always in the process of being reshaped and recreated by Him.

Yes, we need times of focused prayer when our attention is focused solely on God. But real prayer never ends. It permeates and invades every moment of our lives. And as we practice real prayer, we will develop an intimacy with God that’s not possible in any other way.

Why is Real Prayer so Hard?

So if real prayer is so wonderful, why is it so hard for me? I’ve been thinking about this question. Here are a few things that have hit me between the eyes:

  1. Real prayer requires time and discipline – Although prayer is a way of life, I also must regularly shut out everything else and spend intense, focused time with just God. But I often yield to the calls of the to-do list or sleep or a thousand other less important things.
  2. Real prayer requires humility – I like to think I’m pretty smart. I can see how my problems could be solved. I know what my future should look like. I even dare to tell God how I think I could serve Him best. I must set aside my foolish pride and humbly go to the only One who really knows best.
  3. Real prayer requires stillness and quietness – The world bombards us with entertainment, emails, news, social media, and more. But all that is just noise and distraction that keeps me from hearing God’s voice. I have to be purposeful in keeping the laptop closed, the TV off, and my heart and mind tuned in to the Creator.
  4. Real prayer requires waiting – I have a hard time waiting on God’s answer. Sometimes He answers right away and other times He wants us to wait. To lean in to listen. He has much to say to us if we will but wait long enough for Him to speak. And sometimes, the answer is in the waiting.
  5. Real prayer requires obedience – If I seek God’s will or ask Him to meet a need and fail to do what He says I essentially cut off that communication. My lack of obedience tells God I don’t believe His way is best. That I think I can do it better myself. Obedience proves my trust and reliance and builds the relationship.

Time, humility, stillness, waiting, and obedience. Real prayer. My sinful human nature fights it. My spirit longs for it. So I’ll keep practicing. And praying.

Are these things hard for you? What do you find the most difficult?

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8 Responses to 5 Reasons Real Prayer is Hard

  1. Jane June 27, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Time and discipline, stillness and quietness I find difficult. But probably my biggest hurdle in prayer is staying focused, and, of course, that relates to the the first four difficulties. Try as I might, my mind will go off on a tangent. I get so frustrated with myself. A book I’ve read, more than once, that I find helpful is “Invitation to Solitude and Silence” by Ruth Hayley Barton.
    Thank you, Kathy, for being so open with your own struggles in this area.

    • Kathy June 27, 2013 at 9:56 am #

      Hi Jane! I also have trouble staying focused. However, I find that using a journal helps keep my mind from wandering. Even if I only jot the main thought and then expand on it in prayer it helps me stay focused on my prayer.

  2. Marion Simpson July 2, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    Hi Kathy,

    My problem is not following the method of ‘real prayer,’ if you will. Rather my difficulties is remaining consistent. I can start off well, full of zeal and enthusiasm, but it quickly waines away somewhere near the middle to end of the month. The last if sticktoativeness is my problem!


    • Kathy July 2, 2013 at 6:47 am #

      Marion, I do understand! There are a few things you can do to help keep you going. One is consistency in when and where you pray. It helps form the habit of prayer. Another is to keep all your quiet time “tools” – Bible, journal, pen, devotional, whatever you use – gathered together in your spot where you meet with God. The easier you can make it to sit down with Him the more likely you will be to keep at it. And ask Him for help. He wants to help!

  3. cin May 1, 2016 at 11:46 pm #

    I also long for God and praying, seeking. His will in everything I do.
    And on paper, it looks easy.
    We find that it’s not…..I appreciate your honesty, I have found that when we begin to get honest and humble, it is
    amazing how it changes our attitudes about others. My prayers are honest and sincere, I think part of my struggle is I’m falling short according to my religion, possibly. So I will continue to seek God and never never never give up.
    Bless you for your work.

  4. joe sielski June 11, 2018 at 10:24 am #

    pray for me I am depressed.

    • Kathy June 11, 2018 at 7:52 pm #

      Joe, I pray God will overwhelm you with the peace and joy of His presence. Reach out to your pastor or a close friend, someone who will help you in this journey.

    • Diane June 15, 2018 at 5:45 pm #

      I will pray for that spirit of depression to lift off
      Be healed in Jesus name. Play loud Christian music and just start thanking God for every single thing, big or tiny. Take prayer walks, journal, vitamins, bed early , rise early. God bless you

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