I’m going to be completely honest with you. Real prayer does not come easy for me.

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.

What is “real prayer?”

I can go through the motions of prayer easily enough. I’ve learned some tricks to stay focused. I can run down a list and let God know how I “need” Him to work. How I want Him to take care of things. 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 simply giving my needs to God and allowing Him to meet them in His way. Real prayer doesn’t seek to change God’s mind to do my will, but instead seeks God’s mind and will. My goal in prayer should be to allow God to change my heart and mind to reflect His.

Real prayer is not an activity limited to a time slot in my 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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