The Challenge of Prayer

A 2020 study from Premier Christian News in the UK found that Christians are less likely to pray than those from other faiths. Just 38 percent of Christians polled said that they regularly prayed. Among other faiths, 52 percent reported that they prayed on a regular basis. I was surprised to see the low level of engagement for something considered so central to our practices.

Ask any random group of Christians about their spiritual life and the majority will tell you that prayer is a challenge. Many apparently aren’t spending any time in prayer. Others often struggle with knowing how to pray. We know we should, but we are often like the disciples who asked Jesus, “teach us to pray.”  

What causes our hesitation? Are we are concerned about doing it properly? Do we think that prayer is a waste of time? Is it something we only do when we are in trouble? Part of our Western problem is that we believe prayer is transactional. If we spend long enough in prayer or say the right words, then God will give us what we want. Our life will be fulfilled. When this is our only understanding of prayer, we are bound to be disappointed.

Benediction Monk, Luigi Gioig offers three words of advice on prayer:

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it honest
  • Keep it going

Prayer doesn’t need to be complicated. God can handle direct talk. For many, honesty in prayer can be difficult. We have to check our motivation. Are we wanting to get something from God or are we really wanting to spend time with God? As the Psalmist prayed: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

If prayer is one of those areas that is a struggle, let me recommend the book, How to pray: a simple guide for normal people by Pete Greig.  Greig has been teaching on prayer and leading prayer meetings for over twenty years. I find his approach to be refreshing and then I find myself wanting to spend time in prayer. This doesn’t have to be a complicated or guilt inducing part of our faith. Yet, prayer needs to be a foundation part of our spiritual disciples. From time to time we can all use some encouragement to keep on going in prayer.