Prayer blockers

Prayer is supposed to be a key spiritual discipline. Then why is it so hard sometimes?

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(Photo: Unsplash)

It had been a great day. But it soured very quickly. You know the type of day I mean. I went to church in the morning, the weather was perfect, life was good.

And then I was blindsided. My sunshine and rainbows very quickly turned into stress, helplessness and strain.

Maybe you’ve felt like that recently. That feeling of desperation you experience when you realise you are no longer in control. When you don’t have all the answers and aren’t sure if there are any. When you’ve come to the end of yourself and don’t know where to go from there.

I felt like I was suffocating so I went for a walk. Maybe the fresh air would do me good, the exercise would stimulate my mind, maybe just distract me. I just had to get out.

After a while, as I walked, I started to pray. Sort of out loud; my lips were moving but my words were under my breath. I must have looked like a crazy man, roaming the streets talking to myself, but in the twilight, there was hardly anyone else around. I cried out my inadequacies. I asked for answers and lamented. I felt how David felt: “My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord” (Psalm 84:2).

And a strange thing happened. As I walked and talked I experienced the “peace that passes all understanding”. It was not assurance that all the problems had gone away. It was not a solution to any of the questions that I had. I just felt better. I knew that God would fight for me. I was ready to accept what was happening and was reminded I needed to navigate it with grace and humility.

I went home. Don’t get me wrong—it got worse before it got better. But it did get better. Everything changed, mainly me. That’s the amazing power of prayer.

Prayer. It’s simple, right?—the secret to a healthy Christian walk. Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow. As the apostle Paul admonishes, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Then why is it so hard? There are so many tricks and techniques, books and devotionals, even movies about the power of prayer. Yet prayer is not often high on my priority list. I know it should be. I feel guilty when it doesn’t happen. And when it does, it can feel like my prayers bounce back off the ceiling.

I believe in the power of prayer. I’ve seen it work. But for some reason I only find it easy to pray when my back is firmly against the wall.

But how do we pray like Jesus did: regularly, drawing strength and guidance from His Heavenly Father?

Here are a few things I’ve found to be prayer blockers.

Distractions. They are everywhere and I just can’t keep my mind on the task. And with social media training our brain to scroll endlessly and jump from one thing to another, we need to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Another prayer blocker? Neglecting confession. I learnt a while back that confession is a healthy part of prayer. The Bible says that sin separates us from God. So if we want to have a healthy conversation with God, we need to get real about sin and confess it to Him.

James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” 

"I only find it easy to pray when my back's against the wall."

Going through that process at the start of our prayers helps us to get right with God and makes our prayers more powerful and effective.

I also wrestle with the fact that God already knows everything, so what purpose does my prayer have if I ask for the same thing every morning?

Yet in the story of the widow and the judge (Luke 18) and the midnight guest (Luke 11) Jesus emphasises persistence. So I do try to keep at it.

I’ve started praying these words or something like them: “Lord help my heart to be desperate for You. Help me to seek time with You every day. Remove the blocks and give me Your eyes and heart for the world.”

I invite you to join me in committing to prayer and I believe we’ll see our lives and our Church transformed.

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