So you don’t have a prayer? You’re not alone!
Lots of people don’t pray. Some are firmly opposed to prayer, but most just don’t know how or don’t get around to it. I imagine you are familiar with some of the good reasons to pray. There are also lots of reasons not to pray. Perhaps some of these will seem familiar to you as well.
1. I’m too busy. I don’t have enough time to dedicate to a sincere prayer.
Life is busy, and prayer can add serenity, peace, and even productivity. Instead of adding prayer as a new task in your day, infuse a current task with prayer. For example, pray when you wash your hands or the dishes, or on your commute to or from work.
2. So, who am I talking to? I don’t really understand who or what God is, so how do I talk to God?
Not knowing who you are talking to can really be a barrier. I imagine being in a dark room and knowing someone is with me but not seeing the person’s face. “Hello...? Is someone there?” You can learn about God by reading a book like the Gospel of John or Divine Love and Wisdom. The most important thing to learn is the God is Love, and you get to know God by learning to love people. “Everyone who loves, knows God...for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8) When you can understand that God loves you and wants to have a loving relationship with you, you can then relate to God in the same way you relate to anyone who loves you, like your father or mother or best friend. That’s why God took on a Human form in Jesus Christ--so that we could know His love for us and relate to Him directly. It’s like turning the light on in that dark room.
3. I don’t know what to say...
Prayer is just talking with God. None of us is born knowing how to talk. We learn by practicing. Even when you have learned to talk fluently, you still might be tongue-tied when you have to speak to a crowd, get lost in a foreign country or get caught in an embarrassing situation.
Some tips: Words aren’t important. God listens to your heart--your thoughts and feelings.
Prayers that are short, simple and stumbling are just as good as eloquent, sophisticated ones. Just say, “God, I need your help!” or “Thanks, Lord,” or “Father, forgive me!” Also, you can find a book of prayers and read one that expresses your needs and hopes.
4. I tried prayer and it didn’t work. I prayed for my mom’s cancer to be healed, and she died. What’s the use?
Prayer is not a solution to every problem. Sometimes we have too high expectations of what prayer can accomplish. The Lord doesn’t promise a life free from challenges, pain, hard work and loss. In fact, He pretty much promises that we will have those things. Jesus said, “In the world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) If you pray for God to change someone else’s life, or to change your own circumstances, giving you health, wealth and friends who admire you, chances are you will be disappointed with the results. On the other hand, if you ask for patience, courage, wisdom, determination, compassion, kindness or humility, you might become aware of an inner change in yourself even before your prayer is complete.
5. What if my friends found out? I can just hear them saying, “So you’re praying? I thought you were too old to have imaginary friends. Ha ha.”
Really? Your “friends” would say that to you? Are you sure you’re not just imagining that they are your friends? That aside, prayer isn’t about what other people think of you. Jesus said, “Don’t stand on the street corner praying! Go into your room and close the door! Your heavenly Father hears when you pray secretly.” (Matthew 6:5-6) Do you have doubts about whether God exists? That’s OK. Most good people have times of doubt. God listens to prayers like these: “Lord, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24); “Lord, increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5)
6. I’m not getting any answers. Just stony silence. Do I have to do all the talking? Is prayer a conversation or a monologue?
The book Secrets of Heaven tells us that there is always an answer from God, but the answer from God touches our inner spirit more than our superficial consciousness, so it doesn’t come to our awareness except as a feeling of hope bringing comfort. (Secrets of Heaven 8159) Try this experiment: pray for strength and wisdom to get through a difficult time and then notice if you feel any sense of inner peace or hope afterwards.
The Rev. John Odhner is an Assistant to the Pastor at the Bryn Athyn Church. For more information, visit www.brynathynchurch.org.