Quite simply, the thought was that prayer is challenging.
It really is. Chances are that you have probably experienced this. I mean, for one, just finding the time each day can seem like a real challenge, right? Even if it’s just five or ten minutes, clearing out that time to pray can feel like a real difficulty.
Maybe the challenge for you is that you feel like God isn’t there or not listening. I know that I have definitely had seasons of my life where I don’t really feel like my prayers are getting beyond the ceiling. That’s definitely frustrating. And certainly challenging.
Maybe there’s something in your life or in your past that you feel like is inhibiting your prayer life. Maybe you knew God wanted you to do something, but you didn’t do it. Or perhaps you have just felt like you’ve been living in rebellion from God so long that you don’t know how to come back or even feel like he’ll accept you back (don’t worry though… he will. Read Luke 15.).
Prayer will always have some element of challenge in it. If it was easy, people wouldn’t have to come up with tons of resources to help encourage us to do it. But the Bible is full of examples of people who experienced real challenges in their prayers. In Acts 16:25, the missionaries Paul and Silas were thrown into jail simply for talking about Jesus. Sounds like a real challenge and a really understandable circumstance where I’d be tempted to just say, “The whole God thing is a little bit of a sore subject for me right now. It’s kind of why I’m in jail in the first place. I don’t think I’d like to pray right now.” But instead, if you read Acts 16:25, what does it say? “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…”
In the book of Jonah, we discover a man who was pretty angry with God. Though most of his issues were self-inflicted, which of us hasn’t been there? Jonah didn’t understand how God could extend grace to his greatest enemies. And then at the end of the book, Jonah gets angry about God killing a plant that was providing him comfort and shade on a very hot day as he sat in the sun. Jonah was angry about a lot of stuff in the whole book. But one thing he did correct was pray. Even in the midst of difficulty and anger, Jonah still kept talking to God. And that’s really admirable to me, mostly because I’ve seen a lot of circumstances in my life where I’ve been angry or disillusioned with God and haven’t kept talking to him.
Even Jesus had moments where prayer was challenging. Take his final moments in the Garden of Gethsemane, for example. Here, we are told that Jesus prayed so hard that beads of blood were mixing with his sweat. Sounds pretty intense. Jesus was probably a little bit stressed out mostly because he was about to give his life in the most painful way possible. And here’s the thing even beyond that… Jesus’ prayer wasn’t fully answered by God (or, more accurately, was answered with a “no.”). Jesus prayed that God would take his cup from him (meaning that God would find another way other than crucifixion to save us). But that didn’t happen. So when I’m stressed, or when I feel like my prayer hasn’t been fully answered by God, I can find some comfort in the simple fact that Jesus experienced the same things.
If you’re feeling challenges in your prayer life, don’t be discouraged. That seems to be somewhat of a hallmark of a real prayer life for a lot of folks in the Bible. The key thing is that we keep the lines of communication open. Don’t quit talking to God… because he will never stop listening.