how to pray

How To Hate Prayer - Part 4 - Dealing With Shame

 

I recently ran a poll on Disqus asking "why Do Christians hate prayer?" I know, I know, we don’t hate prayer, per se, we just never do it.

I get it.

Of course, people immediately engaged the clickbait with PIRANHA-like instincts, to tell me how much they didn't hate prayer! Eventually the outrage subsided and some real answers began to emerge.

The number one response was exactly what I expected it to be:

Shame.

People don’t approach God because they’re not perfect.

The instinct here is right on – you should be perfect to enter the presence of a holy God - Just look at Uzzah - but the conclusion is a little off.

This is the typical recipe for a lie from Satan – part truth + part lie = whole lie – See Jesus in the wilderness.

Agree With Your Adversary

I once heard a teacher reference Matthew 5:25 in regards to shame,

“Agree with your adversary quickly while you are on the way”

The word Greek word for Adversary is used for Satan elsewhere.

When you experience shame and condemnation, the thought was agree with the accuser right away, but don’t buy into the other half of the lie.

“You’re right, Satan, I did have a ton of sin in my life, but thank God Jesus made me a new creation and paid for my sins once and for all!”

I’m not sure how I feel about the hermeneutic on this one, but I love the thought!

Super Attractive Lies…

The shame and condemnation truth/lie equation is one of the easiest to believe because it feels so right! Never has sin felt so much like righteousness as it has with shame. God hates sin; I should feel bad about it! Right? Isn’t that called conviction? 15 years into my journey with Christ, there’s not a lot of lies I don’t immediately recognize as such. But with condemnation, the counterfeit feels so similar to the authentic that it's incredibly hard to discern between the two.

Projecting ourselves onto God

When we think of God as merciful, we view him as such, through the lens of our own mercy and forgiveness towards others – which happens to be both finite and fallen.

Here’s what I mean.

If Suzy messes up and lies to you, you'll forgive her once - IF , and only if, she apologizes. We may do it two or even three more times if we’re really great Christians, but eventually enough is enough! Essentially we have a mercy tank, that has so much mercy and patience, and when we’re out, we’re out. If you have kids you know the first 3 times your kid spills milk on his outfit, you may handle it like a champ, but the fourth and fifth time in as many days, and your tone begins to change.

Why?

Because your tank is running low…

This is where we get it all wrong about God.

God’s goodness, his mercy, and his hesed, is not finite like ours, but infinite. God has no tank, and nothing in his nature has a beginning or end.

We also show mercy because we have to, and assume the same about God. I’ll forgive because I have to, even though I’m hurt, and it's hard. Where we show mercy because we have to, God shows mercy because he loves to! That’s right, it’s something he loves doing! Time and again the scriptures remind us that he delights in showing mercy!  It’s like a favorite hobby to him.

The key to enjoyable prayer lies in knowing how much he enjoys giving us the grace we need to boldly approach his throne, and confidently engage his heart. 

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How To Hate Prayer - Part 3 - Structuring Your Prayer Times

I'm gonna be completely honest here.

I've pretty much had my life planned out since middle school. 

My to do list is color coded.

Each day of the week i intentionally focus on a different section of my job description... Who does that?

I have a disease. I realize that. Please pray for the people I love the most.

The other day I mapped out my week on my dry erase board in Stephen Covey's 4 productivity quadrants - if you don't know what that is, that's okay, it only means you're not sick like I am.

My ability to operate without plans and structure is not entirely unlike Jack Garratt's ability to write terrible music.

...These things are just not in the cards for Jack and I.

This was all in the interest of full disclosure so you can take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt.

We've been talking about Jesus' promise to give us joy in the place of prayer (Isaiah 56:7), and wrestling with some of the reasons we don't experience that.

So with that said, this is one of the easiest ways out there to NOT enjoy prayer:

Definitely go in without a plan

Early on in my process with Jesus, I was at some sort of meetings when I was first introduced to the idea of planning/structuring my prayer times. We were in a pre-service prayer setting, when one of the speakers walked us through the ACTS model. 

  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Thanksgiving
  • Supplication (fancy KJV word for asking God for stuff)

I should have known. The answers to life's greatest mysteries have always been hidden within the same medium:

Acrostics!

But seriously, 15 years later and I'll still bust out the ACTS model from time to time.

Everything God builds...

Everything God creates is first given structure, and then given life. With the creation of Adam he first creates the bones, then breathes his Spirit into him. With Ezekiel he does the same thing - skeletons and tendons, then ruach. With Moses, first he gives intricate construction details for the tabernacle and liturgical process, then he fills it with glory.

Sometimes in prayer and in our other endeavors, we give God something to use, something to work with, something to move through. I think it's his way of involving us in the process.

But here's an important caveat: You WANT structure. What you DON'T want is your prayer life to become wrote religious exercise, instead of life giving relationship. Tyler Speegle has a great piece on that here.

Other than the ACTS model here are a couple other ways I've structured my prayer times:

1. Praying Through A Psalm

People talk about the power of praying the scriptures all the time. The Psalms are a great place to start praying the word, since most of them are prayers already... So it doesn't take a lot of imagination. Psalms are an easy way to give your prayer time a path to travel. Read a verse then apply that verse to a situation in your life e.g. marriage, finances, relationship with God, then use the textual language to pray it back to God. Then on to the next verse.

2. 20-20 Challenge

From time to time I'll issue the 20-20 challenge to my students. It's connecting with God for 20 minutes a day for 20 days. Why 20 days? So glad you asked. Because it takes 21 days to build a habit (the 20-21 Challenge wasn't nearly as catchy).

I'd also chart their 20 minutes for them:

  • 5 Minutes: Turn on your favorite worship leader and worship for 1 song
  • 5 Minutes: Read a Psalm - why a psalm? Because they're short - baby steps people, baby steps.
  • 5 Minutes: Pray about your prayer life like the disciples did when they said "Jesus, teach us to pray". This is huge in the beginning - Your getting distracted, great, talk to him about it. "God I'm bored." "God give me a hunger for you." "God I'm trying here, but I need your grace." "God I want to want you" "Jesus teach me to pray."
  • 5 Minutes: Requests/Needs

These are just ideas. Ask people you respect in this area, create your own, see what works for you. 

One final thought. If you're in one of those seasons where you are falling deeply in love with Jesus, hearing from him all the time, and thinking about him in every waking moment, you probably don't need a lot of structure. Mountaintops should be enjoyed, but structure will help us to be faithful in prayer  in the valleys and arid places that lie in between.