A Prayer Challenge


As a young preacher I once heard an older pastor say that prayer is the most difficult exercise of the soul. His words have stayed with me over the years and prayer remains a constant challenge in my relationship with the Lord. What drives me onward is understanding that prayer is as essential as it is difficult. We simply must pray.

I’ve often quoted A.J. Gordon, who said, “There is more you can do after you pray, but there is nothing you can do until you pray.”

In his wonderful book entitled Prayer, Timothy Keller explains that prayer is both communion and supplication. We see this combination in the Psalms where David enjoys intimacy with God in one Psalm (e.g., Psalm 27), and in other Psalms he’s crying out for God to do something, either to help him, guide him, or save him from his enemies (e.g., Psalm 10).

This gives us a helpful guide to evaluate our own prayer lives: Are your prayers mostly asking God to intervene, to help, to provide, or perhaps to heal or save a loved one? Or would you say your prayer time is mostly spent adoring God, praising him, giving him thanks? Is it intimate conversation or personal struggle? Again, Keller emphasizes it really should be both.

Our prayers tend to be more of an exercise of the mind and less an expression of the heart.

I believe most men find intimacy with God the greatest challenge in prayer. We find it difficult to experience the warmth and passion of God’s presence, when it’s much easier to go through our lists asking God to do those things we want or need. Our prayers tend to be more of an exercise of the mind and less an expression of the heart. If this is true of your prayer life, I have a prayer challenge for you.

1. Select a Psalm, any Psalm, and read it five times silently and then five times out loud. Take your time. Don’t be in a hurry because God never is. A few Psalms I’d recommend are familiar ones: Psalms 1, 8, 23, 27, 42, 51, 100, 103, 139.

2. Having read the Psalm, take some time to meditate on what you read. Look at the words, try to note any repeating theme, word picture, or specific circumstance. Make notes of things that come to mind and how they might relate to your life.

3. Turn the Psalm into a personal prayer. Begin by asking God to open your understanding and help you focus your thoughts. In her book, A Prayer Journal, Flannery O’Conner wrote: “Oh God please make my mind clear, make it clean. Please help me to get down under things and find where You are.”

4. Give yourself to this process without expecting quick results. At the same time, pray with expectation, believing the Lord will eventually grant you a deeper, more meaningful prayer life. God said through Jeremiah: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

All that we aspire to do for the Lord, our personal sanctification, our relationships, and our peace of our mind, depend on our time with God in prayer. May God grant us the grace to persevere in prayer and find a sweeter, more satisfying experience of him.

Making prayer an expression of the heart and not just an exercise of the mind.