Learning to do the Hard Work of Prayer
“Pray on dear one, the power lies that way.” (Mary Slessor)
This quote has spurred on my prayer life many times since I copied it onto a bookmark and tucked it into my Bible.
Prayer is hard. Many days I’ve wanted to give up praying for a request or I’ve felt too tired to focus my mind on prayer—until I opened my Bible and saw this reminder. It was the nudge I needed to keep praying on multiple occasions.
This woman, whose words have encouraged my praying, knew both the power and difficulty of prayer. She once wrote, “Prayer is the greatest power God has put in our hands for service—praying is harder work than doing, at least I find it so, but the dynamic lies that way to advance the kingdom.”
Mary Slessor was a pioneer missionary to native tribes in Calabar, Nigeria. She daily faced the reality of spiritual warfare as well as common dangers and illnesses associated with living in the harsh Nigerian climate. And as much as she found prayer difficult, she knew she couldn’t survive or be effective in the work God had given her without prayer.
God’s word makes it clear that, without prayer, none of us can survive or be effective as Christians. Not because voicing our needs makes them better but because “without [Jesus we] can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NKJV)
Prayer is simply us recognizing our weakness, acknowledging Christ’s strength and sufficiency, and placing all our dependence on Him alone.
However, recognizing our need to pray doesn’t make it any easier. Prayer is both necessary and incredibly hard.
Why It's Hard
There are many reasons why prayer is hard. To begin with, it’s a powerful spiritual discipline. Both our flesh and the devil resist powerful spiritual disciplines.
It’s hard to stay focused, it’s hard to wait for results, it’s hard to understand God’s answers, and it’s hard to find the time.
And while there are aspects of prayer that may never get easier (such as engaging in spiritual warfare), I believe much of our difficulty with prayer is because we have never been taught how to pray.
Lord Teach Us to Pray
“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’” (Luke 11:1, NKJV)
When the disciples watched Jesus pray, they realized they didn’t know how to pray like that. And they wanted to learn! So, they asked the Lord to teach them. We would do well to follow their example.
Several years ago, I began to recognize I needed to grow in the disciple of prayer. Even though I had been a Christian for most of my life, I felt like I was still a beginner in praying. So, I began to ask the Lord to teach me. During this time, I was meeting regularly with a mentor and a few other girls. I remember telling them about my desire to learn to pray and asking them to pray for me. Little did I expect how quickly God would answer that request!
Within a week an opportunity opened up for me to meet with a prayer warrior in my church once a week. We spent half our time together going through a Bible study on prayer and the other half was spent praying for specific needs.
As I grew in my understanding of how prayer works and as I listened to others pray, I started to feel like I was finally becoming effective in prayer! I was learning to understand how to pray Biblically, how to resist the enemy, how to persevere in prayer, and most importantly I became more in awe of my God and His power, greatness, mercy, and love.
Five practical steps.
If you want to grow in prayer and have never intentionally spent time learning how to pray Biblically, start by daily bringing this desire to the Lord. He wants to teach you even more than you want to learn.
Next, I encourage you to share this desire with other believers and ask them to join you in seeking the Lord to help you grow in this area. There is power in the body of Christ coming together to pray for one another.
After spending some time praying over this, find a more mature believer who you could learn from. Maybe you know a prayer warrior in your church who would meet and pray with you regularly.
Another incredible option is to see if your church hosts a weekly prayer meeting. Prayer meetings are a great opportunity to learn from other prayer warriors and a safe place to practice and grow in prayer.
The last great way to learn about prayer is by reading books on prayer. I’ve especially found the biographies of prayer warriors in Christian history very challenging! I would suggest reading resources recommended by your pastor or believers in your church that you trust and respect rather than just doing a google search. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations!
Prayer is hard work. But it’s also incredibly powerful and important work. When we pray, we call on God who created the universe and holds it all in His hands asking Him to work in our lives. Prayer is powerful because God is powerful.
If you want to grow in prayer, I encourage you to follow the example of the disciples and ask the Lord to teach you. Then reach out to others around you to help you learn.
And then, “pray on dear one, the power lies that way.”
Loves an urban cafe as much as the smell of campfire and pine. Works in communications while studying business and non-fiction writing and is most happy when leading worship and discipling others.
Thank you for this. I do struggle with my prayer life, I do talk to God all day long but have a hard time staying still to pary and sometimes just listen.
Love to all of you,