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    Why don't we pray more often

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    AdamCollings

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    Why don't we pray more often

    Post  AdamCollings on December 2nd 2018, 7:22 pm

    Seriously, why don't we pray more often? I've been sitting here, figuratively bashing my head against my desk, for two hours. Last Thursday, I was close to understanding the cause and solution to a bug in an algorithm I'm developing for work. After a day off to help my son at school, and then a weekend, I couldn't even figure out how to reproduce the problem, let alone solve it.
    My brain was labotomising itself and I was feeling crushed under the weight of my own stresses and anxieties.

    So I prayed. I prayed out loud in my garage office, sharing my feelings of stress and Asking God to help me with this seemingly insurmountable problem.

    And within seconds of opening my eyes it popped into my head. Yes, that's the input data I was using. Now I remember. Now I'm mentally back where I was Thursday afternoon.
    I've been an actively committed Christian for about 31 years. When did prayer become a last resort, rather than the first.

    I suspect I'm not the only one.

    I'm not sure if it's pride, or maybe a lack of faith, but too often, we stubbornly try to power on in our own strength when we don't have to. I think we like to "play the grown-up" rather then come to Jesus like a child.

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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  Rohelf on December 3rd 2018, 4:19 am

    AdamCollings wrote:Seriously, why don't we pray more often?

    Because the experience you describe above is not typical for myself or many others. Because for us, prayer feels like talking to a wall. Because we get neither answers nor peace, neither sense nor comfort. Because when something fails to help again, and again, and again, eventually, you get sick of trying.
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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  AGoodReed on December 3rd 2018, 7:20 am

    Rohelf wrote:
    AdamCollings wrote:Seriously, why don't we pray more often?

    Because the experience you describe above is not typical for myself or many others.  Because for us, prayer feels like talking to a wall.  Because we get neither answers nor peace, neither sense nor comfort.  Because when something fails to help again, and again, and again, eventually, you get sick of trying.

    Unfortunately, this also squares with my experiences most of the time.
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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  WhiteBoy on December 3rd 2018, 10:27 am

    I think the Lord has been working on me regarding prayer lately as this topic has been coming up several times in my own life.  One thing that was convicting to me was an account from Voice of the Martyrs.  I don't remember for sure if it was a podcast (I believe it was) or a conference of theirs that I went to.  But the American was interviewing the native pastor (I believe he was from Iran) and the native pastor was recounting things that were happening in their church.  He was listing things like fellowships, baptisms, a sick child dying being brought in back brought back to life, Bible studies, etc.  The interviewer was like "Wait, what?! Did you just say what I think you said??"

    He went on to ask why the native thought that they had frequent amazing answers to prayer while we didn't see it that much here in America.  The pastor seemed shocked that the interviewer didn't know.  His reply was, "We don't have 911."  

    Basically, there they have no other option.  In our culture we have so much technology and medicine that we are able to do things "on our own" (though it all comes from Him) so we don't feel like we *have* to rely on God.  I think it goes back to, as you mentioned, pride.  We want to do it ourselves, and only "bother" God as a last resort.   I wonder if it kind of like that muscle that rarely gets used.  "If you don't use it, you lose it."  In a culture which is hostile to believers, you are depending on Him for everything so you have a must stronger relationship with Him.

    I am still growing in this area, so these are just a few random thoughts, but I thought I'd share.  Cuz that's what this place is for, right?  Smile


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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  Paeter on December 3rd 2018, 10:44 am

    I think another reason we don't pray is because we tend to have a very narrow view of what prayer is for, which leads to disappointment in the "results". We tend to think prayer is a thing we do to request specific change we have in mind that God can/should bring about. But often the thing we're asking for just isn't lined up with God's far better purposes for us. We just can't see that in the moment. And the more we are out of touch with God's will and his heart, the more we'll pray for things he'll be silent on or even say "no" to. That's not to say silence from God means we're sinning. But we can find prayer much more satisfying and find God much more responsive when our prayers line up more with his heart and mind.

    Prayer also falls short a lot more when I view it primarily and narrowly as "request time". I'm starting another pass through the Psalms again in my quiet time and am continually reminded of how my typical idea of prayer is just lacking a ton of the wider picture of what prayer is for.


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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  jorowi on December 3rd 2018, 1:56 pm

    Paeter wrote:Prayer also falls short a lot more when I view it primarily and narrowly as "request time".

    Imagine if you had a friend and every time s/he talked to you it was to ask for money or to help solve a problem. That wouldn't be a friendship. Similarly, God wants to take His relationship with us beyond asking for things.


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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  Rohelf on December 4th 2018, 5:26 am

    WhiteBoy wrote:His reply was, "We don't have 911."  

    Basically, there they have no other option.  In our culture we have so much technology and medicine that we are able to do things "on our own" (though it all comes from Him) so we don't feel like we *have* to rely on God.  I think it goes back to, as you mentioned, pride.  We want to do it ourselves, and only "bother" God as a last resort.   I wonder if it kind of like that muscle that rarely gets used.  "If you don't use it, you lose it."

    Wait, what? Are you really saying you think God would help people in distress as well or better than emergency responders if only they would ask? If that were true, if prayer were really so effective, why did the human race ever feel the need to set up emergency services in their cities? Why did we bother inventing things like defibrillators or fire hydrants? Do you think it was out of pride and not wanting to "bother" God? I think it was out of desperation. As the saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention."

    I'm fortunate that I've only had to call 911 once in my life. The dispatcher was rude and didn't seem very bright. Emergency services were busy that night and it took them over half an hour to arrive. But someone did answer the phone and listen to me. Someone did come and take care of the problem. I called 911 for help once, and got help once. I've called God for help I don't know how many times, and very rarely gotten any kind of tangible response at all, much less the actual help I needed. This is why people trust emergency response teams more than they trust prayer. If you were hit by a car, wouldn't you rather the bystanders call 911 instead of just pray with you?

    jorowi wrote: Imagine if you had a friend and every time s/he talked to you it was to ask for money or to help solve a problem. That wouldn't be a friendship. Similarly, God wants to take His relationship with us beyond asking for things.

    I've heard this idea before, and while I agree, I don't think it's entirely a fair comparison. In a relationship with another person, sometimes you need and they give, sometimes they need and you give. But God doesn't need anything you can give, and you need all sorts of things, sometimes things that only God can give, sometimes things you've tried to obtain mundanely and failed at. So of course you'll always be the needy one. You're human, and you won't stop needing as long as you live.

    Consider instead: Imagine if you had a friend who very rarely answered you when you spoke to him. It's not just that he says "no" to your requests or disagrees with your ideas, he just doesn't respond. 19 out of 20 times you speak to him, you get no words, no expressions, no acknowledgement at all. He never explains why this is, he never suggests an easier way to get his attention, he just continues to ignore most of what you say. That wouldn't be much of a friendship, and you'd probably just stop trying to talk to him altogether before long.
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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  Paeter on December 4th 2018, 9:54 am

    Rohelf wrote:

    Consider instead: Imagine if you had a friend who very rarely answered you when you spoke to him.  It's not just that he says "no" to your requests or disagrees with your ideas, he just doesn't respond.  19 out of 20 times you speak to him, you get no words, no expressions, no acknowledgement at all.  He never explains why this is, he never suggests an easier way to get his attention, he just continues to ignore most of what you say.  That wouldn't be much of a friendship, and you'd probably just stop trying to talk to him altogether before long.  

    Like all metaphors, at some point the "friendship" metaphor breaks down. We can try to describe relationship with God in terms of human relationships, but in the end it's just radically different from them. Especially since God's means of "speaking" to us are non-verbal or, very often for me when outside of scripture, through other people.

    So there are lots of factors in this issue of prayer that have to be considered, such as what we're praying for and expecting as a response, what prayer is and is for (as modeled in scripture), how available we make ourselves (emotionally and situationally) to the various ways God chooses to respond(and on that I think local church community is huge) and other factors.


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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  WhiteBoy on December 4th 2018, 3:51 pm

    Rohelf wrote:Wait, what?  Are you really saying you think God would help people in distress as well or better than emergency responders if only they would ask?  

    Sorry, I guess I did not make the point clear.   The point was that we rely on ourselves rather than relying on God.  I read a good, relative passage just this morning, so I wanted to come back to this thread to share: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.

    • The first thing that jumped out to me when I read the passage was the point I was trying to make earlier.  As Paul puts it in verse 10, "when I am weak, then I am strong."  If we think of ourselves as strong, we will not depend on the Lord.  But it is when we realize that we are weak and become more dependent on God that we become strong.  It's because of His strength...not our own.
    • The other thing I thought of is that Paul prayed three times that God would remove his "thorn in the flesh."  I'm sure he felt as we all do...frustrated and wondering why the Lord would not answer or deliver him.  He provides some answers: to keep him humble, and to demonstrate God's grace.


    Paeter also provided some good insight in that prayers get answered when they are according to His will.


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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  AdamCollings on December 4th 2018, 5:38 pm

    Rohelf wrote:Because for us, prayer feels like talking to a wall.

    Believe me, I've felt that too. And I've cried out "Why aren't you listening to me?" more than once.


    I want to clarify that in my original post, I was having a little go at myself, but I did not intend to cast any form of judgement or condemnation against anybody else, despite my use of the word "we" and my statement "I'm sure I'm not the only one".

    And while the context of my post was specifically about praying for help in our needs, I totally agree with Peater that prayer is much more than just asking for things.
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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  Rohelf on December 5th 2018, 4:59 am

    You know, if prayer works out for you guys, whether in the sense of getting help or answers or just a sense of peace, that's great. I don't mean that in a sarcastic way, either. That's good, and you keep doing what works for you. But for many people, it is just an exercise in frustration and futility. That's the answer to the initial "why" question posed in the title of the thread, and I think we all knew that before this conversation started. It's the same reason why people stop dieting: they feel like they're putting in too much effort and getting too little result. If you're not losing weight, why keep torturing yourself? If you're not getting a response, why keep sending messages? No one should have to put themselves through that for nothing. No one should expect someone else to put themselves through that.

    I keep hearing people say things like "it works, you just need to change your understanding of what "working"" means. That's just a convoluted way of saying it doesn't actually work. It's not just about prayer that I hear this sort of statement either. Sometimes it's about fitness programs, or psychological tricks. Anything where results from doing a thing tend to vary widely rather than being more consistent. "It works, but you have to believe it'll work." "It works if you just want the right things." It's like people are afraid to admit that the thing only works sometimes, so they have to insist the problem is with you. It works, it works, it always works, if you do it right and understand properly and align yourself carefully and adjust your expectations. If it didn't work for you you must not have done all that correctly and then of course you can't expect anything. But if you fulfill all the little picky conditions, and don't expect too much, and just happen to be lucky, why then it works so well it's just AMAZING. Why don't more people just do this simple, amazing thing?

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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  Paeter on December 5th 2018, 10:11 am

    Speaking only for myself, I wouldn't characterize my thought's on prayer as "afraid to admit that the thing only works sometimes". I do think there's a good amount of self-delusion in prayer among Christians. And I can imagine being in that mental space (afraid to admit prayer doesn't work) if I viewed prayer a certain way. But looking at the actual biblical definitions and models of prayer we're supposed to learn from in the Psalms and in Christ, prayer works for me and Holly, even when we repeatedly don't get the response we want from God. (That doesn't remove the problems we're praying about, however.) But to see that truth (which I often fail to) I have to repeatedly let go of the manufactured purpose I've tended to assign to prayer because of some bad teaching/thinking I picked up somewhere along the way.

    Adam's initial question is so broad, even though somewhat presented in the context of "request prayer" specifically. And we can all throw our two cents in the pot, but there are no short, summary, exhaustive answers to this question because we're all so different and experiencing such different lives.

    I can connect some with the feelings you're expressing, Kim. I know we haven't been through the grinder that you have, but for years now, Holly and I (especially Holly) have been met with silence regarding some things we've been urgently praying for that I won't get into.

    This also ties into "why does God allow suffering". And "unanswered prayer in the midst of struggles" also ties into what you and I were last interacting about via e-mail, Kim. Ultimately, it's an issue tied to individual lives and experiences. We can only get so far exploring it in this general (almost theoretical and coldly academic) sense on a public forum before we need to explore it individually with solid believers, counselors and/or mentors in our offline personal lives, if we want to get closer to the bottom of our individual feelings on prayer (and by extension, our feelings about God himself).

    That said, I really appreciate everyone's honesty and openness in looking at this issue as best we've been able to here.


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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  AGoodReed on December 8th 2018, 8:01 am

    For me, prayer has always been difficult because I'm very easily distracted by my own mind. It wanders quite a bit, especially when I'm trying to focus on important things. On top of that, I get hung up on the whole idea of God knowing what I need before I ask for it...and knowing whether I'm actually going to ask for it or not...and having a plan in place that I can't possibly screw up no matter what I do. So I can really get in the weeds wondering what difference asking for things makes.

    But even taking out the request-making aspect of prayer, I still have trouble with the reverence and worshipfulness part. I'm not a very emotional person a lot of the time, especially towards someone I can't see or hear. I'm very bad at conjuring up feelings; and again, getting distracted all the time doesn't help. Plus I get bored saying, "Thank you," for the same things every day, to be honest. Yes, I'm thankful for food and water and family and a home, and logically, I know God is worthy of every bit of glory we can possibly give him. But I know I would get annoyed if someone I knew just always thanked me for the same thing every time we talked. It's hard to not project my feelings onto God.

    The thing it comes down to for me is that God told us to do this. Even though it's hard and often feels fruitless, I know that he's in control, so if he told me to do something, he's got a good reason.

    (Now if only I could get that through my head regarding evangelism...)
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    Re: Why don't we pray more often

    Post  WhiteBoy on December 11th 2018, 11:35 am

    I can relate very much with what you are saying, Reed.  I have asked myself, "If God is sovereign, what difference does my prayer make?  What difference does my evangelism make?"  But I think you have already answered that in your post: He has told us to.  More often than not, the Lord works through the prayers and actions of people.  He has ordained that that's how He wants to accomplish things, and we are privileged to be involved.  Prayer is a way to align our will with His.  (Notice prayer is not about aligning His will with ours.)

    Here is an acronym that was shared with me and helps me with prayer: ACTS.  Though I really like it, I still do not always practice it.  Here is an explanation of the acronym and some suggestions that have been given to me over the years.


    • Adoration - We can learn a lot from Psalms on this.  David especially did so well at praising the Lord for His attributes. A suggestion is to try to pick a particular attribute of God and focus on praising Him for that attribute and reflect on what that means.  This will change with each prayer, and help break the monotony that we tend to fall into.
    • Confession - This is the time where we confess our sins, which is to agree with God about our sin.  We can try to see ourselves from a holy God's perspective and see what areas of our lives we have fallen short.  The more specific we can be about our confession the better.
    • Thanksgiving - This is the part to which you are referring to, by being thankful for food, water, family, etc.  We tend to take things for granted, so it's an opportunity to try to guard against that.  Maybe something to try would be focus on a particular thing you are thankful for.  Also, a suggestion could be focus on the immaterial like relationships, ways that a certain person has blessed you, etc.  Every good thing comes from God.
    • Supplication - This is the part we're good at.  Smile  It's the list of needs and wants that we are asking of Him.  Maybe a suggestion here could be to focus on our dependence on Him to provide for our every need.  


    As I've already said, this is an area in which I need lots of work, so I am no expert.  These are just some suggestions given to me over the years and some things that I personally try to think of when praying.


    Last edited by WhiteBoy on December 12th 2018, 4:30 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : minor tweaks)


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