Prayer – not an easy thing

Prayer – not an easy thing

Alison-ChristianPrayer is difficult; let’s face it. To start is easy; to persevere is hard. I always liken it to what happens after the London Marathon. Immediately after the race you see quite a few more runners out on the streets than usual, all starting to train for the following year. But when it is cold, when the rain and wind sets in, when it is grey and dull and all you want to do is pull the blankets over your head and stay snug in your bed, then the runners become fewer.

Someone has said that prayer is particularly difficult for modern, western people because we all come from a culture which says we have to become competent at anything we take on. We talk about “conquering skills,” meaning to be able to do something with ease and ability. But prayer isn’t like that. In fact prayer is almost the opposite of that. However long we may have been praying we always feel like beginners; and alongside the deep and meaningful experiences we might have every now and then, there are days when we are bored or cross or so distracted that at the end of our time of prayer we feel no better than we started. We are not helped if we think that there is a technique which once mastered will open the door into the heavenly kingdom. Techniques do help to start us off: learning about prayer from those who have prayed over the years helps. But in the end we have to understand why we pray it and then just do it. Prayer is something we practice.

Prayer is not an end in itself. It is about God communicating with us. Its long term aim is to help us conform our wills to the will of God, because what God will for us and for all is life and health and freedom

Thy kingdom come; thy will be done.

It is to be in God’s presence, the creature with the Creator.

The first and main thing we have to realise in prayer is that we cannot make it work or “happen.” However we are going to pray, we simply place ourselves in God’s presence to wait on him, attend to him and to receive from him. We are not passive because we try to be awake and alert but we are not the prime movers, either. All we can do is put ourselves there, make ourselves available and trust. If we persevere God, who makes the buried seeds sprout out of sight in the dark earth, will grow from seeds hidden deep within us, his fruit in due season. If we persevere we will begin to find that prayer “works” but explaining how it works, well that is not an easy thing.