Another common obstacle to prayer is an enslavement to “feeling.”
“I don’t feel like it.”
They assume that prayers are only efficacious when they rise from an eager and emotional heart. We should keep our appointment with God, whether we feel like it or not. The meek submission of our will deepens our surrender; our resolution to engage in prayer strengthens thought control.
Faith, not feeling, measures the efficacy of prayer.
There are many obstacles to having a strong prayer life and none more employed and observed than the lack of time or busy-ness. It’s a shallow obstacle because we clearly find time for less important things–entertainment and friends. We rarely use that excuse meaningfully to excuse our lack of time spent with those closest to us. Christ stole time from his sleep to pray. Just begin with 15 minutes/day and try to grow that over time.
Often I hear about people “church shopping.” This makes a lot of sense on one hand because when someone moves to a new community they should probably check out a few churches to see where they might fit best or where the doctrine/beliefs match their own. Sometimes this might also happen to someone who has experienced severe conflict in a church which makes them uncomfortable to return and continue there. But the language “shopping” with church really is not the best approach to finding a church home. It implies that the individual is a consumer looking for a church that will “meet my needs.”
I’m glad people want to find a church home. But looking for a church that meets my needs is an unbiblical statement. The church becomes a product to consume. “We loved the children’s programming but the sermons are really boring.”
God has called us to be spiritual contributors. The church does not exist for us. We are the church, and we exist for the world. I am here to serve God and to love people. I exist to make a difference. God created me to be a blessing to others.
So ask yourself: Am I more of a consumer or contributor? If you are a Christ-follower, hopefully you are a valuable part of a life-giving church.Do you drop your kids off in the nursery (without ever serving there), drink some free coffee, enjoy the service, then pick up your kids and go home? If so, you’re a consumer.
On the other hand, do you use your gifts to make a difference? Do you invite people to your church? Do you pray faithfully for church leaders? Do you give consistently of your finances? Do you serve passionately? Then you’re more of a contributor.
I’m not trying to be mean or make you feel guilty. I simply want you to be honest with yourself. If you are using your life to be a blessing to others today, then later you will relish sharing the stories that God allows you to tell. If you’re more focused on yourself than serving others, you’re going to end up with many blank pages–lost blessings that you can find only by contributing what God created you to give to the world.
Why don’t true followers of Christ embrace the lifestyle of a Christ-centered disciple and disciple-maker?
- An inability to say “no.” Most Christians are too busy. We have allowed the world to set our life’s schedule. You can’t say “no” until you have a bigger “yes.” To have a bigger “yes,” you have to know God’s priorities from his Word, which also gives you the biblical principles to make wise decisions.
- Shortchanging your alone time with the Lord.
- Living beyond your means.
- Forfeiting the opportunity to give sacrificially.
- Neglecting to fast.
- Succumbing to sexual sin.
I struggle with some of these in different seasons so I understand the ease in which we slide out of being Christ-centered. But hopefully this list will remind us to re-orient ourselves and get “right” again with the help of the Holy Spirit.
What Jesus said in John 14:13-14 is hard for people to understand, yet believe. Jesus promises that he would answer our prayers no matter how great the request. This is not a blank check to satisfy our whimsical desires. There are parameters around Jesus’ promise from parallel passages.
We must ask:
- in faith (Matthew 21:22)
- in agreement with other believers (Mt. 18:19)
- in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-16; 16:23-26)
- according to His will (1 John 5:14-15)
- while obeying His word (Jn. 15:7; 1 Jn. 3:22)
- and bearing fruit for Him (Jn. 15:16).
The promise does not apply where we ask selfishly or with the wrong motives (Mark 10:35; James 4:2-3).
So what shall we request?
Jesus told us to ask for at least three things:
- The Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)
- Workers in the harvest (Mt. 9:38)
- and wisdom (James 1:5).
Our greatest error is not that we ask inappropriately or that we ask for the wrong things, but that we don’t ask at all (Luke 11:9; Ephesians 3:20).
Dear Pastor Marcus,
We think you’re asking way too much from us. In an average WEEK you think we should attend worship, a class or group, serve at least one hour, AND give of our finances. And then you say at home we should take time each DAY to read the Bible and pray for a few minutes. That doesn’t even include your idea that we should be investing and inviting unchurched people so they might have a relationship with God and a church family. We think you are expecting way too much from us. We’ve got things to do, places to be, mouths to feed, golf to play.
When we prayed that prayer to have Jesus in our hearts, we thought we were done. We got a “get out of hell free” card and we’re grateful for that and the future hope of Heaven, but we can’t imagine that God would expect MORE from us. We know Jesus came to earth and died for us. Yes, we’ve heard all about how we have to take up our cross daily, imitate Christ, surrender our lives to him. But we think that’s unrealistic. We just don’t have time, money, or energy for Jesus or His bride, the Church.
We’ve gone to church for years and even went to Sunday school as kids. So we know all we need to know about God, Jesus, and the church. We’re not bad people. We’ve got a few hang-ups but we don’t really need much more work on our souls. Mark needs help (he’s not bad either but he still hasn’t gotten into the habit of putting the toilet seat down!). But we’ve pretty much grown as much as we can spiritually. What we really need is a new car!
You can keep telling us what the Bible teaches (we really like your humor!) but we thought we might save you some time. We’re not changing. We’ll keep doing the same things the same ways so keep any of those thoughts to yourself. We will come to church (when we don’t have a late Saturday night), go to an occasional all-church event (we love the cooking in this church!), give when we have extra money (and not saving for that car!), but you can stop the call to commitment. Jesus gave up everything for us, but we think He’s quite content with what we have to offer.
Mark and Mary Member
Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse who worked in palliative care for years, wrote about what she learned were the things most regretted by those dying in a blog post at the beginning of the year. CLICK HERE TO SEE HER POST.
According to Ware, these are the top five regrets of the dying:
- I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. “Health brings a freedom few realize, until they no longer have it.”
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. “This came from every male patient that I nursed.”
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others.”
- I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends. “It all comes down to love and relationships in the end.”
- I wish I’d let myself be happier. “Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind.”
Do any of these surprise you? Which one do you most readily identify with?