Written by cycleguy on January 12th, 2012

(Said in a whiny voice)  “AAAAHHHH DO I HAVE TO?”

Man, I would love to have a dollar for every time I said those words to my mother.  (I would also like to have a dollar for every time she applied the “hand of knowledge to the seat of the problem” when I got too rebellious while using that).   As a parent I would love to have a dollar for every time I heard that from my two angels (who never used that so I would be broke).   Cough cough!  🙂

Make no mistake about it: prayer is often looked on in the same way.  From the put-the-hammer-down-lay-on-the-guilt-trip pastors to the apathetic church goer, prayer is a mystery.  For some it is a necessary evil.  For others it is their life-blood.  For some it is an add-on.  For others they wouldn’t even think of beginning their day without it.  The excuses/reasons for those views vary.  Some of it just plain comes down to “I don’t know how”, and don’t understand it.

Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.  Martin Luther

But I think one of the most common excuses reasons given is “I don’t have time.”   When growing up, it was ingrained in me to meet God in the morning.  I can remember mom getting up and we would meet in the living room for reading Our Daily Bread and prayer before I went off to school. Even then I was a morning person.  So, getting up early to have my Quiet Time (QT) is easy for me.  But nighttime?  Forget it!  A bed is made for sleeping, not reading (so my body tells me).   The mentality we have adopted is seen in this quote:

He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find him the rest of the day.”  John Bunyan

While I respect Bunyan (his Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic), I think he missed the boat here. It is in thinking that the morning is the only time to meet with God that people latch onto the whole I-am-too-busy-to-pray idea.   We miss that morning appointment and feel guilty. Then our day gets so busy that we don’t have time.  Evening comes and we zone out.  Next day: same song, second verse.

I want prayer to be exciting…for me…for others.  I don’t want it to feel like sludge in my life…or theirs…or yours.  Sunday is my attempt to talk about the simplicity of prayer.  I am stealing borrowing Bill Hybels’ book title, Too Busy Not To Pray, for my message.  I plan to share more on Monday’s blog about the “guts” of the message, but until then, do you have trouble not relegating prayer to a “have-to” state?  Do you find joy in it? 


44 Comments so far ↓

  1. Dan Black says:

    Taking the time to pray is so important. I recently heard another pastor say, “I’m too busy not to pray.” I try and pray throughout the day and being more intentional about setting time apart to pray. I have a park near by where I take my dog and while she is playing I’m praying.

    • cycleguy says:

      I admire someone who can pray throughout the day (while driving for example) and have a set time. I have to be more intentional. Thanks Dan.

  2. Jon says:

    Guilty. There has definitely been moments where my prayers have been forced. The thing is, most of the time, with those type of prayers, I get nothing out of them. Yet, when I actually take time to pray, then I actually get something out of those moments.

    We’re total opposites…I’m such a nightowl. 🙂

    • cycleguy says:

      I can attest to “get nothing” fact when prayers are forced. Such a big difference between feeling forced and wanting to. Yep, opposites. Too bad you got the short end of the stick. 😛

  3. lindaM says:

    Hi Bill,
    I’ve been slipping in my prayer time lately. I’ve got the Bible reading habit pretty consistent but prayer consistency comes and goes.
    I find there are times that I want to pray. When I heard about the little girl passing away that day in your post I cried a few tears in bed that night and prayed to God. It was sad 🙁
    When I read or hear something that sparks my zeal for the things of God, I want to pray. I want to rejoice in God and pray with intensity to him in these times. I want to thank God. Praying comes easy, time goes by fast. Sometimes I could pray nearly an hour and it feels like 20 minutes.

    I pray thoughout the day as well but I’m desirous of trying to get that 1/2 hr prayer in every day or every other day or so. This is a time period or goal that I have established for myself. Other people don’t have to necessarily do this.

    Sometimes prayer for me is a ‘have to’. I think it’s wise to make time to pray to God. It’s relationship building with Him. It’s receiving from Him, it’s petitioning Him for our needs or the needs of others. In my mind there’s a cost to a believer who consistently neglects prayer.

    Prayer is not legalistic, it’s absolutely needed in the believer’s life. Cease from praying for a few weeks and I believe a person will feel like they are floating away from God. He starts to feel distant, and far off.

    We have to draw close to God. Prayer is a good way to do this.

    • cycleguy says:

      First, thanks for praying for the family that lost the little girl. Memorial service is a week from this Sunday. That is when prayers will really be needed. I have that same problem Linda, of reading my bible but slacking on the prayer. But, as you state, there is a cost to not having some serious prayer. Thanks for the comment.

      • lindaM says:

        I will pray for the family and next weekend. They have to put their little girl in the ground. That simply brings tears to my eyes.
        I pray the name and provision of Jesus in this task for the couple. This is the time for us and them to cry out to God and ask for what they need in order to do this funeral. For you too Bill, as you perform the service.

        God provided a lamb for Abraham, and the Bible says in a real sense Abraham received Isaac back from the dead. This little life has been noticed by God.

  4. Jason says:

    I used to hate prayer years ago but now I love to do it. And I wake up in the morning to listen to the Bible in a Year reading in a podcast and then pray. Gets me ready for the day!

  5. Susan says:

    Yeah, I’ve been in that “your first thought in the morning should be of God”. I’m not spiritual enough for that, I’m afraid. My first thought is, “How soon will that coffee be ready?” Then I sit down and sip and pray and listen.

    I do pray just the same. I have a list of people for whom I pray often. One important thing that I’m beginning to understand is the importance of sitting in silence and waiting to hear from God. Sometimes I find myself just talking out loud to God during the day about situations, frustrations, aggravations, people He brings to mind. My favorite, though, is taking a solitary walk and worshiping Him as I enjoy the beauty of His creation.

    • cycleguy says:

      You coffee-holics! 🙂 I don’t think it matters to God what our schedule is. It is just being in His presence that matters. You are practicing “pray without ceasing” in your daily walk. That is really what God wants. Thanks Susan.

      • Susan says:

        Thanks, Bill. I could probably switch over to decaf with little problem. I’m down from 3 or 4 mugs full of caffeinated from three years ago. I just like me a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Blame it on my dad if you like. He started me young. 🙂

  6. Craig says:

    My heart is being transformed in this. I’m good at throwing up some of the checklist prayer requests: “God, be with so & so, heal this person, be with Juli and I, give me strength….amen.”

    I’m not good at the listening part. Waiting for God to speak to me. Just waiting. Being still. Worshipping.

    The “I don’t have time” argument can usually be remedied with 1)no snooze button 2) getting up 20 min earlier 3) cutting out 30 min of tv 4) cutting out facebook for 30 min – there is a lot of time out there to be had…we just don’t use it very wisely.

    • cycleguy says:

      I’m not good at the listening part either Craig. Takes some time and discipline. Truth is: we can find the time if we want to. Good suggestions. Thanks.

  7. Wow, I love that Luther quote. A problem I have, which I’m ashamed to admit, is that praying intercessory prayers for others often feels like that. I’m pretty good at just talking about me and my problems, but when I pray for others I feel like I’m checking things off a to-do list.

    • cycleguy says:

      Know what you mean Loren. I use a prayer list and sometimes I feel like it is a checklist. “Okay done with that one. On to the next.” But I sometimes wonder if God is okay with that simply because we are praying for someone else. Thanks for your honesty.

  8. Arny says:

    Weekend for prayer#2 at my blog today…

    thanks again for all this inspiration Bill…

    God bless!

  9. Jim F says:

    I definitely have times where I fail to see how important my prayers are. I have made prayer not only a carved out time but a constant conversation happening in my head with God throughout my day which has been helpful in many areas but especially with not being too busy to pray.

    Good thoughts.

  10. jenn says:

    This may be a bad comparison, but to me prayer is kind of like exercise. What I mean is that I start to think about exercising as just something on my to-do list that I HAVE to do whether I want to or not. But when I take the time to do it, I feel so much better and I’m really glad I did it.

    Not that I dread prayer or anything, but sometimes I put it off and put it off because I think I don’t have time. Then it’s just a hurried prayer at the end of the day that doesn’t mean much. I am getting better about anticipating my prayer time, but I have to be honest and say there are times that I struggle with it. I’m really trying to focus on prayer this year because I know how incredibly important it is.

    • cycleguy says:

      Not a bad comparison at all Jenn. Right on the money actually. Putting prayer off can be compared to putting exercise off i.e. I will get to it tomorrow. Good focus. Thanks.

  11. Adrian W. says:

    We’re in the stress chapter of “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” right now and it focuses on prayer. I’d suggest looking to that as a resource if you think of it.

    • cycleguy says:

      Thanks for visiting my blog Adrian. Went to see yours. Saw that you attend MCC. I attended KCC (now KCU) but really claim no allegiance to it or the doctrinal leanings. but it is good to hear from you. Hope you visit again.

  12. Moe says:

    Prayer is hard. It’s certainly the hardest “discipline” for me. I can give a quick prayer without hesitating, but losing myself in prayer for hours is difficult for me.

    A lot of that is because of the understanding of prayer. It’s one of those things that we never really understand. And to be honest, prayer reveals more about us than it does about God. I can’t tell God something he already knows. So when I pray, I listen to all my hypocracies, all my failures, all my immaturity, all my pride (when I pray more for me than for others) and frankly, it’s embarrassing. So much that you even contemplate not being transparent with God (as if He doesn’t already know).

    I’m learning a few things about prayer as I go through the Gospels. Especially the focus of “Kingdom” prayer. Specifically when Jesus thought his Disciples how to pray. Very interesting.

    • cycleguy says:

      You are right Moe. It is hard. It is a discipline. After year so many still pray the “now I lay me down to sleep” prayers. Hoping you will share those lessons in your Disciplus blog.

  13. lindaM says:

    Hi Bill,
    Prayer for me is often a mixture or combination of types of praying in one session so to speak.

    My prayers for others or their needs is often intermixed with praise, thanksgiving to God, praying with my spiritual tongues,
    lifting my hands and worshiping God and so on. This helps to keep our prayers from being a reading of a ‘to do list’ in our prayer time with God.
    Prayer is really a time with God and not a time to get it over with so that we can get onto the more interesting and important parts of our day. There are times when prayer is like this, but with persistence and practice of varying and working on our prayers with God a kind of JOY begins to show up.

    This doesn’t happen overnight. We are working with God in our prayers. Put on a inspiring worship song and spend 5 minutes at the beginning of our prayer time worshiping, praising, thanking, adoring, loving, extolling God before we move into petitioning.
    There’s no particular order of things. It’s what works for us on that day or time. I almost always start my regular set aside 1/2 hr prayer time with God by praise and worship, extolling and thanksgiving for a few minutes of time.

    He’s the LORD, the Creator, the giver of life, the one who holds our whole exisitence together. He is worthy of our bowing, submitting, obedience, love, our homage, the raising of our hands, the speaking of our tongue to extol Him.
    He is worthy. He is our God. Let’s not be trite about our time with Him. Let’s use our prayer time to give Him what he deserves from us.

    Throughout this process of prayer with God we can bring forth our needs, our petitions, our prayers for others, etc. We can pray with God about our sins, ask for wisdom, understanding, an obedient heart, the work of his Holy Spirit to change us where we see changes are needed in us. Prayer to God to change our thinking, give us the mind of Christ.

    The potential for topics and communion with God is unlimited. It doesn’t have to be a drudgery and boring. It does require discipline. There are times when we seem to be on remote control. But then…… there are times when we are praying amazingly effective prayers with God.

    The effective, righteous prayer avails much the Bible says.

  14. floyd says:

    I agree with some of the other readers, praying is a discipline, like going to church. It is the process of “drawing nigh” so that He “draws nigh unto us.”

    For me without a fairly in depth study on a regular basis, even the prayer life begins to pull up short.

    I’m praying for your teaching this Sunday, God bless.

  15. Prayer has become a large part of my life. I have always prayed before bedtime, that was just instilled in me as a small child and I never go to bed without taking some time to pray. But about 2 years ago, I felt the need to do something more, so after some reflection, I started a Prayer Chain on Twitter,(@Ask4Prayer) and taking the time out of my day to stop and pray for others has transformed my life. By focusing on the needs of others and not on my own needs has led me to a much greater appreciation for what God has given me. It has “opened doors” to me that I never thought possible. And has even in some small way led me here via posting my own blog. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Luke 11(I like Luke’s version because it is not the one usually studied) and my favorite verse in the Bible is Luke 11:9.
    I look forward to seeing what you have to say on Monday.

    • cycleguy says:

      Knowing something is wrong and doing something about it are two different things. Glad to see you took the action step Sele. I am not on Twitter but I hope whoever is and reads this will take advantage of your prayer chain. Thanks. Oh, hope I don’t disappoint on Monday. 🙂

      • lindaM says:

        Sele, your twitter prayer chain sounds awesome. I am not on twitter either. What a thought of prayers being bounced all over the world by the hundreds of thousands every day through twitter! Maybe even every hour. Talk about continuous prayer before God! God can handle all of this prayer and way more besides. His capacity is unlimited.

  16. cycleguy says:

    To all: Friday is my day off so I spend much less time on the computer. I had to drive an hour away to get an oil leak taken care of so I was unable to respond in a timely fashion. Thanks for commenting and being patient.

  17. “A” to-the “men”! I was always told growing up that the morning was the only time to have focused time with God, and usually Psalm 5 was quoted with this (“In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”) It’s great that David used the term “morning” in his poetry, but this wasn’t meant to be a formula! There are mornings after a run on occasion that I have time before work and will spend time in the Word and prayer, but if I don’t do it then there will be other times available, and I think the grace of God extends into all hours of the day 🙂 Good post, Pastor Grandi!

  18. Larry Hughes says:

    I would guess that every one has a bout of forced prayer time in their busy life.

    I don’t really think that God cares when or how you pray but that you take the time to pray when you are sincere and seek Him earnestly.

    Being some what of a maverick, I think differently. I feel that if it is just a simple word to say “Hello God, I am thinking of you and give thanks for this day” can be considered a valid prayer in Jesus’ name.

    Perhaps I am wrong but I have never been one to say lengthy prayers that would put me or other people to sleep. He already knows what you are going to say so I just keep it short and sweet.

    • cycleguy says:

      Like you, Larry, I don’t say lengthy prayers. It is a sin to bore people and I don’t want to do that. Not intentionally anyway. 🙂 I also have no trouble addressing God without a bunch of flowery words. Thanks Larry.

  19. Tom says:

    Great honesty and topic. Bill you know I have shared many times with you my practice. I treasure my intimacy time with God most mornings. I agree that prayer should not be delegated nor legalized by man. This must be personal for each person. We most likely know if we are giving Him our first fruits of our time or what is left overs. I vividly remember sharing the blessing in my life once I began kneeling before God each morning and having someone in a very whiney voice ask me if I thought they really had to kneel…Of course not, however is that too much to ask before God (if you physically can)? I have to but not because I have to…hope that makes sense as I LOVE that time. The first thing in the morning has worked for me even if it is because I want to give Him me before I give me to anything or anyone else, including myself. I say that knowing full well God meets us anytime and anywhere. Thank you for showing that is our love for God that is more important than how or when we pray. Blessings to your service tomorrow.

    • cycleguy says:

      I admire (and envy) your practice Tom. Your posts on your site show this dedication to your time with God. Your heart is in tune with His.