Hands on a Bible

Knowing What to Pray

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Hello, friends. Have you ever had anxiety around your prayer life, wondering whether you are praying in a way that is ‘correct’ or ‘effective’? In this article, I would like to share how I recently overcame a kind of blockage in my prayer life which was making me feel very frustrated.

In recent years, I have always prayed a short prayer each morning, prayed throughout the day when I felt troubled or thankful, and then had an extended session of what I refer to as ‘quality prayer time’ every Sunday. This always worked well for me. I always found my Sunday prayer time helped me to feel focused and at peace. It was a time when I could share all my troubles with God, releasing them and asking for His help. It also prepared me psychologically to go into a new week.

Recently, however, I have been struggling in my prayer life. Here’s something I wrote in my journal which expresses how I’ve been feeling:

I am weighed down by the darkness and evil of the world, I can do nothing right, I feel like I am angering the God who I love and who I want to please. All of my thoughts are confused, I am angry and frustrated. Will God ever bring me to the rest He keeps promising me? Mixed signals and pulls in different directions are all I experience each day. One minute I am assured and secure, the next minute I feel pathetic and like I am letting God down. After all my years as a Christian, how is it that I can still feel so conflicted?

Why does God not show me the path He would have me take? Or has He done so in His Word and I am too afraid to obey and follow? But the Lord speaks to me, orders me to rest, and tells me my work is done, yet each day I wake up again feeling frustrated to not be at peace. I watch Christian TV, I read the Bible, I pray the Lord’s prayer. I try to be pure in my actions and behaviour. Every preacher is teaching something different, yet I need to understand more of God’s Word. Or maybe I don’t?

I prostrate myself before God and as soon as I open my mouth to pray He brings a heaviness over me, like He doesn’t want me to speak. So I stay quiet for fear of His wrath and stand up again. What am I doing wrong? Jesus, help me! I am sorry if I am sinning. But does God want me to be more assertive and pray with more confidence? He used to let me speak my mind in prayer, and it was such a dear blessing. Now I don’t know what to say. So I will pray in the way the Lord Jesus commanded me. I will say the Lord’s prayer each day and that only. But is that really enough? God, help me. Amen.

Not long after writing this in my journal, I was watching some YouTube videos, and someone was talking about prayer and how to keep things simple. I often feel a responsibility and a burden to step out into situations that frighten me in order to obey certain teachings of Jesus (e.g. to pick up my cross daily and follow Him), and this means that my prayers are often filled with anxious petitioning, as I seek comfort from God and strength to step out in faith.

In this time of lockdown, I often feel like I should be making more of an effort to establish a small group and discuss the End Times (a subject which feels very important right now) and Scripture in general. I almost feel like I should be stepping into situations where I could potentially be persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, as fearful as that is. I think that what fuels this mindset is a desire to give everything for God, so I can feel I am obeying Him and His Word wholeheartedly, and therefore be in right standing with Him and a doer of the Word rather than simply a hearer.

However, this attitude is rather like carrying the weight of the world on one’s shoulders, and sometimes God’s plans for one’s life aren’t necessarily about stepping into fearful situations (though they can be sometimes). We mustn’t forget that someone’s life can be transformed by a simple gesture — a smile or a ‘how are you?’, for instance.

I decided, after watching the video I mentioned, that I’m going to take a new approach to prayer. Every day, I’m going to do two things:

  1. Say the Lord’s Prayer.
  2. Each morning, ask the Lord what He would like me to do today.

As soon as I resolved to do this, an amazing peace came over me, and all of the angst and stress I was feeling melted away. I set up recurring daily reminders in my ‘Things To Do’ app to say these two prayers each day.

Today when I asked God what He would like me to do today, He said “watch some YouTube videos” (I have recently been watching a lot of videos about the End Times and also the debate about dispensationalism and covenant theology, which is fairly new to me) and “do some Bible reading”. These two things are what God wants me to do today, and now I know that’s His will, I can relax and obey.

Incidentally, I expect God will ask me to do different things on different days, and I expect some days to be more challenging than others. One day it might be visiting a friend, another day it might be studying a certain area of Biblical theology. Maybe some days I will have to step into frightening situations. But asking God to tell me what to do each day will help me to pace myself in my journey with Christ, as well as give me the peace of mind that comes with knowing I am doing God’s will each day, whatever that involves.

The struggle I was having came not so much from being anxious about certain activities, but from being anxious about not doing enough, or not doing the right things. I know that if I am doing God’s will each day, He will give me the grace to perform whatever tasks He wants me to do. That’s why I now feel more at peace and why I think this new prayer strategy will help me a lot.

12 comments

  1. Hi Steven,
    If I had to guess, I’d say God is very happy with you and loves your prayer. But I don’t have to guess because the Bible says that God made you righteous in Christ and seated you in the heavenly realms with him (Ephesians 2). You are seated in the heavenly realms, Steven. A holy person united with a holy God forever. That makes me sure that even when you aren’t acting perfect, God is perfectly happy with you. Blessings, brother!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Really enjoyed reading this. Great post. I would assume most people feel disappointed in their prayers, as it’s such an important part of our faith and of course we want to ensure we are doing it right. I’m a new Christian and it’s the hardest part for me. I’ve been advised to swap the little convos that you may have with yourself in your head to be with God instead. That’s my way of praying as much as I can. God bless you for this post😃

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sitting silently in the Presence is prayer, too. (There’s actually a Greek term for it.) Doing so allows God to breathe into your heart and soul. We need to shut up at times to allow God to do this and have our bodies respond to the Holy Will. It’s when I feel myself “safe in the arms of Jesus,” as one hymn so poignantly puts it.
    After that, prayer can be a conversation that goes way beyond words.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. So much food for thought, as usual. Wonderful and truthful post.

    May I ask about this: “Will God ever bring me to the rest He keeps promising me?”

    … in what form do you experience receiving this promise of rest? (this feels like a very intimate question, and if I’m out of place, I apologize!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi David! Always a joy to see your name and picture in the Likes and Comments. Funny you should mention that line, I thought about taking it out of the post because it is curious! I’d rather not discuss it. But it’s not anything to worry about, if you were worried 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve always felt my prayer life was insufficient so don’t feel alone. I take comfort in what the great Brennan Manning once said about the subject, “I think God’s happy that I spend some time with Him.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post, Steven! I think there’s a big difference between asking God for strength to do what you think is His will, and just asking him: “What is your will that I may do it?” May God continue to bless you and to show you His path.

    Liked by 2 people

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