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The Practice of Prayer, part 2: Resistance

The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words

–Romans 8:26


If we are to live in faithfulness to God, we need to remain rooted in prayer. For me at least, this means not only a grace before meals and fervent appeals in times of trouble, but a daily practice of clearing away the junk and distractions in my mind and listening for God. I know the value of this practice. I also hear many arguments against it, both within my own mind and heart and in the voices of other people.

Sometimes we believe that we’re too busy to set aside time for prayer: our days are already full to overflowing with good and necessary projects. But I find that when I don’t keep time for prayer I lose track of my priorities and I don’t work well.

Sometimes we avoid praying, or keep ourselves distracted during prayer time, because we are afraid of what God might ask of us. Richard Foster wrote, “To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives.” I have sometimes been unwilling. But I find that in these matters there is no standing still. I can’t just keep doing the good work I’ve been doing and close my ears to any further suggestions from God. The refusal to listen makes me increasingly deaf, unable to understand and reach out to my neighbors or to attend properly to the work of my hands. The willingness to listen frees up the clarity and strength I need to obey what I hear.

Sometimes we grow weary of praying in times of barrenness, when we feel no sense of God’s presence, receive no clear insights, are left with our own neediness and brokenness. These times hurt. But when I have been willing to stay in this painful place, in time I have come back to the knowledge of God. And I believe that throughout the barren times God’s spirit is still with us in spite of our dullness that cannot perceive it; He is with us, interceding for us in a way that words cannot express.

 

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