Have you ever found prayer...difficult?

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De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
I know that I often find prayer difficult...i.e. something that does not come very naturally; that is, I have to work hard at it. I suppose this is just like anything in life...a good marriage, developing a skill, etc. Does anyone else have experience like this?

I find that I am more inclined to do "easy" things like read the scriptures, or listen to an audio sermon but struggle with the spiritual "disciplines", prayer being the one I struggle with the most.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Sophomore
I feel the same way often. I feel I don't pray enough, or as I should, or become distracted easily. I find myself similar to your second paragraph as well.

I do agree it is something that needs to be practiced. I find Calvin's institutes on prayer to be very helpful. Spurgeon and JC Ryle are also very good on the subject. Of course, reading about prayer is not the same as actually praying though. Lately, I try to start with the Psalms or the Valley of Vision (Puritan prayer book) and then spring board off that into my own prayer.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I would be more concerned if you had ever found prayer easy. There are useful crutches that you may use to help, such as books of written prayers. And even without those aids, God still hears our groans that are "too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Martin Luther said that "praying comes close to being the most difficult of all works. Therefore I do not claim to be a master in this task." That certainly has been my experience. And it has not yet become any easier over time and even with some (I trust) Christian maturity a long the way. What I have seen, though, is that my eyes are more open to how God answers my prayers and resultant thanksgiving for that.

Some reasons why prayer is most difficult: 1) the flesh is weak Matthew 26:41 Prayer empties us and puts full reliance on God - we pray not to change God but to be changed. Thus the flesh resists or wants to put it off 2) we are also in need of the Spirit to help us in our groanings Romans 8:26. Hence prayer, that is true prayer, is not a natural thing, or at least not as much as reading the Bible 3) many worldly distractions, even those ordained of God, can overcome our spiritual zeal: Psalm 127:1-2; 1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Peter 3:7 & 4) the devil knows how God uses prayer and thus seeks to dissuade us from it, especially by appealing to our flesh (hence, such discouragements can develop into a vicious cycle).
 
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Zach

Puritan Board Junior
I struggle a great deal with prayer (I believe it is the greatest weakness in my ministry) and share the sentiments of those who say they'd be surprised to hear you or anyone else say they found prayer easy. We shouldn't be surprised that prayer doesn't come naturally when all that comes naturally to sinners is sin!

One of the reasons I suspect most of us find it easier to read our Bibles than pray is that we have a Bible reading plan but no prayer plan. I find that my prayer life is strongest when I approach prayer with a strategy or a resource. Since Valley of Vision has already been mentioned another resource that I've found very helpful is a book called Praying Scripture Back to God by Kenneth Boa. While his translations occasionally take some liberty with certain passage to help you turn them into prayers, I believe my prayer life has been at it's healthiest when I used that resource daily.

Some other resources I occasionally use and share with others include the prayers of confession written by Barbara Duguid in Prone to Wander and Streams of Mercy. For prayers for the global church I'll look at the Operation World Book (very broadly evangelical) and the weekly prayer requests from Voice of the Martyrs. Also, don't underestimate some simple strategies like a stack of prayer note cards (or the PrayerMate App) to record and pray for requests or even just praying through your church directories (one of my favorite things to do as a Pastor).

I have a list of more resources I use (including one I compiled for shaping my pastoral prayers) but I'll spare you the whole list!
 
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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Junior
I know that I often find prayer difficult...i.e. something that does not come very naturally; that is, I have to work hard at it. I suppose this is just like anything in life...a good marriage, developing a skill, etc. Does anyone else have experience like this?

There is light at the end of the tunnel and good hope for better times.
I was a Christian for almost 45 years before I could really pray. In one sense, prayer is often easy and natural for me--at least easy to enter into. It always takes me by surprise. But when God graciously enables me to enter into Spirit-led prayer, it is at the same time one of the hardest things I do. I live for worship and fellowship with the great Three-One God. Often, when I am done--or I should say done in--I find myself so exhausted that I need to lay down and let my heart-rate and blood pressure get back to normal. At times I think I could die if I prayed harder. Prayer is more of exertion than the marathon distances I used to run. More intimate than the best times my wife and I have shared together. But the joy unspeakable of really knowing God is worth any price. So is it easy? Or is it hard? It is, however, soul-satisfying to the extreme.

But to get there, I had to sacrifice many things and struggle for years to know Him and the incredible and exquisitely beautiful Being that He is. Well, enough said.
 
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Grant

Puritan Board Senior
I know that I often find prayer difficult...i.e. something that does not come very naturally; that is, I have to work hard at it. I suppose this is just like anything in life...a good marriage, developing a skill, etc. Does anyone else have experience like this?

I find that I am more inclined to do "easy" things like read the scriptures, or listen to an audio sermon but struggle with the spiritual "disciplines", prayer being the one I struggle with the most.
Same here. I have been in a long season of my prayer life being consistent, but also feeling dry.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
I have found The Bible and the Closet to be very helpful for developing the skill of prayer. Also, my pastor preached a couple of messages about prayer (https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=115181951586), including what we are to pray for (in public but also applicable to private prayer), which helped quite a bit too. The Larger Catechism also helps with providing content in its exposition of the Lord's prayer. I also got a lot of practice praying with my ex in a previous relationship.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
When you pray, rather let your heart be without words than your words without heart.

John Bunyan
I often struggle with whether I am speaking enough words when I pray or if I am relaying on the Spirit too much to discern my groaning and unarticulated thoughts... or if I am really putting enough mental effort into communicating with God beyond basic feelings.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
It used to be but not anymore. For one thing I do it every morning, and at various times throughout the day/night. I think it is sort of like meeting someone and in the beginning conversation may be difficult. If a relationship develops conversation becomes easier. Talking to my Heavenly Father daily has made me comfortable with it. At the SBC congregation I formerly attended there was a 90+ year old man, since gone to glory, who would pray aloud in prayer meetings I attended. He spoke to God in such an easy and familiar manner, but with reverence, that it was inspiring to me. I haven't gotten there yet, but it is something to aspire to.

Since I'm retired I have the time to read my M'Cheyne 1 year plan every morning upon rising, taking care of toiletries, feeding the cat, making the coffee.
Following the morning M'Cheyne reading I read the Psalm that corresponds with the day of the week. For instance today being the 29th I read Psalm 29, and then in increments of 30 I read 4 more Psalms. So for today, 29, 59, 89, 119, 149
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This regimen came from a book called Praying the Psalms by Donald S. Whitney. Reading those Psalms, especially following the M'Cheyne readings, helps put me in a 'right' attitude for prayer. The book was written on the premise that 'we' grow stale in our prayer life, because we don't know what to pray for, and end up in what seems like praying for the same things day after day. Reading these Psalms, and if moved by the Spirit in a particular Psalm to pray we do so.

I may be moved to do so at times, but I still have my routine prayers that, like the widow before the unjust judge, I repeat day after day, year after year. These are petitions to God for family, friends, church family, pastors, my country, brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted, and those who persecute them to come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ or fall by the edge of the sword. For revival, that at the name of Christ every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the praise of His glory. I also include Scripture from Ephesians and 2 Corinthians that I've adapted, and I do this every day. I don't feel it is vain repetition. Again, the Lord told of the widow petitioning the unjust judge to instruct us to be constant and persistent in prayer.
 

LadyCalvinist

Puritan Board Junior
I often find prayer very difficult which is probably why I joined the prayer team at church; it forced me to pray.

One book I have found helpful is the book "A Way to Pray" which is an edited and revised version by O. Palmer Robertson of Matthew Henry's "A Method for Prayer." It uses the Scriptures broken down into topics.
 
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Relztrah

Puritan Board Freshman
Quite honestly I find prayer a duty and a responsibility rather than a joy and a delight. The attached quote from E.M. Bounds is very convicting.
 

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
And most sweet is the saying of Bernard: That prayer which tasteth sweet of a fatherly name, giveth me assurance that I shall obtain all my requests.

Martin Chemnitz, A substantial and Godly exposition of the prayer commonly called the Lord’s Prayer (Cambridge: John Legate, 1598), p. 29.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Another useful observation from the same source. Think of thinks for which to be thankful or to request, then you will have plenty of material for prayer:

For it is not a true prayer when we do only heap up the glorious titles of God: but prayer ought to ask some thing of God, or else give him thanks for benefits received, Philip. 4.6. and 1. Timoth. 2.1.

Martin Chemnitz, A substantial and Godly exposition of the prayer commonly called the Lord’s Prayer (Cambridge: John Legate, 1598), p. 41.
 

Spurgeonite

Puritan Board Freshman
One very helpful thing for me was Paul Washer's emphasis on separating "boots on and boots off" prayer..
 
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