At least it is for me.
If you’re one of those rare Christians who finds your prayer life to be easy, joyous and endlessly fulfilling, we’re grateful for you and the role you play in the body of Christ. But the rest of us dislike you just a little. (Click here for a definition of sarcasm, if needed).
Pastors are not immune to struggling with our prayer life. In fact, we may be more susceptible to it.
In my experience and conversations, plus almost every poll taken about the prayer lives of ministers, those of us who struggle with prayer are in the majority.
So if you’re a minister who struggles with prayer, like me, I hope it helps to know you’re not alone.
Prayer is really hard for most of us.
I think I know why.
Prayer is hard because the results are long-term.
No Magic Words
If prayers were answered within 24 hours – or 365 days – we’d all be praying machines! But they aren’t. They’re not supposed to be.
Many of them take a lifetime. Some take longer than that.
Prayer is not a set of magic words that make our wishes appear or our problems disappear. It’s an ongoing conversation in a long-term relationship with the God who made us. And relationships are never quick and easy. The greatest benefits are always long-term.
I believe this is why most people, including most pastors, admit they don’t spend nearly as much time in prayer as they should – or as they want to. Prayer remains the least satisfactory aspect of their spiritual lives.
Because real prayer is about relationship. And relationships are hard. Even with God.
The Shortcuts We Settle For
We all struggle with the age-old question, “Is God pleased with me and what I’m doing?” Because prayer is hard, many of us use cheap substitutes to answer that question.
Instead of wrestling with the difficult aspects of our relationship with Jesus, many pastors rely on the newest church leadership methods and systems to answer the “is God pleased with me?” question.
It’s quicker and easier to measure our success through numbers and metrics than it is to struggle with our insecurities through prayer.
But quicker and easier aren’t better.
Easy Is Cheap – Good Things Cost Us Something
That’s not to say that pastors who teach methods and metrics, or whose ministries have growing numbers don’t have great prayer lives or spiritual depth. Many have both.
But too many of us – in churches large and small – have traded the long-term, often unseen benefits of a deeper, richer spiritual life for a more immediate, tangible, results-oriented ministry.
Our spiritual lives suffer when we do that. And so do our churches and ministries. And that’s when the numbers are up! When the numbers are down… oh my.
I believe this is a primary reason for all the negative stats about pastoral burnout, ethical failures and, more recently, suicides. We’re trying to satisfy our longing to be valued in all the wrong places.
But we know better.
The Struggle Matters
If you’re struggling with your prayer life, good for you. The struggle means it’s still alive.
But even if you’ve given up, there’s still hope.
Get back in touch with the God who created, saved and called you. Embrace the struggle.
Do the day-to-day work that all relationships require. And, through that, find the joy and strength on the far side of the struggle.
Sure, prayer is hard work. So is any relationship.
But, just like every other relationship, what makes it hard is also what makes it valuable.
So what do you think? Have you been using ministry numbers to answer nagging questions that only a deeper prayer life can provide?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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