Often, for me, prayer is a far more challenging spiritual discipline than things like Bible reading, church-going, or even fasting. It can feel forced, awkward, uncomfortable, or contrived at times, when I’m not sure what to say or how to start, and the number of things that I could pray about (whether meditative or petitionary) seems overwhelming.
There’s also something somewhat audacious in the whole act of prayer, particularly in intimate and personal Christian prayer: we are stepping into the presence of someone infinitely more powerful, more righteous, and with more authority than us. If meeting someone like the President or the Queen can make us anxious, how much more coming before the God of the whole universe? It can seem silly to bother someone so important with our small and trivial lives. Even though we as Christians are part of God’s family now, and He cares about every detail of our lives with tenderness and love, it can be hard for us to receive and accept that love and care.
I think, too, our own sin pushes us away from prayer at times. While repentant sin will typically bring me into prayer, sin problems that I kind of don’t want to admit or deal with will freeze my prayer life into silence with amazing rapidity. God has a way, simply in His holiness, of exposing those sins I’ve been hiding or denying, and that can be very uncomfortable or disconcerting!
But despite the discomfort, it is always worthwhile to pray, because prayer is the most relational of all the afore-mentioned spiritual disciplines. It is lifting our hearts and minds to God and remaining with Him in conversation and communion. How can we expect to know Him more, to really be God’s friend and child, if we don’t spend time sharing our heart with Him and listening to His heart? Relationships grow through time together, and with God, prayer is that time together.
A lot of people, with a lot more wisdom and experience than I have, have written about practical steps to improving prayer; I will just add that in my experience, structured meditative prayer is what helps me focus best and feel closest to God. The structure keeps me from feeling overwhelmed about everything I could or should be saying or praying for, and the meditative aspect gives the prayer more connection and communion, rather than leaving me feeling like I’m only shooting requests and needs up to God.
What types of prayer come most naturally and work most effectively for you?