One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God… Luke 6:12
Have you ever stayed up late doing something you like to do? Have you ever just lost track of time because you were so engrossed in something you were doing? Jesus prayed like this! He spent the entire night in prayer.
When I was in my first church as pastor, I got hold of a book that recommended an approach to prayer based on Jesus saying to his disciples in Gethsemane, “Could you not watch with me for one hour?” The idea was to take just one hour and devote it to prayer. The book exhorted, “You need this kind of discipline. You need to take an hour a day, even if it means you have to get up earlier. Get up earlier to devote one hour to prayer.”
I felt sure I could do this minimal amount. The book also recommended dividing the hour into different kinds of prayer, a designated amount for praise, thanksgiving, confession, listening, and intercession for others. It was all very organized, and it was a perfect way for a particular personality type to pray. If you’re an accountant or an engineer, it is a great way to pray. For me, it was awful.
I just don’t sit still very well. When I tried using the “dividing the hour” approach to prayer, I found I couldn’t do it in my study. My mind was going everywhere else. I was thinking of everything, except prayer. I decided to walk around the parking lot, but the whole time I was praying, I was checking my watch to be sure I was following the pattern and staying with the plan.
Imagine what kind of lover a husband would be if he took this approach to marital intimacy. Follow the analogy. You set a little clock over by the bed with a checklist next to it… If you’re watching the clock and checking off a list while engaging in intimacy, you are not a good lover! When you are involved in intimacy, in a celebration of your love and acceptance by giving and receiving, you are focused on your spouse. It is not good to be focused on the time.
I believe when Jesus spent all night in prayer, He was often enjoying Himself. He loved His Father! He was doing what He enjoyed. He did not say, “My chore is to do my Father’s will.” He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” Jesus loved to pray.
When Jesus spent the night in prayer, He wasn’t acting out of obligation or duty. He was acting out of dependence and obedience. To depend upon One who is utterly dependable, to obey One who is loving and wise – this is joy! Staying up all night to enjoy time alone with the One you love is a delightful treat.
But, there are many hindrances to prayer. Our modern busy lifestyle is a major hindrance for many. We simply don’t make time to focus on the Lord. This is bad. Consciously or not, we all decide how we’ll spend our time. We must prioritize our lives. If we only give God our leftover time, we’ll have the kind of troubled relationship with God that we would have with our spouse if we only gave our spouse our leftovertime. By the way, for those of you who are married, when was the last time you arranged your schedule so that you could enjoy your mate all night long?
The key to overcoming busyness is to decide to establish priorities, not just to fulfill our obligations to God, but so that we can engage in real life. Prayer makes life worth living. Intimate prayer, a vital relationship with God, is ultimately what life is all about.
I have found that I do my best praying when I’m not trying to sit still and block everything else out. If I go for a walk, I can pray. When I’m driving on the interstate, I can pray. If I can have something else going on, taking up some of my physical energies, I can more easily pray. God has wired me this way, and I will be more effective if I pray in the way that gets me to pray than if I follow someone else’s formula.
God has intentionally made each of us unique, and He wants to relate to each of us in a unique way. God, your heavenly Father, wants a very personal relationship with you. He made you, and He knows you. He wants you to know Him.
We need to find the environment that enables us to enjoy the presence of God. Then, we need to make time to spend with Him. This is scriptural. It was God’s idea to make each of us different. But one thing we have in common, we mustn’t be too busy to pray.
There are other more insidious hindrances to prayer. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” If God has shown me that there’s something wrong in my life, and I’m refusing to repent, then God won’t hear my prayer. One of the things hindering us from prayer is a refusal to repent of the things for which God has already convicted us.
If God shows me something that must change and I refuse to cooperate, my prayer life will be ineffective. I create a barrier to fellowship with God by refusing to walk in submission to His Lordship. The purpose of prayer is in order to come and find out what God wants of us, so He can use us as His instruments for His glory. When we find we’ve grieved the Lord, we need to repent.
Another serious hindrance to prayer is improper relationships with others. In I Peter 3:7 we read: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
Be careful! Peter says if a man doesn’t treat his wife the way God intends, then God won’t listen to his prayers. This is also true in other relationships, but how a man treats his wife is an unmistakable illustration of this principle.
These are just a few of the major hindrances to prayer. You don’t have to let them hold you back. By God’s grace you can change!
What hinders your prayers? Are you ready to do whatever it takes to grow closer to the One who loves you most?
Book – “Hearing His Voice”