One big reason your prayer life might be stuck

You sit down to pray, but you don't feel like praying. You know you should want to be with God, but if you are honest, you admit that you really don't. So many other things are more interesting and/or pressing. The show you watched on tv last night. The situation at work you don't know what to do with. The conversation you want to have with your son or daughter. How you feel physically. It's effortless to dwell on these things. And then you stare at your Bible. You know you need to spend time with God, so you decide to knuckle down and do it. You feel as excited as if you are preparing your taxes...

Is your prayer life stuck in the mud?

We all hit these spots in our prayer lives when we feel stuck in the mud. The paragraph above pretty much describes the state I was in when I sat down for devotions this morning. Then in my readings, I hit on an idea that might explain some of the malaise we struggle with. Maybe we're trying to be God's boss, and he doesn't play that game.

Thomas Kelly, an American Quaker writing around 1940, teaches that two problems coincide for American Christians.
1. In our humanistic, do-it-yourself culture, we tend to suppose that we are the initiator and God is the responder. When we pray, we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make prayer happen. We go to a waiting God. However, Kelly correctly points out that in reality, Christ who indwells us is always the initiator and we are the responders. He causes prayer to arise within us. To think otherwise is to be tragically proud and self-reliant.
2. When spiritual pride infects our prayer lives, God often withdraws his graces in order to teach us humility. It is good that this happens. A sign of spiritual immaturity is making ourselves the dictators and God the listener. On the other hand, "maturing experience brings awareness of being met and tutored, purged and disciplined, simplified and made pliant in His holy will by a power waiting within us." 
Can much of our malaise in prayer be traced back to trying to make ourselves God's dictators?

Kelly's recipe for renewal runs in the opposite direction. It is simple prayer that goes on all day long in the midst of our daily activities and has a twofold emphasis: surrendering and praising. To surrender is to let God be the boss. To praise is to give in to the gladness that wells up in our hearts when we dwell on who God is. In all cases, we let God be the boss of prayer and allow him to renew us when and how he decides.


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