Sunday, October 25, 2009

Prayerlessness and the (my) Carnal Nature

The other night, I was reflecting on why, exactly, I've been finding it so hard to pray these last few months. I mentally ran through the possible excuses rationales reasons, and came to the earth-shaking conclusion that it's due to my inherently self-centered nature.

None of my pre-packaged excuses held up under scrutiny:

Rationale #1: I'm too busy. True, I work outside the home on average 3 days per week; regularly drive over 100 miles round-trip and am raising four children. It's also true that I co-lead a Bible study and have written a book for the Christian market (for which I am courting publishers), but all of that stuff depends on a dynamic prayer life. So....what am I saying to God? I can function and do "His work" independently of Him?

Rationale #2 (related to #1): There's just not enough hours in the day. Partially true; maybe that's why Jesus got up to pray in seclusion "while it was still dark outside" (Mark 1:35).

Rationale #3: I don't feel His presence. Right. Which is why we're told to pray by faith. A corollary of this is the fact that God's blessing and presence in our lives is conditional upon our obedience, which assumes a committed prayer life.

Rationale #4: I'm still scarred from my "journey into charismania" experience. It's been nearly three years now. Get over it already.

The real reason, or at least part of it which surprised me a bit, boiled down to self-interest. I'm not thinking as much as I should about praising and worshiping God because He is holy and has commanded it; I figure He's so great, distant and occupied that it doesn't matter much to Him if I pray or not.

Think about it. He's got over 6 billion people on earth, perhaps a billion of whom have been born again and thus can truly be considered His people. (That's an estimate; obviously I don't know the actual numbers). Does He really notice, much less care, if one inconsequential person like myself bothers with prayer?

Do I honestly think my spending time with Him does anything for Jesus?

I am trying to articulate the general impressions that I hold in my heart - of course I have never specifically reasoned it out so cynically, but this is the logical end result of my apathy. It's all about me. Why should I invest time with a God Who has so many other people to keep track of - I'm never going to be "special" to Him. Just a face in the crowd.

But do I not know Him? Doesn't my Father know the number of hairs on my head, and want me to know fellowship with Himself, the Spirit, and the Son (1 John)?

Several years ago, when I first started interpreting for Beth Israel Deaconess Med Center, I was required to attend new employee orientation. The CEO of the hospital, Paul Levy, attended the closing to warmly address us. Levy is a pretty famous dude in Boston - he's on the news all the time, and is very popular for managing to avoid staff layoffs at BIDMC. He shook our hands and said something like "welcome aboard" before we all went down the hall to get coffee and bagels. He's the big boss and technically I can say I've met him, but if I ran into Paul in the cafeteria or on Longwood Avenue, I guarantee you he would not know me from a hole in the wall. If I told him, "I work for you - I'm your hospital's only Bulgarian interpreter", that would certainly put it into context for him, and he might even recall seeing me hanging out in hematology on occasion. But that's about the extent of the interpersonal connection we would have.

Although it's a poor analogy, that's how I've been viewing God lately. I have this weird idea that heaven is going to be like this: I'm in the intake office filling out the admissions paperwork for what seems an eternity - there are so many people ahead of me. God is making the rounds, saying "hi" to His familiar servants; much like our friendly CEO often does. He sees me, and it takes Him a second, but He recalls my name.

Yipes. I can get so apathetic and cynical sometimes that I scare myself. Where is the flame that once burned so bright?

The point of prayer is to adore the God Who created and adopted us; to confess our sin, which disrupts our fellowship; to continuously thank and praise Him for Who He is and what He's done; and to intercede for others and present our petitions in Jesus' Name. I have gotten so off-track by making it all about me that I need to spend time in prayer just repenting - how is it that I often give up in prayer because I don't know what to talk about? Pretty obvious, if my eyes are on myself.

In "The Hidden Life of Prayer", David MacIntyre writes: "And yet, instinctive as is our dependence upon God, no duty is more earnestly impressed upon us in Scripture than the duty of continual communion with Him. The main reason for this unceasing insistence is the arduousness of prayer. In its nature it is a laborious undertaking, and in our endeavor to maintain the spirit of prayer we are called to wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness...there are times when even the soldiers of Christ become heedless of their trust, and no longer guard with vigiliance the gift of prayer. Should any one who reads these pages be conscious of loss of power in intercession, lack of joy in communion, hardness and impenitence in confession, "Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works." (Emphasis mine).


Anonymous said...

Great post! I've been trying to make my life more centered on Jesus lately. I've been WAY too focused on myself. I mean ... more than I've ever been. Sometimes it's even hard for me to enjoy being a mom because I want "my life" back.


Marie said...


Thank you for that - I was actually thinking to send you the link on Facebook and ask "Can you relate?" I thought of you because you've often posted such sincere, heart-felt, spontaneous prayers on your blog that really express what I feel....when I slow down enough to think of Him. So cooking supper after blogging tonight, I couldn't help wondering if you also struggle with prayerlessness.

We can be such fair-weather friends to the Lord sometimes, huh.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Which is why I love transparency about weaknesses, because you find encouragement through others. Love ya!