Why is it so hard for many of us to carve out a regular time for prayer? I suspect it has something to do with our drive to accomplish things combined with our fear of loneliness. Most of us find it far easier to rush around “getting things done” than to sit still even for a few moments with no other goal in mind than opening our hearts to God. When we do manage to pray, fears we have kept at bay by our constant activity may rush in. A thousand distracting thoughts may take hold. We can feel empty and alone, wondering why God seems elusive. We fill up the silence with constant petitions or chattering thoughts or nonstop spiritual reading, thinking we are the ones who have to control and direct the time.
Prayer, of course, is not meant to be a task we check off our lists but a time for being with the God we love. But what if we are afraid he won’t show up, validating our fears that we are unloved, unworthy, and unlistened to? Perhaps the first thing to do is to simply surrender that fear to God, imagining ourselves in his presence. Instead of lingering on our negative feelings or on the distractions that try to take hold, we simply let go of them, gently lifting our hearts to God. It may be helpful to pray through a brief Scripture passage, lingering on God’s Word as we pray it back to him.
Spending a few minutes this way each day will increase our appetites for prayer because we will find God is faithful and leads us in surprising ways. As we spend time in his presence, God may give us the courage to face ourselves truthfully, without harshness or condemnation. He may open our minds to his thoughts. He may give us his heart for others. Whatever God does within us and through us will be good, because it will be accomplished in love and for love.
The more we pray in this way, the more surprised we will be to look back on our formerly prayerless lives and discover that it was we, and not God, who had sometimes failed to show up. More
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