This article originally appeared in Campus Ministry Today by Jason Bennett
“Never stop praying.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT
Prayer is a conversation with God. We talk to God, God talks to us. We listen to God, God listens to us. It’s a two-way street. Yet, sometimes it feels like a one-way street. Sometimes, we do all the talking and no listening. Sometimes, it feels like God isn’t listening. Sometimes, it feels like a dead end street and we just can’t even bring ourselves to talk or listen. When we experience prayer as a one-way or a dead end street, it should be a huge wake up call—like a warning light on the dashboard of the car. You know, the one that has been on for months. The one you’ve told yourself you will get checked soon.
Truth is, we all go through times and seasons of difficulty in prayer. For a variety of reasons and circumstances prayer can feel frustratingly fruitless. Even so, feelings and perceptions are not always reliable indications of our reality. Sometimes, God chooses not to answer our prayers because He has a better plan (check out Isaiah 55:8-11). Sometimes, God chooses not to answer because there is something in our life that needs dealing with first (see Psalm 66:16-20). Sometimes, there is relational conflict that can hinder our prayers (check 1 Peter 3:7). Sometimes, there is a lesson or blessing within the circumstances and concerns that are consuming our attention and prayers (read 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). All of these scenarios can stretch us, grow us, and center us on Jesus if we allow them to.
Unfortunately, for many who catch an on-ramp to the highway of difficult prayer, it results in a quick off-ramp to the nearest parking lot of prayerlessness. They just get out of the prayer journey all together and say, “been there, done that…didn’t work…next please.” Nothing could be more detrimental to your faith or more pleasing to the enemy. If you parked your prayer life, go pick it back up. There’s a good chance your perception was the problem not your prayers.
What we perceive as ineffective and a waste of time is often what God sees as powerful and essential. So much happens in and through prayer. We humble ourselves and draw near to God. We acknowledge God as King and sustainer of all of life. We recognize the limits of our own strength and the limitlessness of God’s strength. We recognize our finite minds and his infinite wisdom and knowledge. We confront our unloving selfishness as we are embraced by God’s selfless love. In short, prayer transcends our experience and transforms our existence.
When we find prayer challenging, fruitless, or feel like God is silent, heed the words of Paul, “Never stop praying.” Why? Because prayer draws us into transformation and growth. Perhaps God wants us to trust him more and not answer the way we think is best. Perhaps God wants us to see where something in our life needs an adjustment. Perhaps God wants us to seek reconciliation or forgiveness within a relationship. Perhaps God’s allowing the circumstances or experience to protect us and bless us from something worse. Perhaps, God’s simply inviting us to persevere in pursuing him because he knows the process is transformative.
Prayer can be frustrating AND still transformative—just like working out regularly. Results are incremental at times, significant at times, but the overall experience is that we are getting in better shape, breathing easier, getting stronger, etc. Prayer, too, transforms our minds and hearts, incrementally at times and significantly at times. Overall, as we continue to pray, we grow in trust and intimacy with God, in our ability to release our fears and worries to Him, in hearing His voice and promptings in our life, and in our willingness to follow and obey. It’s no wonder Paul admonished us, “Never Stop praying.” God is listening, he knows you, and he knows what’s best. Let those three truths expand your perception, unpark your prayer life, and rekindle your conversations with God.