When I was 15, my pastor challenged me to pray for 15 minutes a day for three weeks: 5 minutes for myself, 5 minutes for the youth group and 5 minutes for the church.
I went into a room, shut the door, closed my eyes and prayed for everything (and everyone) I could think of. After what felt like an eternity I peeked at the clock. I had prayed one minute. I realized it was going to be a long three weeks…
So, why pray? It can feel awkward. In a world of increasing mental illness, it can leave us feeling that we have joined the crazy bus. (Pray out loud? Really?) Sometimes our theology even stops us. (If God knows everything I’m going to say before I say it, what’s the point?)
We say we lack time, motivation, or even the know-how. In the face of all this, I’d like to suggest five (selfish) reasons to start praying.
1. Do you feel stressed? I know that I often do. How about frazzled? Wore out? At the end of your rope? Check. Check. Check. Our modern pace of life can leave our heads spinning and our hearts yearning for rest. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” One of the ways we come to Jesus is through prayer. We trade our burdens for His guidance. As He teaches us how to live, our souls can finally find rest.
2. Do you feel empty? You may be an agnostic trying to find out if God exists. Or you may be a person who faithfully reads the Bible and strives to obey its teachings. But either way, Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”
So many times we are searching for something to satisfy us — whether that be a kind of food or even a relational connection on social media. But those things only fulfill us for a little while. The life that comes from God lasts forever.
Jesus said it like this: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
For those who believe in Jesus, I should add one caveat. Merely reading and understanding the Bible (or any other spiritual literature) is not enough. Jesus says, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” While it’s important to read the Scripture, we can’t stop there. We have to go to Him. We need to drink.
3. Do you need help? I remember asking a woman from a Communist country if there was something I could pray for her about. English was a second language, and she didn’t recognize the word “pray.” When I explained that prayer is simply talking to God, she was politely skeptical. But as a graduate student, she did ask that my husband and I pray for an upcoming test. We did. When I called to follow up, she couldn’t hold back her excitement. “It works! It really works!” Shortly thereafter, she decided to follow Jesus for the rest of her life.
I don’t know if you are like me, but I have about a bazillion things I could add to my “need help” list. But I have seen enough in my own life to know that I should pray. Especially in the biggest trials and the darkest moments. I have been healed on multiple occasions. I have seen my kids helped in miraculous ways. I have seen God change laws, provide supernatural protection and reveal hidden things.
4. Do you ever feel like there is something more? There comes a point when we question why we do what we do. Maybe it comes after the death of a loved one, or the diagnosis of a serious illness. But we don’t have to wait for tragedy. God created each of us to do good works that only we can do.
But without prayer, it’s hard to live close enough to Jesus to do anything of eternal value. Disagree? Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing … If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
As a Christian I have tried to serve God in the power of my own mind and might. I’m telling you, it fails. It goes nowhere and leaves you exhausted. But through prayer we know what we are supposed to do and how to do it. We avert burnout. God walks with us and we are able to fulfill our unique calling.
5. Do you need a miracle? When our problems are so overwhelming that we don’t know where to turn, we can call out to the God for whom nothing is impossible. Barren women have conceived, the sick have been healed, those lost in addiction have been restored. And it’s not just external. God can deliver from depression, hopelessness, restlessness and bitterness.
He can lead and guide us through turbulent times. Like the kids’ song goes, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty; there’s nothing my God cannot do.” If we have time to worry about our problems, we have time to pray.
So whether this is all new to you, or you’ve heard much of it before, I would encourage you to pray. I mean, really pray. Life is just too short not to.