Let’s imagine that you see a prayer therapist to get your prayer life straightened out. The therapist says, “Let’s begin by looking at your relationship with your heavenly Father. God said, ‘I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me’ (2 Corinthians 6:18). What does it mean that you are a son or daughter of God?
You reply that it means you have complete access to your heavenly Father through Jesus. You have true intimacy, based not on how good you are but on the goodness of Jesus. Not only that, Jesus is your brother. You are a fellow heir with him.
The therapist smiles and says, “That is right. You’ve done a wonderful job of describing the doctrine of Sonship. Now tell me what it is like for you to be with your Father? What is it like to talk with him?
You cautiously tell the therapist how difficult it is to be in your Father’s presence, even for a couple of minutes. Your mind wanders. You aren’t sure what to say. You wonder, ‘Does prayer make any difference? Is God even there?’ Then you feel guilty for your doubts and just give up.
Your therapist tells you what you already suspect. “Your relationship with your heavenly Father is dysfunctional. You talk as if you have an intimate relationship but you don’t. Theoretically, it is close. Practically it is distant. You need help.
Paul Miller says that one major reason we struggle with prayer is that we have a dysfunctional relationship with our heavenly Father. We must move from a vague familiarity with God to intimacy (into – me – see) with Christ.
Matthew 6:5-8 3 Guidelines for Prayer
Jesus criticized those who pray to gain attention by others rather than God. The Pharisees loved to pray on street corners so others would notice their “spirituality”. What most people noticed was their pride. Jesus said they had already received their reward in gaining the attention of man and they would not receive God’s attention.
ð Determine if you really want to grow in intimacy with God. It will cost “discipline”.
ð If you want to know God, inform your prayers by reading Scripture.
Jesus encouraged people to pray without distractions. It doesn’t always mean praying privately is better than praying in public. But Jesus is saying that you should close the door on all distractions. Then, God will reward your prayer with his attention.
ð Identify distractions.
Form a discipline (research says habits take avg. 66 days or anywhere btw 18 to 254 days – give it time)
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
ð Keep a notebook near to write down scattered thoughts, ideas, or other. [Book shares other insights]. Or simply pray about those things that enter mind as distractions.
Jesus criticized those people who pray with flattery rather than sincerity. God doesn’t care how many words you use; he cares most about your heart. God wants you to be real when you are praying.
ð Ask yourself, “Do I try to impress God by my actions or with the words that I use to pray? Why is it difficult for me to have a natural conversation with God?”
ð Talk to God by name – Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit.
ð Get alone with God and tell Him your struggle with prayer. Ask for His grace and help to grow. Praise Him for your salvation through the gospel.
ð Read Ephesians 1:3-14 as a reminder of the gospel by God’s sovereign choice and faith in Jesus.
ð Realize prayer is not wasting time before a greater work, it is the greater work. This calls for viewing life through the lenses of eternity.
ð For what else shall we pray this evening?