Prayer Isn’t Simple OR Easy. Here’s Why I Do It Anyway!

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

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“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.” These words are spoken by C.S. Lewis in the movie Shadowlands after the death of his wife, Joy. He says this in response to the chaplain who tries to offer him spiritual comfort with what comes across to Lewis as pious platitudes, rather than a real understanding of prayer.

Prayer is not so simple. Nor is it easy. It is an act of the will, a response to a need, or a sudden and overwhelming recognition of God’s love for us that rises out of us as praise or thanksgiving. This is why Paul instructs us here to be devoted to prayer, to persevere in it, to make it part of the rich fabric of our spiritual, material, and social lives. In praying regularly, we become more watchful, more aware of our own weaknesses and needs. It helps us to humbly recognize our dependence on the faithful presence of God. It is how we keep our personal relationship with Jesus vibrant and healthy. It is through this dialogue of the heart that we learn to see and to respond to the needs of others as Jesus did.

We are taught here to pray also for the good of others. We are to pray for those closest to us, for those who are in need. We are to pray not just with our thought and words in private, but we are to pray with our actions. We are to learn to be both watchful and thankful. If we develop the habits of prayer, God will be more able to use us, that is, to use our bodies, our minds, and our souls as conduits for his graces in the world. If our actions are guided by our humble and prayerful relationship with God, we will be able to “Conduct [ourselves] wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” to bring them to Christ. (verse 5) The way we talk and listen to others will be more gracious, “seasoned with salt,” and we will know better how “respond to each one.” (verse 6)

As Christians we are called to live prayerful lives, both private and communal. Life has a way of throwing things at us sometimes that are “beyond our pay grade.” When this happens we are moved to go to prayer. When we are moved in this way, it is not to get God’s attention, rather, it is he who is calling us to attention. God is always listening and “paying attention” to us. It is we who so often lose focus. That is why we need to develop the habits of daily prayer. And we know that prayer is powerful. In Mark’s Gospel we see the disciples asking Jesus why they could not drive a demon out of a child. He responded to them saying, “This kind can only come out by prayer.” (Mark 9:29) Yes, prayer is powerful because it opens us up to the divine. It awakens us to God’s presence and his loving desire to be with us in all places and in all things. Prayer is more than mere conversation, it is marriage of our soul to God’s eternal faithful love. It does not change God, it changes us.

Lord, strengthen our faith so that we never grow weary of prayer. Give us hearts that yearn for you always. Increase our desire to know you, to love you, and to serve you more each day. Make our lives the instruments of your effective prayer in, and for the world. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.