Growing in Prayer Part 1: Hindrances to Prayer - page 3

 


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From the Winter 2016 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Growing in Prayer Part 1: Hindrances to Prayer

by Bill Kynes, Ph.D.
C.S. Lewis Institute Senior Fellow

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  We are bombarded with messages that brainwash us into thinking that prayer is a waste of time. Let’s be practical—get busy—do something. Don’t get on your knees. That’s why the life of prayer is inherently countercultural. To pray faithfully, you must be willing to swim against the cultural stream. Paul says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2 Phillips and NIV). Or Peter says, recognize that this world is only temporary—it will not last. “The end of all things is near,” he says. “Therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Pet. 4:7 ESV).
  And this is a fallen world, a sinful world. As a result, this world not only distracts us and seduces us, but it also wounds us. Abused children have a difficult time trusting anyone; jilted lovers are reticent to open their hearts again. In this world, dangers abound—bad things happen and God doesn’t seem to care.
  Maybe you prayed as a child that your parents would quit fighting, and they didn’t. I remember growing up, praying that the Vietnam War would end. It didn’t, at least, not in my time frame. Prayer didn’t work for me in that regard. Life is hard. We learn to protect ourselves, and we retreat into our shells like little hermit crabs, insulating ourselves from the threats that surround us—insulating ourselves even from God Himself.
  Or maybe we develop another form of compensation; we become driven to achieve, to be somebody, to prove ourselves to the world. We become consumed by a restless ambition that makes us addicted to activity. We dare not stop for a moment to spend time in God’s presence, to rest in His love.
  That’s what the world does to us: it distracts us, it seduces us, and it wounds us. No wonder prayer is hard.

The Flesh We Indulge

  If the world distracts us, then I would say the flesh deludes us. Our lustful cravings for the physical pleasures and comforts consume us. We face the battle of simple laziness. Prayer takes self-discipline; it takes diligence. Unlike eating and sleeping and watching TV, it does not come naturally to us. It is demanding. The spirit is willing at times, but the flesh is weak. And we too often indulge the flesh at the expense of the spirit. So we continue to splash around in the shallowness of the spiritual baby pool instead of swimming in the spiritual depths—an experience made possible only by the discipline of prayer.
  But “the flesh” is more than just our bodily appetites. The flesh as Paul uses the term refers to our whole fallen humanity. It speaks of a life-orientation that is cut off from God and that, in fact, opposes Him. The flesh is our self-centered, self-exalting self-pride that deludes us into thinking that we are self-created and self-sufficient.

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