Remember when you first started dating, how it all seemed like a foreign language to you? That girl or that guy you were talking to seemed to speak a completely different language. It was so hard to connect...it was so hard to start communicating the way you both wanted to.
Sometimes I think prayer is just like that...like a foreign language. Have you ever felt that way? I honestly have!
Reminds me of my first experience with foreign language, which was my Spanish class. I struggled learning that language because it was, well, "foreign"! I got to the point where I would just rather quit than fail at it. My teacher promised not to flunk me if I quit before the end of the semester!
Sometimes prayer feels so foreign to me. There are times — I'm speaking honestly here — that I feel like such a complete failure. So I just kind of push it to the side and I start working harder. I start doing stuff more and prayer gets neglected.
The problem is, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the apostle Paul commands us to "pray continually." God wants prayer to be a natural outflow of our lives as His children.
So how does prayer work? How can prayer be like our first language rather than a foreign language? I believe the answer is found in an understanding of why we don't pray in the first place. Near the top of my list is that we are a bit puzzled by prayer. We don't understand it.
We think, "If God is sovereign, why do I have to pray?" Or we pray for something for ten years, and that prayer goes unanswered. That confuses us...it befuddles us...and we get frustrated because we don't understand it.
But the fact that you and I don't fully comprehend prayer is no reason to neglect it. It's no excuse not to pray. In James 5:16, we are told:
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
What do you have to do to have effective, powerful prayer? Do you have to be an expert in the theology of prayer? No. Do you have to be brilliant? No. You don't even have to be smart...you only have to be a child of God. If you have trusted Jesus Christ, you are a child of God, and as a result, you have all it takes to have powerful and effective prayer.
That's good news, my friend! That's really good news!!
I spent a summer in Hong Kong and used to ride on the underground trains with all these wonderful Chinese folks. Every once in a while, I would hear them talking about me because I would hear "guilo." "Guilo" means foreign devil!
So I asked my friend how I could present the idea that I understood what they were saying. He told me to say, "Da say nay."
A few days later, I was coming back on the train, and there were two teenage boys on the train who I knew were talking about me. So I looked at them and said, "Da say nay!" Their eyes got big as saucers, and when the doors opened, they just ran!
I thought to myself, "Wow, I wonder what I said?" So when I got home, I asked my friend what I said, and he told me that "da say nay" means, "I'm going to kill you!" YIKES!
Now, the fact that I didn't know what "da say nay" meant had nothing to do with its effectiveness. It was effective! My ignorance was insignificant. And the fact that you don't fully comprehend PRAYER has nothing to do with its effectiveness.
There are other reasons that we don't pray: we don't make time, we don't think we need it, and we can't muster up the desire or the discipline. Of course, like when we try to do anything in our human power alone, we fail utterly. We need to recognize our need for the Holy Spirit to infuse us with a new passion, a new commitment to spend time talking to God. He wants us to...He's waiting for us. What are we waiting for?