It’s important at the outset to recognize that we have audience with the Ruler of the Universe. He has, by the covering of Christ, said that we can at any time be in touch with the Creator and Ruler of everything that is. We have been given an open door policy to God.
You can be free of guilt by just asking forgiveness. You can find a harbor of peace by just going there. You can get encouraged and loved by just praying. If that is true (and it is) why don’t we pray more? There are a number of reasons.
We’re Afraid God Won’t Notice
We don’t pray because we’re afraid God won’t notice. Matthew 6:5 warns, “But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” Then the next verse tells us how to pray the right way, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who sees what is done in secret, and He will reward you.”
Have you ever noticed how we allow other people to define reality for us? I think it was Kierkegaard who told the story of the robbers who went into a store at night and changed the price tags on all the merchandise. We have allowed the world to do that for us…and that is an abomination. If people say that we’re spiritual because we pray well in public, that’s reality, right? Wrong. In fact, just the opposite is true.
We do this in a lot of areas. For instance, we allow the world to define whether or not we’re acceptable. Am I pretty? Am I good? Am I friendly enough? We ask that of the world…and accept their answers as gospel. For instance, we allow the world to define truth: “Kids have to have everything other kids have;” “God is a nice motivational force for making money;” “As long as it feels good, do it.”
What Jesus says here is this: Let God define your reality, not others. His reality is reality. The reason we don’t pray privately is because only God notices when we pray privately…and everybody knows that that really doesn’t count.
Let God define your reality, not others.
We’re Afraid God Won’t Be There
We don’t pray because we’re honestly afraid God won’t be there. We’re told to “pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then the Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” God is unseen—that’s the problem. But what does Jesus say here? He says, “Go ahead and pray. He is really there.”
Billy Graham tells about an incident that happened during the Korean War across the DMZ. (I remember the 38th parallel and my dad explaining what was happening. We watched the 38th parallel like some people watch the stock market. Sometimes we were below it and sometimes we were above it.) At any rate, a Christian, American soldier was standing guard at the edge of “no man’s land” and as he stood watch, the soldier started whistling “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” And then across the DMZ, he heard a Korean soldier whistling back “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” In the silence and blackness of that night, there was an answer from what he thought was enemy territory. Two Christians who were enemies had found that they were brothers.
We’re sometimes afraid to pray because, deep down, we believe we’re only whistling in the dark. Jesus said, “He is really there.” Jesus’ promise was all I had to go on for so long. Trust him. If you can’t, trust me. He is there.
We’re Afraid God Won’t Care
We don’t pray because we’re afraid God doesn’t care. Look at Matthew 6:8, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him…” I don’t know about you, but that is of great comfort to me. God cares about me and about the legitimate needs I have.
We don't want to pray because we're afraid God doesn't care.
The Bible says, “He knows our frame…He remembers that we are dust.” We have a Father who cares.
We’re Afraid God Won’t Bend
We don’t pray because we’re afraid God won’t bend. He might be there. And if God is there, he might really be God…and if he is God, then we’re not!
I love to enable people to understand about God so they can make a decision to turn their lives over to him. Even when they understand, they may say, “Oh yes, well, I’ll give you a call sometime. I would like to talk about this thing further.” Translated, that means, “I don’t think I want to buy what you’re selling.”
We’re Afraid God Won’t Forgive
We don’t pray because we’re guilty and afraid God won’t forgive us. Jesus says in Matthew 6:14, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
One of the problems with prayer is that it’s difficult to stand before absolute holiness when you’re absolutely not holy. If you’ve never felt uncomfortable when you’ve prayed, you probably haven’t prayed. Purity makes us uncomfortable.
I would not suggest as did a friend of mine that he and God had a great deal—“I like to sin and God likes to forgive.” That is blasphemy. But let me tell you something that isn’t blasphemy. Because of the death of Christ, you can go into the throne room of God forgiven and clean.
If your problem is fear, Jesus says, “You can go to God and he will forgive you.” In fact, it is hard to know his love until he has. My daughters will never know I love them until they do something bad. As long as they do good things, they will think that I love them only because they’re good. God will forgive because he loves. Go to him. You really have no reason not to.
Time to Draw Away
Read Psalm 42:1-2 & Matthew 7:7-11
Why don’t you pray more? How does fear stand in the way of your going to God? Remember that God is your loving Father. When you go to him, you go forgiven, clean, accepted and cherished. And there is nothing you can do to earn any of that. So take advantage of God’s “open door policy.”
For more on prayer, check out Steve’s book, Approaching God.