Why do we struggle so much with prayer? I am convinced that much of the burden comes from misunderstanding the purpose of prayer. If we believe that God exists to be used, that He is the means we employ to get what we need or want, then prayer is a necessary chore when life isn’t going the way we desire. On the other hand, in seasons of ease and contentment, prayer feels unnecessary and is little more than a distraction forced upon our already busy lives.
Dallas Willard offers a different perspective based on a more integrated vision of life: “Don’t seek to develop a prayer life,” he said, “seek a praying life. A ‘prayer life’ is a segmented time for prayer. You’ll end up feeling guilty that you don’t spend more time in prayer. Eventually you’ll probably feel defeated and give up. A ‘praying life’ is a life that is saturated with prayerfulness ‒ you seek to do all that you do with the Lord.”
There’s certainly nothing wrong with setting aside time for prayer, but that is not the goal we are called to. Instead, if we understand prayer to be how we relate with God and not merely how we use Him, then it makes sense to integrate our communion with God into all that we do and into every moment of our day. Dallas Willard goes on: “Prayer is talking with God about what we’re thinking and doing together; it is co-laboring with God to accomplish the good purposes of His Kingdom.”
This life with God approach to prayer was demonstrated by Billy Graham in 1982 before an interview on The Today Show. When Graham arrived at the studio in New York, one of the program’s producers informed his assistant that a private room had been set aside for the reverend to pray before the broadcast. The assistant thanked the producer for the thoughtful gesture but told him Mr. Graham would not need the room. The producer was surprised that a world- famous Christian leader would not wish to pray before being interviewed on live national television.
Graham’s assistant responded, “Mr. Graham started praying when he got up this morning, he prayed while eating breakfast, he prayed on the way over in the car, and he’ll probably be praying all the way through the interview.”
Before addressing how often you pray, or what you pray, take time to reflect upon why you pray. Are you trying to carve out a “prayer life” within your busy schedule, or are you cultivating a “praying life” of ceaseless communion with God? Is prayer how you try to use God, or how you seek to live with Him?
Reflect: The foundation of Whole-Life Generosity is our communion with God and experiencing His love. Discuss with others how you can begin to integrate an awareness of God’s presence with you throughout your day.
(Excerpt from Whole-Life Generosity Devotional, used with permission from GenerousChurch).