Pray harder

I was encouraged to “pray harder” on two separate occasions recently. It is hard to avoid being viewed as a heretic when I say I had problem with that. I mean praying is such a pious thing that it is hard to argue against. The problem I have is the logic that “pray harder “will have result in some form. Are we not saying by our efforts we can make things happen? I think “pray harder” at best sounds Arminius-ic and at worst is just a way to manipulate God.  The parable “Friend at midnight” (Luke 11:5-8) as well as Paul’s instruction to pray unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17) are talking about praying more not harder. The difference is that one view prayer as a method or means to an end (pray harder) while the other view prayer as an end in itself (pray more). Prayer is like breathing. If we stop breathing we die. If we stop praying we stop remembering God’s presence. If we stop remembering God’s presence we will do what we want much like the phrase used repeatedly in Judges “everyone did what was right is his own eyes.”  

When I was going through a very difficult time at work recently. I did not pray harder. I prayed more. I naturally prayed more because I have to. I might have escaped to alcohol or drugs just to get me through. Instead I tried praying. I prayed for a specific problem to be solved but I did not stop there. I also prayed I might work alertly so I could utilize my experience and abilities. I prayed that I would be more focused and not be distracted. I also prayed that I would not get upset when the problem was not solved after repeated attempts.  If that was praying harder then that is fine. But if praying harder is just keep repeating the words and hope that God will change his mind or perform a miracle then I have my doubts that praying harder will help.  

I must clarify that what I find most important is not just the results of prayer but the process of walking through life events with God’s presence and guidance.

I am sure that those who encouraged me meant well and I know they are very sincere in their faith. However, I must say that the sheer will approach to guidance is not exactly what I believe to be the norm of the spiritual life. Not that it will not work; I just do not believe that should be the norm.  

There are times I felt prayer is totally useless and a complete waste of time. It was at those times that I must pray and acknowledge that my ways are just as useless. It is the acceptance of hoe “useless” prayer is and yet still praying “uselessly” that absolutely acknowledges our total dependency on God for his providence.

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