What Makes Prayer So Difficult. And Why We Keep at It

romans 8:26 What Makes Prayer so Difficult. and Why We Keep at It

In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer. That’s a good thing. It keeps us focused on the importance of prayer, and probably dumps a load of guilt on all of us for not praying more or better.

Three aspects of prayer make it difficult, and probably even unreasonable. And then, one overwhelming reality keeps us at it with the strong confidence that praying is the best thing we can ever do.

The three impossible aspects of prayer that befuddle us…

–One. The Object of our prayers is unseen.

In prayer, we are addressing One we’ve never seen and can’t even prove exists. And yet, we keep at it, drawing aside day after day, year after year, speaking to the Invisible, Unprovable Lord in the firm belief that He is there, that He hears, and cares and will answer.

Is this bizarre or not?! Smile, please.

–Two. The expression of our prayers is uncertain.  

We simply do not know how to word our prayers. We are mortals addressing the Immortal, the creation speaking to the Creator, sinners kneeling before the Holy One.

We are never quite sure whether we should do it this way or that way. We hear someone else pray and either we are sure that’s not how it’s done or we envy them their ease in talking to the Father.

“In the same way, God helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). We do not know how to pray as we should.

We knew we didn’t. But here we find the great apostle admitting to the same problem. We’re not quite sure whether that’s comforting—as in “misery loves company”—or depressing, since we were hoping that others surely prayed better than we do. And we find they don’t! And how awful is that!

–Three. The outcome of our prayers is in doubt. 

For good reason, pollsters never announce what percentage of our prayers get answered and what portion lie there unaddressed by the Almighty.

It’s impossible to know.

We may believe God answered this prayer or that one. We may believe He sent us what we needed instead of what we requested. Or, we may believe He said ‘no’ to our request. But we do not know for certain.

We do not know what would have happened had we not prayed.

There is no way to over-emphasize this: Ninety-five out of a hundred times, we will never know what God did with our prayers. We pray for the President of the United States, but have no idea whether our prayers did any good or not. We pray for our children when they head off to school, without a clue whether our prayers are responsible for keeping them safe and sharpening their minds and growing their hearts. We pray for the missionaries on the other side of the world, but none of them ever call to say, “Thanks for praying. Here is what God did in answer to your prayers today!”

So, we pray by faith.

Faith in prayer means we address One we cannot see, cannot prove exists, in the hope that He is there, that He cares, that He is listening and that He will answer. We pray anyway.

Faith in prayer means we do the best we can at wording our prayer even knowing it’s always being done poorly. We pray anyway.

Faith in prayer means we may not know until we arrive in Heaven what God did in answer to our prayers. We pray anyway.

We keep praying. Here’s why. 

The question then becomes: Why then do we keep praying? What keeps drawing us back?

God has stacked the universe in favor of His children praying. Stacked the cards, so to speak.

It’s all in that amazing eighth chapter of Romans.

Verse 26 says, “The Holy Spirit intercedes for us.”

Verse 34 says, “Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.”

Get that? Both the Son and the Spirit are on our side, interceding for us with the Father.

Is that bizarre or what? I mean, wonderfully bizarre.

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Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever has been a believer over 60 years, has been preaching the Gospel over 50 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian Publications over 40 years. He lives in New Orleans.