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How to Pray When You Don’t Want to Pray

What I worry about when I hear something like this is that we’ll become selfish when we pray. But Miller points out that this kind of praying eventually gets us closer to God’s heart than our usual method of over-thinking it:

Children never get frozen by their selfishness. They come just as they are, totally self-absorbed. Become like a little child—ask, believe, and yes, even play. How do little children ask? Without guile. They just say what is on their minds. They have no awareness of what is appropriate or inappropriate. When you stop trying to be an adult and get it right, prayer will just flow because God has done something remarkable. He’s given you a new voice. It is his own.

How to Pray Tip #3. Prayer’s primary goal is being with God.

This may be the most important point in Miller’s entire book:

Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God… Prayer is all about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication and words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God.

Being with God is more important than reading him a laundry lists of requests. He already knows them anyway. And Jesus made it very clear that we gain nothing by puffing up our prayers to be longer.

God uses our prayers to change things, but the right prayers come just from being with him. One prayer rightly prayed is worth far more than millions of words that don’t come from fellowship with him.

More than anything else in Miller’s book, this has made me want to pray. My life can be hectic, and adding prayer as one more thing seems to make life more stressful, not less. But when we approach prayer as a way of spending time with our loving Father, it becomes something that brings calm and confidence in the midst of busyness.

I love how he describes this combination:

Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life [because if you love people you will be busy!]; it offers us a less busy heart. In the midst of outer busyness we can develop an inner quiet. Because we are less hectic on the inside, we have a greater capacity to love… By spending time with our Father in prayer, we integrate our lives with his, with what he is doing in us. Our lives become more coherent. They feel calmer, more ordered, even in the midst of confusion and pressure.

How to Pray Tip #4. Don’t look for a spiritual solution to a practical problem.

I want to make sure you read point #1. The root of most of our prayer problems is spiritual. We are idolaters, worshiping the wrong things. Unless God changes our heart, we’ll never be able to fruitfully change our habits.

But we aren’t just souls; we’re embodied creatures, which means that as much as we desire to pray, without a plan, it’s not likely to happen.

In this way, praying is a lot like spending time with my wife and kids or going to the gym. I legitimately want to do these things. And I enjoy them more than most other activities. But without a plan, the time in my day gets eaten up really quickly. So I carve out time to be home with my family—not because I need the discipline to overcome some lack of desire. Quite the opposite, the desire fuels the discipline.

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J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.