Chapter 3

Break Through Prayer Barriers

From the book How to Pray

Having strong, consistent prayer is difficult. It is not natural for us. It can be hard to summon the willpower and energy. It can be hard to know what to pray for, or how to pray in detail. It can be hard to concentrate and maintain your attention. It is easy to daydream or even fall asleep during your prayers.

It is extremely important, however, to never stop striving to improve the quality of your daily prayers.

Building a stronger, more spiritual, fervent and effectual relationship with God in prayer takes work. But no matter how strong your prayer life is, continue working to strengthen it daily. Developing and perfecting your prayers is an effort you must keep pursuing your entire life. There is no greater, nobler pursuit!

Our primary focus in life must be on how we talk to God in prayer! That is our number one priority. That is how we grow in God’s royal Family.

—Gerald Flurry, Royal Vision, May-June 1998

These words are a good prod to ensure we never grow complacent in our prayers, and that we prioritize a high-quality prayer life each day. Making prayer our top priority means pushing through the difficulties.

Let’s examine how to overcome the most common barriers to a great prayer life.

‘I Don’t Feel Like It’

The first obstacle we will confront is laziness. I don’t feel like it. I don’t want to. I don’t need to. We can all feel this way, especially if we have never established the habit of prayer.

You may even reason, Well, God already knows everything—why should I have to pray about all of it? Matthew 6:8 even confirms this: “[Y]our Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”

But imagine being God. Our prayers are the one time that we shut everything else out and focus on talking to Him. It shows Him daily how special He is to us.

What … is God going to think if we say, Well, this is a busy day, and I’d like to get some more prayer in, but I just don’t have time. I’m going to have to cut back on my prayers. What does your Father think about that? He wants the best sacrifice you can give. If you don’t give it, you’re going to have a lot of trouble. And if you give it, you’re going to have success beyond your imagination.

—Gerald Flurry, Royal Vision, January-February 2012

The first way around this obstacle is to realize that God yearns to hear your prayers.

Someone once said, “I don’t feel like praying.” The answer to that statement: “Talk to God about it.” God tells us to make everything known to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6).

What will be the result? “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (verse 7). There is tremendous peace in having your prayer life where it should be.

Perhaps you have never felt a great need to pray to God. Often it isn’t until we face real difficulties in life that we begin to recognize how much we need to take things to God. Many people find that the busier life gets, the more they realize how inadequate they are to handle things, and how they must look to our loving Father in heaven.

If you feel overwhelmed, confused, burned-out, depressed or unequipped to manage life’s challenges, strengthening your prayers is your solution. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray” (James 5:13).

God is a Father—ready to listen to His children and offer His help. Matthew 7:7-11 affirm this fact. That passage ends, “… how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” You can trust that God will hear and answer you—even if the answer isn’t always what you believe is best.

God plainly tells us that He loves to hear His people pray, that “the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8). He wants you to talk to Him, every day.

Walk With God!

When you build the kind of relationship God wants with you, you will desire to spend time with Him in prayer—just as you would your very best friend!

The Bible records how men like Abraham, Noah, Moses, David and Elijah all walked with God. They came to know God intimately. These men prayed often to God. They spent long hours in prayer, communing with Him.

I have changed my entire daily routine—my entire life. The fasting and prayer has resulted in almost completely removing all signs of the heart condition or high blood pressure. For four years I have had to live, knowing I could drop dead at any second! Now pounds have been taken off. Now I can take longer, more vigorous walks. Now I am taking them, three times a day—regardless of circumstances which might try to prevent! Now, no matter how many conferences are scheduled, no matter how pressing some urgent executive responsibility, I am going three times or more a day to my prayer room God has blessed me with, there to commune with Him, and keep closer to Him! My life from now will be far more active …. Pray—as you never prayed before—and keep it up!

—Herbert W. Armstrong, member letter, March 2, 1967

Some of God’s own people have serious problems in their lives. In so many of these cases, in counseling sessions, God’s ministers learn that these people are spending just mere minutes (or seconds) in “prayer.” How could such a person expect to have spiritual power?

If you desire spiritual power in your life, then walk with God. But don’t let it be a silent stroll. Commune with God throughout the day. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” Moffatt translates this verse: “Never give up prayer.” This means, in addition to our regular time of daily prayer on our knees, to remain in a prayerful attitude all day long.

And right here perhaps I may give the reader an example of what God’s Word means by the admonition “Pray without ceasing,” or, as Jesus said, to “pray always.” He means we must be continually in a spirit of prayer. And he means to pray, constantly, over even little things that arise.

As I half walked—half ran—I prayed. There was no opportunity to kneel—nor was there, now, time. I prayed as I walked. I asked God to forgive me for negligence in not asking Him before I called. Then I asked Him, now, to change this man’s attitude to one of favor toward me and toward the program. And I believed, and expected to receive it!

—Herbert W. Armstrong, Autobiography

Walking with God means spending time with Him instead of with the material things of this world. It involves spending time in study, discovering the deep truths of the Bible and meditating on the principles and laws. It means praying to Him for deeper understanding, wisdom, direction and faith.

Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul—common, humble, ordinary men themselves—all had that power, the same identical power Jesus had, because they lived and walked close to god and were filled with the Holy Spirit!

And we seem to lack that power today, not because God denies us that power, but because we are so close to a modern, materialistic world—our minds are so filled with the material interests of this life; our minds and our hearts are so far from God; we are so out of touch with Him through lack of enough time spent in the study of His Word and lack of enough of the right kind of surrendered, submissive, earnest and heartrending prayer—and, consequently, because we are not filled with the Holy Spirit which affords us the power of God! …

Draw closer to God. Get to know God. Surrender all the way to Him and do His will. And then pray. You get to know Him in prayer. We are too close to the material things. Through prayer, much more prayer, you can come closer to God and the spiritual things. And what a happy, joyous experience it is, once you have really done it!

—Herbert W. Armstrong, The Plain Truth About Healing

Pray! Pray always! Are you praying that fervently?

Jesus, for example, was accustomed to spending long hours in private prayer, alone with God. He prayed all night to God upon a special occasion. He arose early, long before it was day, and went out where He could be alone with God. He fasted and prayed. Do you?

Those who escape [the coming time of trouble] are those who put Christ’s Kingdom first, not second, in their everyday lives; who spend full hours in earnest, heart-rending prayer; who actually fast and pray; who pray continually, even as they go about their work, as they walk down the street, or drive their cars. They are continually in a spirit of prayer. …

If you truly love Him—if He is your best friend—then it should be such a privilege to spend whole hours with Him in prayer! He is never “too busy” to give you all the time you wish. Whenever you go to Him in prayer, He is there! His ear is always open! You can have all of His time you want! As often as you want it! How thankful we should be!

—Herbert W. Armstrong, Good News, October 1954

‘I Did Something Wrong’

Sometimes you may not feel like praying because you have committed a sin. You believe God is angry at you and wouldn’t hear your prayer.

Realize that the only way out of that problem is to go to God about it! That may be the hardest thing under the circumstances, but you must face the situation and do it.

The Bible makes this point clear: “If we confess our sins [to God], he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The only way to get free of the guilt is to go to God! He is the only one who can forgive you! “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

If you are thinking or doing something you shouldn’t, don’t wait until the absolute last possible second to turn to God. Go to Him early for help when you need it. It is wise to immediately isolate yourself, go to your knees, and ask for spiritual power, or ask for forgiveness if you have already committed the sin. If circumstances don’t permit this, pray silently in your mind right then; then later, first chance you get, finish up. Don’t wait! Do not save it for the next morning’s prayers. Romans 12:12 says we should be “instant in prayer.” The longer you wait, the harder it will be.

Prayer is the antidote for temptation. Jesus Christ said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). He knows. He has experienced sore temptation, and He knows how to escape it without succumbing to it.

Don’t run from God. Always run to God! Think of the example of Jonah. God gave him a commission, but he was afraid. Instead of turning to God for help and courage, he allowed his fears to fill his mind, and he ran away.

The Prophet Jeremiah was also afraid when God gave him a special and challenging commission. But Jeremiah prayed in Jeremiah 1:6, “Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.” He did try to make excuses—but he also cried out to God for help in his weakness. The difference between Jonah and Jeremiah is that both were afraid, but one cried out to God for help to conquer his fears while the other waited until he was in the belly of a fish to finally turn to the only one who could help.

Establish the Habit

There is yet another solution to the problem of not wanting to pray, and it is the most important of all: Make prayer a habit. That means doing it no matter what you “feel” like. That is what making it your number one priority is all about.

Develop the habit of prayer now! Don’t walk through life by yourself. If you face a difficult challenge, pray about it. If you and a loved one have a disagreement, take it to God, and ask for His help. If you score a success, give God thanks for it. God is your Father, and He wants you to talk to Him about what is going on in your life!

Never think: “God wouldn’t care,” or “God wouldn’t understand.” He made you. He understands better than anyone. He is interested in every aspect of your life because He has a special plan for you.

Bring God into the middle of everything—your successes, your failures, your challenges, your questions and your trials. Be instant in prayer. Ask for wisdom before you start that job or go to that meeting, ask for protection before traveling, ask for compassion and patience before going home tired to your family at night. You need to pray always and begin to literally walk and talk with God (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). Prayer is like exercise. The more you do it, the more comfortable it becomes, and the stronger you become.

Pouring out your heart means you hold nothing back. It means you are comfortable with talking to God. It means you trust Him with your deepest thoughts and feelings, and you know He is listening.

Do our children see us pray and study every day? Do they see the father as the head of the family with the mother fully supporting her husband? Children can immediately spot hypocrisy. If we set the proper example early, our children will, in most cases, follow in our footsteps.

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Timothy 3:14). If a problem arises in our child’s life, he should be taught first and foremost to take it to God in prayer. Soon it will become automatic. Parents who are most successful in rearing children are those who are closest to God.

—Gerald Flurry, Royal Vision, May-June 1998

There is nothing permanent about a spiritual mind in a physical body. Therefore, we must renew God’s Spirit in us daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). God tells us to ask, seek, come to Him regularly and often, to receive the power of His Spirit (Luke 11:5-13). A light bulb is useless unless it is in contact with the source of power, and so are we.

Christ set an example of praying first thing in the morning, before anything else could interrupt Him (Mark 1:35). So did King David (Psalm 5:3).

In biblical examples, people habitually prayed three times a day. This helped them stay close to God. David wrote, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17). Daniel “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed” (Daniel 6:10). These were busy men, entrusted with the highest governmental powers of major kingdoms, yet they came before God in prayer regularly.

Make these examples part of your way of life. This is an excellent habit. It is probably best to say your main prayers in the morning, to reestablish contact with God midday, then, before you go to bed, to review your day with Him.

You must pray regularly. Nothing is more important. The closer you can stay to God and the more often you go to Him in prayer, the less you will sin and the more you will accomplish.

People who feed from the tree of life are going to have white raiment and shining faces like God’s! [Revelation 3:5].

God isn’t going to give that incredible reward to somebody who thinks he can casually get by on only 15 or 20 minutes of prayer each day on his knees. The inner man must be renewed day by day, or God isn’t there!

—Gerald Flurry, The Book of Chronicles

If you really grasp the fact that all you need and want comes from God—that your success or failure, happiness or troubles are in direct proportion to the extent to which you commit everything to Him in believing prayer—you will not make plans or do anything without seeking His counsel and help (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Again, once you establish the habit, then not praying simply won’t feel right.

During his ministry, Herbert W. Armstrong recommended—and Gerald Flurry has repeatedly backed this up—that in order to merely survive spiritually, a person should spend at least a half hour a day in prayer. That is the voice of practical experience! Anything less than this, and you are setting yourself up for problems. But for real spiritual growth to take place in your life, you need to go beyond that amount.

Do you cry out to God? We should be praying to God about an hour a day on our knees (at least 30 minutes just to survive), but in crises, we really need to be crying out to God! [A] crisis in the Church is a test from God to get His people to cry out to Him.

—Gerald Flurry, Who Is ‘That Prophet’?

If that seems like a terrible imposition on your time, spend some serious time considering everything that God has given you. Consider what your life would be like if God was not working with you. Think of the problems increasing in the lives of so many people in the world and use that as a motivator to count your blessings.

For as much as God has given us, we must demonstrate that giving spirit in return. Show Him how special He is to you. How appreciative you are of Him, and how honored you are to have quality time with Him each day.

Daily prayer should be:

  • On both knees (unless our health prevents us)
  • In a private place, alone
  • Ideally, at least 30 minutes, uninterrupted, in the morning and striving toward one hour a day, perhaps doing the bulk in the morning and some later and at night.

Since the word prayer means to bow down, the general posture for prayer is on your knees. Most biblical examples show the usual position of prayer is on your knees, bowing before God. Christ prayed in this position (Luke 22:41). Making the effort to kneel down on both knees when you pray shows God that you respect Him. The position is important, though not as important as the attitude of humility, reverence and respect for God. (You certainly can pray while clenching onto the side of a cliff!)

When you are really crying out in making a petition or soliciting God’s help, it would be natural to stretch out your arms, lifting the palms face up as you plead (see Psalm 141:2). This demonstrates earnestness and emotional involvement in your prayers.

It is also worth mentioning that Jesus taught His disciples to pray in a private place, not making a public show of prayer (Matthew 6:5-6).

You know, I have a special private prayer room in my home and you know the people that would persecute, I have even heard the people using that against me that I have the extravagance of a special room for prayer. … I don’t believe there’s a thing you can do that God tells you to do that someone won’t accuse you and try to condemn you for it. Now, everybody may not be able to have a special private room for prayer. I went through most of my life before I was able to have such a thing and it just suddenly came; it was a gift of God, that’s all. But I think it’s a very wonderful thing if you can.

“Verily, I say unto you, Thou when thou prayest enter into thine inner chamber and having shut the door”—and when I’m in my prayer room, I’m behind two locked doors and no one can get in and I don’t hear them if they pound on that outer door. I’m alone where I am not going to be disturbed and there’s no telephone in there to ring and to buzz me or to bother me and I just can’t be reached. I have a room that is soundproof and a room where nobody can come and knock or get in or disturb me at all and I can go in there and be alone with God and know I am going to be alone with Him and not disturbed.

“[T]hou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee” (Matthew 6:6; American Standard Version). Oh, the answers to prayer that have come from prayers that have been made in that little room, and hundreds and hundreds of people have benefited, and miracles have been performed because God does hear. …

And this man said, “Well, brother,” he said, “we’re going to have a tarry meeting and we’re going to have a bunch of people there and we want you to come and join us and we’re going to pray all of us together so that we will get more of the Holy Spirit.” “Well,” I said, “I believe, I’ll have to ask you to excuse me.” I said, “I would rather go to a private place and lock myself in a room and pray to God, or I would rather go up on the top of a hill or a mountain or someplace away and pray all alone to God.” “Well,” he says, “you’ll never get your baptism that way, brother.” Well, you know that kind of baptism, my friends, is something I don’t want. And I said to him, “Anything I have to get from other men that I can’t get from God when I pray the way Jesus commanded me to pray is something I don’t want.”

How many of you are disobeying God’s command and are going with other people, and as they call it, tarrying? And tarrying merely means to remain awake, it doesn’t mean a prayer meeting at all; it’s just some modern language that some modern deceived and misguided people are using today. How many of you do that way, trying to get something that you can only get from other people?

—Herbert W. Armstrong, World Tomorrow radio program, May 10, 1979

‘I Don’t Know What to Pray About’

The idea of coming before the Creator of the universe can be daunting. But to think of things to say for 30 minutes—that can be hard to do even with someone you can see!

The first way to overcome not knowing what to pray about is to organize your prayers.

When Jesus’s disciples asked their Master how to pray, He gave them a wonderful outline for organizing our daily prayers. Chapter 4 of this book will provide an in-depth look at this outline and give you many specifics on how to build it into a robust and lengthy prayer session, with variety and freshness each day. It will also help you break out of the natural tendency to focus your daily prayers on your personal needs and desires, and will make your prayers more unselfish and effective. It is a terrifically practical guide for organizing your prayers and giving you plenty to talk to God about.

The second method to beefing up the content of your prayers is to pay attention for things to pray about.

As the next chapter covers in detail, two major components of our daily prayers should be praying for God’s Work and for other people. Read Ephesians 6:18-20 and Colossians 4:2-4, where Paul specifically requests that the brethren pray for each other and especially for him, that God would open doors for him to preach the gospel more boldly. The Work needed the people’s prayers then, and so it does today.

Follow news about God’s Work on Those who are contributing to the Work receive regular co-worker letters from the pastor general, which are a good source of information. Members of God’s Church hear announcements in weekly services that often contain information about the Work; take notes on them. They also receive the Philadelphian, a gold mine of information about the Work. As you hear or read these bits of news, ask, Where might God have to intervene?

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication [prayer requests] for all saints [God’s people]” (Ephesians 6:18). Watching thereunto is translated in the Revised Standard Version, “keep alert”—in other words, pay attention! Beyond listening for prayer requests during announcements, pay attention during your conversations with others. If someone is facing difficulties, take note! Write those things down. Then, follow up. When you see the person later, ask how things are going. Show your concern. For Church members, this can be a significant part of your Sabbath fellowship. It gives you something to talk about and helps you to get the focus off yourself.

Now, how will you remember all these things when it comes time to pray? That brings us to another solution to not knowing what to pray about: Keep a prayer list.

You may try keeping a notebook or paper, perhaps a bound notebook with a separate page for each category. A three-ring binder would allow you to add or remove items as necessary. Some people prefer note cards that they can easily add to or rearrange. The important thing is, when items to pray about arise, write them down and later copy them onto your list.

Something else that can really help the content of your prayers is Bible study. Good communication is not one-sided. Have you ever talked with someone who just likes to talk and talk but never listen? How did you feel? If we pray regularly but don’t study very often, it’s the same thing: We are doing all the talking. What does God think of that? As we study, we get to know the mind of God—how He thinks. This makes it easier to talk to Him. We can talk about what He has taught us and rehearse it with Him. If our prayers are getting stale and we are running out of things to say, maybe we are not listening enough.

Finally, to really flesh out the content of your prayers, get detailed. Not only does God want to hear more depth in your requests, but you benefit as well. Praying gives you a chance to think deeply on a problem or situation. It helps you empathize with the one you are praying for. You may realize better how difficult that trial is. You may even think of a solution. Praying can also push you to see things from God’s point of view. Just quickly running through a prayer list—“Bless Jim and Susan and Grandpa and Aunt Patty …”—won’t be the most effective prayer. When laying your prayers before God, get detailed.

The next chapter will have much more instruction on this vital subject.

‘I Can’t Concentrate’

If you are a parent, surely you have experienced times when, while talking with your children, you can tell their minds are elsewhere. They are ready to move on to something else. We can do the same thing to our Father in prayer. Our hearts can pull us elsewhere, making it a struggle to focus. Our minds can wander, and we may not even realize we are no longer praying.

We must fight that distractibility. Prayer takes work, planning and effort. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted. Develop and exercise real mental discipline to focus on your prayers. We honor and love our Father by giving Him our full attention.

If you fail in this area, one solution you should consider is to cut back on worldly pursuits and entertainment.

The fact is, you think about what you fill your mind with. The more it is full of worldly things, the easier it is to be preoccupied with those things when it is time to really focus on God. Fill your mind with godly things, and centering your thoughts will be much easier. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Because it is so easy to think about material things, God gives us the logical instruction, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Notice what God says will happen if you seek Him wholeheartedly: “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13). Doing that will likely require that you avoid certain activities that many other people are giving their hearts to.

Another remedy for daydreaming is to use your prayer list. Keep it in front of you as you pray. Then, if your mind wanders, catch yourself and get back to your list. You can quickly pick up from where you left off.

The fact that Christ’s return is so near should change our behavior. Because Christ is almost here, we must be very concerned about our prayer life. Carefully watch your prayer life and keep your mind on the return of Jesus Christ. Get your prayer in. Make certain you are talking to God—getting through to Him—every day. Pray until you have living hope! Pray yourself into that living hope, day after day!

—Gerald Flurry, The Epistles of Peter—a Living Hope

There are some people who find concentrating on their prayers difficult not just because of a lack of focus, but because of evil spiritual influences. Satan is “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), and his broadcasting is certainly real. We live in a time when he and his demons have been cast down from heaven and are confined to this Earth (Revelation 12:9). Their activity is increasing as their time before Christ’s return grows short (verse 12).

Jesus specifically instructed us to pray, “deliver us from evil”—or from the evil one, Satan (Matthew 6:13). We need God’s protection and should pray for it daily!

The Apostle James gives this “formula” for resisting the devil’s influence: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:7-8). If you feel anything like an unnatural, evil influence, call on the name of Jesus Christ and begin praying to God! Get closer to God! Draw on Him for help in resisting the devil, and the devil will flee! You may even say, like the archangel Michael, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9).

Neither Satan nor his demons have any power to make you commit sin or think a wrong thought. The devil cannot even read your mind, whereas God can! Yes, Satan is far stronger than you are—but God is infinitely stronger than Satan! With God’s help, you need not fear the devil. God will give you all the power you need to truly resist him!

‘I Fall Asleep’

This can be a real problem. Consider what a lack of respect we show for God when we fall asleep during our prayers. He deserves our full, alert attention.

The most obvious solution to drowsiness is to be well rested. It is hard to escape the fact that the quality of your daily prayers is often directly tied to the quality of your sleep the night before. And this is typically a result of how well you stick to your bedtime each night. If you stay up late, you are virtually guaranteed to have problems the next morning. This is really a matter of self-discipline. Remember, the overall goal is to make your prayers your number one priority. If something else interferes—including an evening activity that will make your prayers tired the next morning—ask yourself, What am I putting before God?

God wants our best sacrifice. He wouldn’t let the Israelites bring their old, diseased animals to the sacrifice. He wanted the best they had (see Leviticus 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6). He wants your best time in prayer, when you are most alert and can really get through to God.

—Gerald Flurry, Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet

You need to get enough sleep not only to say decent prayers in the morning, but also because it is a fundamental law of good health. Breaking it sets you up for problems spiritually and physically.

Another solution you should try is to pray aloud. Close the door to your room or prayer closet (we are to pray in private anyway—Matthew 6:6), and just speak to God. This will likely feel awkward if you are not used to it. It may take some practice before you are not so aware of your own voice and can focus on God. But don’t give up. Praying aloud can really keep you alert. It can also help prevent your mind from wandering and keep your prayers focused.

One more solution to problems concentrating or staying awake is to get tough with yourself.

The Good News explained this point well: “Apply some of the principles of the seven laws of success to your prayer life. Have a definite goal in mind when you begin. Then stick to your prayer and don’t give up until you know you have actually prayed to God—not just to the ceiling, the floor, or to yourself—and your prayers have been heard! Force yourself to get down on your knees and stay on them until you have accomplished what you set out to do! …

“The Bible shows us that the Kingdom of God will be turned over only to those who are forceful and driving in fulfilling God’s will! Wishy-washy, irresolute quitters won’t make it! Turn your natural carnal stubbornness in the right direction and prevail in prayer!” (January-February 1972).

If lack of concentration is a problem for you, determine to break the bad habit once and for all! Before kneeling down to pray, take care of any potential distractions. Try setting a timer, getting down on your knees, and forcing yourself not to get up until the time has passed! Get tough with yourself! It won’t take too many of such sessions before you notice dramatic improvement in your ability to concentrate on your prayers.

Christ set the perfect example in this respect. Read Matthew 26:36-44. This was the night before His crucifixion, when He was under tremendous mental strain. He earnestly prayed for an hour. Then, as if realizing He needed more, He did it again. That same night He then prayed for yet a third hour—even though the content of what He said was apparently the same.

That is real persistence! That is breaking through to God, being sure His prayers were having the proper effect!

Pray With Purpose!

While it may be helpful, when one is first converted, to “pray by the clock” to learn how to pray, eventually you should progress beyond that stage. If you are praying merely to log time or “get in” your prayer, you are not as effective as you should be. A much more practical approach than “clock watching” is to develop and maintain your individual prayer list (which we will cover in Chapter 4).

After you have prayed, do you merely feel relieved that you have “gotten in” your prayer for the day? Or do you feel closer to God? Are you certain your prayer was heard and that it will accomplish something? Most of us find ourselves slipping into the former rut from time to time. Resolve to pray with more purpose.

Just before you pray, remind yourself that you aren’t going through the motions of prayer just because as a Christian you are supposed to pray, but because you need the help and spiritual strength that only God can give! Ask God to help you pray with more purpose and to help you purge any tendency to approach prayer as a meaningless ritual.

As you strive to improve your prayers, you will face problems. Christ well knows the difficulties. That final evening of His human life, He said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (verse 41). But determine, as He did, to find a way around whatever obstacle you face. Do not give up until you have placed your prayer life right up at the very top of your priorities!

The blessings that follow will abundantly pay back your efforts!

Continue Reading: Chapter 4: A Framework for Prayer