“I have come to see prayer as a privilege, not a duty. Like all good things, prayer requires some discipline. Yet I believe that life with God should seem more like a friendship than duty. Prayer includes moments of ecstasy and also dullness, mindless distraction and acute concentration, flashes of joy and bouts of irritation. In other words, prayer has features in common with all relationships that matter.
If prayer stands as the place where God and human beings meet, then I must learn about prayer. Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn’t act the way we want God to, and why I don’t act the way God wants me to. Prayer is the precise point where those two themes converge.”
Philip Yancey in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 17.
Yancey simply and powerfully summarizes the range of experiences associated with prayer. As we approach this discipline, don’t expect the heavens to open daily, a ray of light to magically fill the room at a specified time, or angels to appear with a message in response to our petitions. Most of the time it may be pretty quiet.
Think of Daniel, fasting and praying for twenty-one days, twenty-one long days, before having a angel visit him (cf. Daniel 10). Consider Anna, the eighty-four year old prophetess, who fasted and prayed every day in the temple, waiting for the redemption of Israel (cf. Luke 2:36-38). Both eventually experienced God. Eventually.
Whether Daniel or Anna, you or me, each of us has moments or even days of dullness and not much ecstasy. So why pray? Don’t do it out of duty, do it because it’s a gift. What is so profound about this gift, in short, is that the themes that converge in prayer are His strength and our weakness.
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