Reading A Guidebook to Prayer by MaryKate made me reflect on my prayer experience. Prayer has been an important part of my journey with God. I first learned how to pray from my grandmother who prayed aloud every morning and evening. She never asked me to pray with her, but I remember kneeling next to her every time she prayed. My dad and mom, coming from a Muslim background, used to remind my siblings and I to pray at least three times a day like Daniel. Prayer is very important in my parent’s life. Every evening my family takes time to pray, read Scripture, and sing songs. Because of my background, I too have a habit of praying in the mornings and evenings. My challenge is I do not have a time and place set, but I pray whenever I get up.
I also reflected on how prayer is practiced in my church. The two important church programs that I always hear announced at my church’s Sunday morning worship are prayer and bible study days. Our church community is very good at getting involved in lots of other ministries such as, spiritual conferences or music concerts), but only few people attend the prayer and bible study programs. So, this week I took the opportunity to bring my reading to my small bible group and asked them simple questions: What is prayer? Is prayer hard? Here is what they said:
- Prayer is hard because there is a spiritual warfare that is keeping us from praying to God. The more we pray, the more we receive power to do Kingdom work, and Satan does not want that to happen. Another interesting point I heard from my group is that prayer is hard because we do not know how to pray because we do not ask our Lord Christ to teach us how to pray. We see Christ spent most of his time in prayers with the Father and spent less time in ministry. Our problem is we spend so much time doing other things and less time in prayer. Just like his disciples, we need to ask Christ to teach us how to pray.
- Prayer is hard is because we pray with expectation to get answers for our prayers from God. If God did not answer our prayer in the same way we expected, we lose interest in prayer. This exactly relates to what MaryKate said, “We sometimes develop high expectations for how God is going to act, making it about our will and not God’s” (p.16).
There are two fundamental issues I see my church contributing for this growing habit of presuming prayer all about our will and not God’s. For instance, when they plan a spiritual conference, they intentionally invite a guest speaker who has gifts of healing or prophecy and members do not want to miss because prophecy, healing, and blessings are what they want. If a person who has a gift of prophecy or healing comes to our church, there is no doubt that she or he would be the person everyone seeks for prayers and preaching at churches, no matter how good or bad they are. This has been a huge issue not only in my church but also among many Ethiopian churches.
Another problem is there is hardly any guidance on prayer. Besides reminding and urging believers to come to church prayer programs, it is pivotal church provides teaching or a seminar on prayer. When new believers come to church, instead of teaching them only about church dogmas we need to guide them on how to pray using guiding books like this one. Because, as MaryKate says, pray is “the most fundamental avenue for connecting us to God and growing in faith. Through prayer we know who we truly are and who this God is who loves us.” (p.13).