To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ. - Richard Foster
For the new Christian, I imagine the whole concept of true, life-changing prayer is a pretty intimidating prospect. We like our lives, we generally are able to structure and live them out in ways that we enjoy, human nature leads us to make the best of what we have and live as comfortably as possible. But when the power for change that prayer innately has is brought to bear upon a steady life, resistance naturally occurs. We don't like change, we like the way things are, don't rock the boat.
That is very often the reason why it is so easy for us, be we Christians of many years or few, to casually avoid coming to God in humble and contrite prayer, expecting and hoping in drastic life change. We don't always want that life change - we're not sure that the new situation will be any better than the one we already have. Sure, when life turns tumultuous and the situations that face us are suddenly far more grave than our normal, peaceful lives - that's when prayer is easy. We don't like those circumstances - we want the change then. But the challenge lies in those days where the boat sits in calm waters. Are we praying for the wind that would bring waves, but nevertheless move the boat forward?
You see, the older and more experienced Christian fears prayer for quite another reason altogether. After years of prayer, be it frequent and earnest, or less diligent and focused, we all face the temptation to so easily assume that where we cannot see God's ready answer to our prayer, it must therefore not exist. We simply fail to maintain the constant wisdom that God very often answers prayers in ways we cannot see or perhaps understand. And through the years of facing and sometimes giving into that temptation, we begin to fear not the change that prayer will bring, but rather the possibility that our prayer won't bring any change at all. We begin, essentially, to disassociate any life change with the prayers that we offer. And that is when our prayers, in our own minds, become impotent. And that is when we abandon the habit as a regular pursuit. Content to sit and list in the doldrums of life, not praying for the wind for the simple presupposition that it might not come anyway.
We all know we need prayer to be a more central aspect of our lives, no matter where our walk is at this point. We all have our unique and particular reasons and explanations for why its not. We all have the powerful promises in Scripture that prayer is a central tool by which we bring change not just in our lives, but in the kingdom on earth.
We all need to change.
I asked the Lord, that I might grow in faith and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know, and seek more earnestly his face.
I hoped that in some favored hour at once he'd answer my request,
And by his love's constraining power subdue my sins and give me rest.
Instead of this he made me feel the hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell assault my soul in every part.
'Lord why is this?' I trembling cried, 'Wilt thou pursue me to the death?'
'Tis in this way' the Lord replied, 'I answer prayers for grace and faith.'
'These inward trials I employ
from self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may'st seek thine all in me.'
- John Newton