Sometimes I get prayer totally backwards.
Prayer is supposed to be about communing with God, expressing my dependence on Him, and asking Him to meet my needs. It’s supposed to have a distinctly God-ward focus.
But there are many times when I don’t feel what I’m praying. I’m praying for boldness to share the gospel, but don’t feel bold when I pray. I pray that God would heal, but I don’t feel like He’s going to be doing any healing. I pray that God would save, but don’t have a feeling of confidence in God’s saving power.
So I turn in on myself. I try to manufacture feelings of boldness or faith, and I get discouraged when my prayers feel limp and lifeless. My focus becomes inward instead of God-ward, which is totally backwards. In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, writing as a senior demon to a junior demon, comments:
Whenever they are attending to the Enemy [God] Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills…Teach them [humans] to estimate the value of each prayer by producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at that moment.
The success of my prayers is not based on the power of my prayers. Rather, it’s based on Jesus Christ, who sanctifies my weak, often feeling-less prayers. When my prayers feel weak, the solution is not to try to muster up feelings of spirituality, but to turn my gaze away from myself and on to my Savior.
The more time I spend gazing at myself, the weaker my prayers will be. It’s much more effective to spend my time meditating upon Christ, who perfects my prayers.
Can you relate to the temptation to examine your feelings when you’re praying?