This is a republish of an old blog post…

Try Praying. These adverts are on buses, billboards and posters.

But for some, prayer is difficult.

If you are a Christian then you have a relationship with God. The reason Jesus went to the cross, the reason that He died was so that we could have a connection the Father. We can know and be known by God.

That’s the incredible truth presented by the bible.

Now, if you have ever been in a relationship with someone or you are married you will have soon realised that communication is vital to keep the relationship alive. Without good communication the relationship is in trouble.

In the same way that communication is key in our interactions with our fellow man (and woman!), communication with our Father in heaven is also critical for a healthy relationship.

However, for many of us, prayer is not easy.

I want to introduce you to a hero of mine. I recently met him in the pages of the New Testament.

He’s not seemingly a big player, not Paul, Peter or one of the great and well-known fathers of the early church. He’s one of those guys who’s tucked away in the background playing his own part in God’s big picture. In fact, he is only mentioned 3 times in the New Testament.

Let me introduce you to Epaphras.

He’s thought to be the church planter and leader of the church of Colossae. This church is the recipient of Paul’s letter Colossians. Epaphras, perhaps, studied under Paul during the time Paul spent lecturing in the halls of Tyrannus for 2 years (see Acts 10:9-10).

Paul mentions Epaphras twice in his letter to the Colossians. Speaking of the gospel, He says “You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” Colossians 1:7-8

And… “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12

(Epaphras is also mentioned Philemon v23)

What stands out about Epaphras to me is that he is a ‘faithful servant’ and he is always ‘wrestling in prayer for [the church]’.

I have not often pictured prayer as a wrestling match. Epaphras wrestled in prayer. Can you imagine what that looked like? Can you imagine what that felt like for him? Those that he’s praying for, probably let him down, things didn’t happen the way he’d planned but he is a faithful servant! He would not and could not give up in prayer for his church and those he cared about, he was determined to keep going.

This is not some fancy lights, camera, action affair. Perhaps I’ve imagined fighting in prayer something out of 300 or Lord of the Rings where the fighting can look so glamorous and fancy. Maybe a better picture of prayer would be grappling in the mud and rain. That’s what it can feel like to me. It’s dirty, it’s messy, it’s painful, it’s difficult.

But in the end.

It’s worth it.

Oswald Chambers writes in his book “Spiritual Leadership” about Epaphras and the struggle of prayer:

“Sometimes our prayers and pale and weak compared to those of Paul or Epaphras. “Epaphras… is always wrestling in prayer for you,” wrote Paul in Colossians 4:12. And to the same group: “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you” (Colossians 2:1). The Greek word used for “struggle” here is the root for our words “agony” and “agonize”. It is used to describe a person struggling at work until utterly weary (Colossians 1:29) or competing in the arena for an athletic prize (1 Corinthians 9:25). It describes a soldier battling for his life (1 Timothy 6:12), or a man struggling to deliver his friends from danger (John 18:36). True prayer is a strenuous spiritual exercise that demands the utmost mental discipline and concentration.”

Prayer is a fight. Ask and keep on asking. It’s not easy.

So what can we do when we don’t feel like praying? (Isn’t that the majority of time for some of us?)

We always have a choice. Prayer is a discipline and it is difficult. Therefore we need to choose to do it. We must carve out time during our day.

Perhaps you feel dry, like you can’t pray.

Jesus said to come to him all who were thirsty.

When we feel spiritually parched we must make the choice to move toward God.  When I feel like this I take encouragement and strength from the Psalms.

Psalm 42 speaks to me in particular, think about the raw honesty and desperation the author must be feeling: 

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me –
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”

My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

Psalm 42

Feel dry? Don’t wait until you feel like it, you may be waiting a while. Take steps toward God in prayer and worship even when you don’t feel like it.

Some practical tips that I’ve been learning about spending time with God in prayer and want to share with you.

  • Don’t allow yourself to get distracted. Turn off your phone, too many times I’ve been praying and my eyes have strayed onto the Facebook news feed. Turn your phone off, don’t allow yourself the distraction that it could go off.
  • Be alone. It’s important to worship and pray with others but even more so by yourself. Jesus took whole nights to go away by himself and spend time with the Father. I sometimes like to take walks along the canal in Edinburgh or spend time in my room by myself. Be somewhere where you know you won’t be interrupted by someone coming in.
  • Speak out loud when you’re talking to God. I know it sounds uncomfortable! For me, I can only pray in my head for ten seconds at a time without my thoughts wandering off. As I speak it allows me to focus. Praying out loud in tongues as well is edifying and allows me to pray when I’m tired or I no longer have words that I can express.
  • Spend time every day with God. Every single day we have 24 hours, what better way than to spend one of those hours with God! Work out what works best for you and stick to it. Currently I’m studying in College and am usually out of the house from 6.30am till mid-afternoon. I like to have a regular pattern and have decided to spend an hour with God when I return from College to help me process my day before I start on other work I have to do.
  • Lists can be useful if you prepare them beforehand so that you pray about all that you want to bring before God. I sometimes do this. It allows you to look back and see that God answered your previous prayers. However, we must be careful as we can turn our prayer lists into something legalistic, we must remain open to what God is leading us to pray for.
  • Keep going. If we give up praying for something, did we really want it in the first place? God continually speaks in his word about persevering in prayer and persistent asking.

Here’s a superb video featuring Matt Chandler, one of my favourite preachers, on the subject of prayer that I’d encourage you to take a couple of minutes to look at.

Prayer is not always easy. But it is always worth it.

“We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3b-5