I still haven’t seen The Hobbit, but I understand that it feels long at three hours. Well, compared to sitting on your own in prayer for the same amount of time, I reckon it feels like a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Gasp.
I’m sorry. I really wanted to report back that I found this challenge surprisingly easy. I was encouraged to read that others got so lost in the practice of prayer that they went way beyond the three hour challenge we set last Tuesday. But I have to be honest, or this whole initiative is meaningless: for me, it was really hard.
I got off to a good start (thanks mainly to a solo car journey): I managed to chalk off the first hour without too much trouble. After that though, I found myself clawing bits of time together here and there, desperately adding two minutes to five minutes to three minutes, and overwhelmed all the while by the realisation that the target was still a long way away.
I’d made the challenge doubly hard on myself too – I could only pray about one subject, and while I thought about making that something quite broad, I ended up settling on a big issue for our family which, while very significant, is also quite narrow. Three hours talking with God about the same thing; I started to wonder after a while if He was getting a bit bored.
Yet despite the struggles, I’ve learned a lot about prayer – and myself – this week. Here are three examples:
I don’t pray very much. I pray every day. But I’ve never timed myself, and it turns out I had a rather generous assessment of my own spirituality. My daily prayer life is made up of short sprinty bursts, not well-paced jogs. I pray when I need something, or when I’m reminded of God’s goodness. But it doesn’t last very long. I rarely make space to pray for long periods – certainly not of this extended variety.
A lot of people find this difficult. One of the best things about this week’s challenge has been the outpouring of honesty in blogs (here and elsewhere) and tweets around the subject. Not in a kind of enabling, oh-well-aren’t-we-all-a-bit-rubbish kind of a way, but written out of a determination to do better. In our fast-paced cultural context, a lot of us struggle to give enough time to pray, but an awful lot of us have also recognised that and want to do something about it. This encourages me.
God answers prayer. Yep, here’s the punch-line. I prayed for three hours about something (details of which I’m not going to share), and that thing changed. Pretty much miraculous things happened. Completely out of the blue, things got better in exactly the way I’d asked for them to. Who’d have thought it? It wasn’t just me speaking words into a vacuum, or ‘talking to my imaginary friend’ as the latest wave of atheists would have it. God listened; God intervened.
As with last week’s challenge, I hope that the activities of this week will contribute to long-term change for me – and for you. I’m going to try to build longer periods of prayer into the rhythm of my life; and I’m going to dedicate significant amounts of prayer to those issues where I really want to see change. It’s right there in the Bible in Luke 18, and this week, it turned out to be absolutely true.
How did you get on with this week’s challenge? Please leave comments below to encourage and challenge other God52-ers in their journey.