When it comes to prayer, I am a very experienced and maybe even competent public, priestly pray-er. Privately, I am not sure just how much I pray and definitely don’t follow many of the traditional devotional practises associated with prayer, meaning that I may or may not be an experienced and competent private pray-er. Like many believers, I have at times struggled a great deal with the prayer issue, wanting to be better at it, to do more of it, to be more effective at it. Like many believers, I have felt guilty about not being better at prayer, for falling asleep when I should be praying, for not spending enough time in prayer.
But I eventually realized that worrying about praying was a colossal waste of time. Whether I am praying or not, whether I am doing it enough or now, whether I am following the right process or not–absolutely none of this matters. Whether I know what I am doing or not, my prayer happens.
That is because as Christians, we have a God whose grace knows no end–and this endless grace deals with our prayer issues. In Romans 8.26-27 we read, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (NIV).
The Holy Spirit prays for us. What we can’t express or don’t know how to express or struggle to express, God himself through the Spirit expresses. If I don’t know how to pray, it doesn’t really matter–the prayers I need to pray are being prayed by the Spirit.
Now, that doesn’t take away my responsibility to work at understanding prayer better. It doesn’t mean that I can ignore prayer. It doesn’t allow me to throw everything on God and sit back putting no effort into prayer. I do need to pay attention to prayer, I do need to learn more about prayer, I do need to put more effort into my prayer life.
But in the end, God is making sure that my prayers are prayed. All ma prayers–the ones I know and should be praying, the ones I don’t know and therefore am not praying, the ones I can’t express and so don’t pray–God has already prayed, heard and answered. There is a freedom and release in accepting this manifestation of God’s grace.
Once again, the grace of God comes in and helps us in an area of life and faith where we just can’t seem to get it right. Whether I spend three hours on my knees or fall asleep during a prayer time or pray deeply and powerfully for hours, God’s grace is making sure that all the real prayers are being prayed. And the Spirit that prays the prayer on my behalf is God who answers the prayer. God himself personally involves himself completely and intimately in my prayer life.
That old saying, “You don’t have a prayer” can never be true for a believer because we always have a prayer, a prayer that is prayed by God himself through the Holy Spirit. Our confusion, our reluctance, our lack of discipline, our whatever–none of this can stop our real and true prayers for being prayed and answered.
In the long term, it is probably much better for our spiritual health if we work at developing our ability to pray. As we develop our prayer ability, we will have a stronger sense of the presence of God, we will see wonderful answers to our prayers, we will help both ourselves and others when we become more comfortable in our prayers.
But whatever we do, we can trust that God is at work, gracefully and lovingly helping us. Prayer is important, so important that God himself is involved in our prayers from start to finish. I might have some confusion and struggle with prayer but God doesn’t and in the end, that is alll that matters. My prayers are made and heard and answered.
May the peace of God be with you.