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The Battle of Prayer

"For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
Ephesians 6:12, NRSV

I have a confession to make: I find prayer hard, some days mind-bogglingly hard. There are seasons where it’s easier, where I have a natural energy to sit and engage with the Lord, and where it doesn’t feel like a decision of the mind but is simply an impulse of the heart. I can easily find a million reasons not to pray. And then even in prayer, my mind wanders. I get distracted. My mind starts buzzing with things I need to get done that day or I get burdened because I don’t think I’m praying in the right way and, sometimes, I just fall asleep.

One thing to remember about prayer is this: to pray is to engage in a spiritual battle. There are very real spiritual powers that do not want you to pray. The Great Liar himself would rather you get lost in the busyness of the day and put off prayer to a later time that never comes. He would rather you feel prayer is a ‘should’ on your to-do list, that you forget about prayer or be fooled into only praying when you want divine approval for your life. He does not want you to learn to align your will and heart with God’s in prayer. To choose to pray is to engage in battle.

So how do we fight that battle? Trying harder usually ends with frustration from our failures or spiritual pride at our ‘successes.’ This happens when we go at it on our own steam rather than by the Spirit. Imagine how different it might be to see prayer not as pulling up our bootstraps, but listening and responding to God Himself!

So how do we do that? We start by owning up to how we either condemn ourselves for our prayer lives or condone our lack of one. We tell God about where and why we struggle to pray. We listen for the Spirit’s voice and find a way to pray that might actually work for us. Then we employ our will and we pray as we can, knowing it’s a choice we make with God’s Spirit in us. And on the days we hit ‘snooze’ too many times or when we have raced through our day without a second thought for God, we remember that the battle is not lost when we drop the ball. That is not how our God works! The battle is only lost when we give up the fight. Alleluia!
The Rev. Dr. Suse E. McBay
Associate for Adult Christian Education and Prayer Ministries
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