“Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?’” (Mark 14:37, NKJV).
When you read this question that Jesus asked Peter, what is your inner response? Can you identify with Peter? Sometimes, we as Christians carry around a vaguely guilty feeling about not praying more. I think that sometimes, too, believers find the idea of a dedicated prayer life so daunting that they give up before they begin.
If you wish that you had a better prayer life, but don’t know how to start, Holy Spirit is passionately committed to training you. The burden is on Him. All you need to do is show up for class. If you will set aside time to be with Him, He is bursting with desire to teach you how to pray.
One of the keys to growth is to be pushed beyond what we already know how to do. Any excellent schoolteacher knows that he needs to challenge his students, and yet create goals that they will be able to achieve. Our Heavenly Teacher knows this better than anyone!
He will set gentle goals with you. If, right now, you have a meager to nonexistent devotional pattern, He is not cracking the whip. He is not expecting you to acquire rapid proficiency. He will begin with you where you are, and tenderly lead you to the next step.
And what of His challenge to Peter? Let’s not forget that, at that point in the story, Peter had already been in Jesus’ intensive discipleship program for over three years. In his case, praying for an hour would have been appropriate to his learning level. I have to imagine that when he started out, his attention span might not have lasted for more than five minutes in prayer.
So be encouraged. Start where you are. Let Holy Spirit challenge you to grow from there. Not sure what the next time increment goal should be? Ask Him. He will make it clear to you. “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24b, NIV).
Once you set yourself to begin, you may find your mind immediately wandering. Don’t let that discourage you. Merely realize that your schooling in prayer has begun. Gently, without any condemnation, redirect your thoughts to the Lord, as often as you need to. And instead of feeling like the mind-wandering moments were wasted time, view them as part of the training process. (For more on that, read here).
You have the most kind, devoted, enthusiastic, patient, loving Teacher that you could ever ask for, in Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “[He] will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. Peace I leave with you…” (John 14:26-27, NET). Holy Spirit’s prayer training floods us with peace.
He is so eager for you to come. He longs to spend time with you. You know how when you’re with someone you love and enjoy, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing? As long as you can be together, your heart rejoices. That’s how Holy Spirit feels about you. He doesn’t have any unreachable expectations for your prayer time; He just wants to be with you.
A year of growing richly in prayer lies before you. So by all means, dearly beloved child, don’t give up before you start!
“One of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’” (Luke 11:1, NKJV).