Prayer, The Great Boredom?
By jonathan cone
May 6, 2010
“Why is prayer so boring?” I used to ask this question, especially of someone who devotes his or her entire life to it. Prayer had never really appealed to me up until about a year ago. I wanted to pray, but prayer felt so dull. We know we are supposed to pray because God wants us to. In fact, He tells us we are to pray without ceasing. Yet there is something about prayer in this age that seems to have absolutely no appeal. Prayer doesn’t even interest the Church anymore! How can this be?Perhaps the most prominent factor resulting in our paradigm of “boring prayer” is the way we view God. So in examining the question of “Why is prayer so boring?” let’s also examine the question “Who is God?” for the two questions are in direct relation. When I found prayer to be laborious and meaningless, I obviously hardly ever prayed. But over the last 12 months, prayer has been far from burdensome. What brought about the change? It’s really quite simple. The change was instant. It didn’t take years for me to finally come to the place of enjoyable prayer. In a moment, my wrong views of God were shattered. As a result, my approach to Him became very different.
What are some wrong views we have about God? I can only answer from my own experience. It would be foolish for me to give a checklist of the “five, and only five, wrong views of God" because God is infinite, so we could have an infinite number of misconceptions about His character. One major misconception I have found we easily harbor, yet often don’t acknowledge, is that “God is disappointed with me.”
Often, we know how to play the spiritual game and outwardly express our confidence that God loves us, but inwardly our hearts are unsettled. We just know that we have disappointed God when we continuously fall into sin or when we aren’t working up to our full “potential” for Him. We keep stumbling over the same sins over and over again. Surely there has to be a point where God gives up on us: “That is the 122th time you have done that. My grace point was 111. You have gone too far this time.” That’s how some of us picture God looking at us—always keeping count so He can punish us, because that is what He likes to do. He likes to judge.This mindset tremendously affects our prayer life. When we do feel like we can go before God, we spend our entire time trying to convince Him to forgive us, and that if He will forgive us, we will never sin again. Yet before we know it, we find we are in the midst of the very thing we said we would never do again. Now, not only have we sinned, we have broken the promise we made to God. So, the seemingly eternal spiral continues—each time adding to our inward feeling of God’s utter disappointment. This never-ending cycle of feeling God’s disappointment, repenting and then going back to feeling God’s disappointment results in prayer being choked right out of our lives. But there is good news. This cycle does not have to continue! What would happen if we caught a glimpse of ourselves from God’s perspective? How does He really see us? It’s easy for us to measure ourselves using a worldly tape measure. However, God has a very different way of measuring things. It’s really quite simple to capture the affection of God. All you have to do is be.
As soon as you came into existence, and even before, God’s jealous love has burned for you. This is true for the deepest sinner or the most righteous. It’s true for the richest as well as the poorest. The Psalmist puts it this way: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there” (139:7-8). This revelation alone should shatter our view of God’s disappointment. No matter what we do, He won’t give up on us. He won’t even give up on the ones who curse and hate Him. His love will burn as strong as ever. The intensity of His love will never relent one bit, no matter what we do!
What we need is a good dose of reality. Once the reality of who we are in Christ hits us, our heart awakens to the reality of who God is. We begin to see Him differently than we have been taught to see Him. We base our view of God out of personal encounter rather than out of superficial knowledge passed on to us by someone else. So who are we? We are His bride. Most of us already know this. But we don’t really understand it, nor has this reality been awakened in our hearts. But our lack of understanding or lack of encounter does not invalidate this reality. It’s the basis of everything in Scripture. The entire Bible illuminates the Bridegroom God whose only desire is to be known by His bride. What a revelation! The God who created all things; the God who speaks and mountains tremble; the God who shines with such glory that the sun, moon and stars will flee in utter embarrassment upon His return; the God who has no beginning; the God in whom heaven inhabits; this is the God whose only desire is that mankind would really know Him!
This is our identity. This is our reality. It’s not just some cool idea that sounds good. This is who we are! This is who we are created to be—to know this One who is unknowable; to search this One who is unsearchable; to partner with the King of all ages! When our hearts grasp the reality that we can know Him in this way, our false views of God begin shattering. We approach Him differently. We are confident when we talk to Him, even though we are weak.
This reality awakens prayer. And the cool part about the whole thing is that all the little desires we have will be replaced by desire for Him. We will constantly be asking for His heart—to know what He is thinking, to know what He is feeling. And He will grant us our request because His deepest desire is for us to know Him!
Jonathan Cone is a former intern at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Miss. This article originally appeared on RELEVANTMagazine.com in 2007.