Mazes can be fun! All those wrong turnings and dead ends. However, it’s not so much fun when you’re stuck in a dead end with no way out. Prayer can be a bit of a maze too. It’s remarkably easy to take a wrong turn and be tempted to give up. Here are some of the ‘dead ends’ we can find ourselves in:
The Supermarket Sweep Prayer: Sometimes we hurtle through prayer trying to fill our trolley, but if we neglect praise, worship, adoration and thanksgiving then our prayer life will stagnate. If we don’t see prayer as the pathway to intimacy with our heavenly Father, we will be side-tracked into sounding off our self-centred shopping lists. Ephesians 5:19-20 might help us get it right!
The Lazy Way Out Prayer: We shouldn’t expect God to step in and do what we are perfectly capable of doing ourselves. It is not a matter of praying or doing. We may be the answer to our own prayer! See Luke 10:1-3
The I Wish Prayer: Prayer becomes a dead end when we ask for something we cannot have. God has revealed hi will in the Bible, so our praying is a waste of time if it is contrary to God’s purposes for us. However, when we do pray for God’s will to be done, we can be confident he hears us. (1 John 5:14-15)
The Pot Noodle Prayer: Prayer is not a spiritual Pot Noodle – just add boiling faith and stir! Jesus commanded us to pray and not give up (Luke 18:1), because he knew that prayer can be difficult and take time. George Muller prayed doggedly for a friend to be converted. After sixty years of persistent praying he said, ‘He is not saved but he will be. How can it be otherwise? I am praying.’ Then Muller died and the man was converted!
The Prayer Blockade: Sometimes when we are parked in a dead end with our prayer life going nowhere, the issue may be unconfessed sin (John 9:31). Like King David, we need to be right with God for prayer to be effective (Psalm 66:18). We also need to be right with one another – jealousy, grudges, bitterness and unforgiveness are all a recipe for a barren prayer life (Mark 11:25).
The Half-Hearted Prayer: Effective prayer is built on confidence in God (Hebrews 11:6, Matthew 21:22). If we are not sure he is listening and uncertain that he will answer, it’s no surprise we are in a prayer cul-de-sac. We should pray with expectancy (Ephesians 3:20), faith fuelled by the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and boldness (Hebrews 4:16).
The Selfish Prayer: Wrong motives can destroy effective prayer (James 4:2-3). R A Torrey said ‘The chief purpose of prayer is that God may be glorified in the answer.’ It is easy to pray for the things that matter to us, when the goal of our praying should be to glorify God (John 14:13).