Our prayers can be hindered for a variety of reasons, including Satan messing with them (Daniel 10:1-13), our own sin, selfishness and pride (James 4:1-3), a struggling or broken home life (1 Peter 3:7), and our unwillingness to forgive others (Mark 11:25).
As I checked my life in each of these areas and assessed the status of my prayer life, I realized that routine and habit were inhibiting my renewal and growth.
Honesty & Sincerity
Routines and habits allow us to stay in shape and to be healthy. They help us maintain balanced budgets, and they keep our relationships healthy. The danger comes when routines and habits are accompanied by a lukewarm and indifferent heart. To phrase it another way, routines can lead to feelings of only going through the motions.
“Then the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men with be concealed.’” (Isaiah 29:13-14)
In other words, the people were going through religious motions and neglecting giving God their honest and sincere love and devotion. They claimed to be close to God, but they lived disobedient lives.
When our routines and habits create a prayer life of going through motions but lack emotion, we start down a slippery path that can lead to outright disobedience. The result is judgment from God and removal of wisdom and discernment.
Stuck in a Rut
Routines and habits provide a great foundation for many areas of our lives, including our prayer lives. Having routines and habits within our prayer lives not only helps us remember to pray but also provide consistency with which we ask for God’s help, guidance, and protection.
When kids are young, teaching them the habit of daily prayer at bedtime and mealtimes is essential to their spiritual growth. However, just like I can drive to places I’ve been numerous times and not remember the drive, so too can I go through my prayer time and fail to connect with the one to whom I am praying.
If routine and habit are all that we do and we refuse to ever venture outside of them, we then allow them to limit rather than strengthen us.
Renew and Refresh
Using routines and habits to provide a base is sound practice. However, if you feel like you are stuck in a rut, consider that perhaps your routines and habits need renewed and refreshed. Doing so can often bring a much-needed perspective change and renewed enthusiasm.
How does this renewal and refreshing happen?
- Pray in faith (Mark 11:24), in fellowship with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26), and in accordance with God’s will (1 John 5:14-15).
- Break up the routine. For me, this means praying more out loud instead of only journal praying. It means spending more time in silence on my knees than drinking coffee comfortably in a chair. It also means praying in the spirit more.
- Keep what works. Spending time each morning praying backed up with time in the word works well for me. Then, throughout the day, I include additional time in the word as well as silent time in God’s presence. Find what works for you and keep doing that in combination with the above.
Deliberate and intentional assessment of one’s prayer life can prevent the extreme state Isaiah described. In fact, doing so is a lot easier when the rut is only a light footpath rather than a deep chasm.