Recently, the Lord has really laid it upon my heart to be about the work of prayer.
Prayer is a great power that God gives to us in order for us to connect with Him.
We know that this is true.
We know how wonderful prayer is.
Every one of us here can give a personal testimony to the power of prayer.
Every one of us here can give a story of someone who has been impacted by prayer.
Just recently I was talking to a friend and colleague of mine who serves a church nearby.
I said to him, “Dave, tell me about your ministry.”
“Tom, exciting things are happening here right now.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Say more.”
“People are starting to pray.”
“I mean they are really starting to pray.” “And because the people are praying… exciting ministry is taking off.”
I can talk to you this morning about prayer and how important it is to be praying to God.
I have already preached those sermons to you.
And I will continue to preach those sermons.
But for this morning I am going to do something a little different.
You already know how important prayer is.
So for this morning I am going to talk to you about obstacles to a vibrant prayer life.
Why is it… that even though we know how great prayer is… that we often come up against a wall again and again in our prayer lives?
Why is it… that we often encounter so many obstacles in our prayer lives?
I believe that one of God’s great gifts to me is my deeply spiritual life.
I treasure my prayer time and meditation practice and yet… and yet even with that said I often come up against obstacles in my own prayer life.
We all do.
None of us here are without obstacles in our prayer lives. If we are honest with ourselves we know that this is true.
Prayer is a wonderful, beautiful thing. This is certainly true.
But all of us, from time to time face obstacles in our prayer lives.
All of us, at times, have a hard time hearing God and responding to the voice of Jesus.
All of us go through periods of time where prayer is difficult.
This also is certainly true.
For this morning this is what I want to speak to you about in my preaching.
Now this is not a time to feel bad about your prayer life or to feel as if something is wrong with you or that something is wrong with our prayer life.
No, for the next ten minutes in my sermon, I want to encourage you and build you up in your prayer life and to help you to connect more fully with God through prayer.
For we all encounter obstacles in our prayer lives.
This morning I feel called by the Spirit of God to say that there is a grace here.
God provides again and again a way around or maybe even through these obstacles.
God is faithful.
God will provide a way for us to keep our prayer lives strong.
To begin with… when we feel that there are struggles in our prayer lives it is OK to confess that and to prayer about that to God.
It seems like a paradox.
If we are facing obstacles in our prayer lives why would we continue praying?
But, you see, that is exactly where we need to start. In fact, I would say that is the place where we must start.
We go to God in prayer speaking to God about that thing which is preventing us from having a deeper connection with Jesus.
So let’s do that right now.
I would like to speak now to – I think one of the biggest obstacles that we all face, from time to time, in our prayer lives.
This is the obstacle of unanswered prayer.
I can remember praying once when I was a child that I would never have to wear glasses.
Well, as you can see that was an unanswered prayer.
I can laugh about this one.
But there is another unanswered prayer that I prayed, as a child, with all my strength and the prayer went unanswered.
I am the oldest of four boys.
When my parents told me that I was going to have a third brother or a sister, after hearing the news, I can remember praying every night before falling asleep that God would make my new brother or sister healthy.
When my brother Bobby was born, from the beginning, Bobby struggled with his health.
Why hasn’t God given to Bobby the same kind of health that God has given to me?
Why wasn’t that prayer heard?
Why was that prayer not answered?
Did I not have enough faith as an eleven year old boy praying for his new brother?
These are the kinds of questions we ask when we encounter prayers that are unanswered.
Now how I am going to answer my own questions here is the reason why I continue to pray and why I continue to have faith in God.
God has given to me a grace to remove this obstacle in my own prayer life.
Our faith says that God gets deeply involved in our suffering.
I cannot explain to you this morning why God did not hear my prayer in the way that I hoped that God would hear my prayer but I can tell you this that God is deeply involved in my brother’s life.
In prayer we trust in God no matter what the outcome.
Trusting that even in suffering we might find a grace from God.
Trusting that even when our prayers go unheard that God is still faithful to us.
Jesus was faithful to us even to death on a cross.
I cannot say that truth to you enough.
Jesus was faithful to us even to death on a cross.
Is there no end to the ways in which God will reach out to us in grace and in love… for God did not even spare his own Son for us.
When we encounter this very obstacle in our prayer lives I offer these words to you… don’t stop praying.
Although we are prone to think that God is outside of our lives and outside of our prayer lives.
The truth is that God is actually inside our lives and inside our prayer lives.
We are in the season of Easter right now.
When we think about the resurrection we often do so with the belief that we will go to heaven when we die.
At the hour of our death we will be saved from death and we will be given eternal life. This is true.
But there is more here.
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead saves us for new life even now. We can receive new life right now.
We can have our prayer lives renewed and resurrected right now.
We can have those obstacles removed from our prayer lives right now.
We do not have to die in order to be with Jesus.
Right now on this side of heaven we can be close to Jesus through our prayer lives.
We can know the Lord through prayer right now.
Prayer expresses our hope in a God that does not give up on us and who loves us even to the very end of our lives and beyond.
In prayer we continue to place our hope in a God who loves us even when we feel that God is not answering our prayers.
Jesus taught his disciples that we must be persistent in our prayer lives.
A couple of years ago I read this rather interesting book on exercise.
The main point of this book was that it matters less how you exercise and it matters more that you are consistent in our exercise program.
So whether you bike or lift weights or play basketball in the end it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that you stay with it.
Week after week after week you stay with your exercise program.
Consistency is key when it comes to exercise.
This is the same idea that Jesus teaches his disciples with the parable of the persistent friend who asks for bread.
Be persistent in prayer. Stay with it.
Ask, seek, knock.
Keep going to God in prayer and as you go to God in prayer the door will be opened for you.
The door to a life with God will be opened for you.
And you will be able to enter through the door that leads you to Jesus and to green pastures and still waters.
How do you enter through the door?
You enter by the way of prayer.
Don’t let an obstacle come into the door to prevent you from entering.
Be persistent. Be consistent. Stay with prayer.
And finally, let people pray for you.
When we are encountering difficulties in our prayer lives sometimes it really helps for someone else to pray for us.
I have a great memory of when I first came here to Williams Bay Lutheran.
For a pastor it is always challenging starting at a new church.
They might not admit it but pastors can feel quite insecure in a new church.
At my first council meeting here one of the council members offered a prayer for the beginning of the council time.
In the prayer he prayed for me and he prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for God bringing me here to this church.
The prayer meant so much to me and I recall the memory of the prayer as a source of encouragement when I face obstacles in my own prayer life.
May God graciously remove those obstacles that you face in your prayer life so that you can be free to pray to God knowing that Jesus is with you.