by Dorielis Avilan
As the Director of 24-7 Prayer Canada, I get to help leaders transform the prayer cultures of their churches and ministries. It's been incredibly fulfilling; I often walk with others in their journey of asking God to teach them how to pray.
Here are three of the most common obstacles to prayer that I have found and some tools to overcome them.
"God, could you give me some music tonight while I sleep? You know the kind of music I like…in Jesus' name, amen." My son Gabriel prayed these words before bed one night. His prayer was authentic, raw, and expectant. He believed God would give him music in his sleep.
In Luke 18:16-17, Jesus tells his disciples that "the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." What causes a little child to pray with such faith? And what prevents us from doing the same?
Sometimes, the hardships of life have caused us to believe that God will answer everyone else's prayers but not ours. We are afraid of asking, seeking, and knocking again, only to be disappointed.
If lack of belief is an obstacle for you, try this:
• Say a breath prayer: “Jesus, I need faith. Please increase my faith and confidence in you.” Try this for several days. As Hebrews 12 promises, Jesus is the author and finisher of your faith.
• Sit quietly and invite God to reveal himself to you. Romans 10:17 instructs us faith comes from hearing God's Word.
I sometimes need to remind myself to drink water during the day. It's not that I reject water, denying my profound dependency on it. I just get distracted by tasks, and the workday is done before I know it. I start longing for all sorts of junk food (both physical and emotional) to appease the dehydration-induced cravings.
Similarly, busyness can distract us from responding to the promptings and needs of our body, mind, soul, and Spirit. Busyness prevents us from hearing God's whispers that propel us forward in our leadership and life in the Spirit, yet it sometimes feels like the only way to survive the world's demands.
If a lack of time is an obstacle, try this:
• Find places to designate as prayer spaces within your existing rhythms and routines. For example: I have a prayer space in my kitchen at the sink, and I pray for my city every time I do dishes. So I know without a doubt that I have prayed for Vancouver every day for the last year. Or, you might ask a friend to pray together once a week over the phone during your commute to work.
• Make space for a sabbath day. My husband and I travel a lot, and I have two little kids, so when it comes to our "sabbath day" it is truly all over the place, yet it is a rhythm we keep weekly. At the start of every work week we ask ourselves, when can we sabbath this week? Sometimes we do a full day on the weekend or just a half day of intentionally resting and meditating on God's goodness. Consciously asking on the first day of the week makes all the difference.
My father-in-law died recently after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. The last words my husband heard him say while tending to him in one of his waves of pain were the words, "Thank you, Lord." Of course, we had all heard him say these words during his life, often under his breath. What strikes me the most is that he still found reasons to be thankful even when wracked with pain.
Occasionally, I have attributed my prayerlessness to my circumstances, but my father-in-law’s example reminds me not to make excuses. There is always space for even a simple thank you prayer.
If a lack of desire is your obstacle, try this:
• Start with praise, like Psalm 145. Every day, list 5 things you are grateful for. (Resist the urge to go into prayer needs.)
• Pay attention to what you are listening to. Revelation 12:11 says “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Make space to listen to stories of God's faithfulness and answered prayer. Ask a Christian friend to share their testimony, or list how God has responded to your prayers.
Lastly, my dear sisters, I believe that as you seek different ways to overcome what keeps you from prayer, God's divine creativity and pursuit of you will keep you and guide you.
I pray for you as Paul did: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Dorielis Avilan is the Director of 24-7 Prayer Canada. Born in Venezuela, Dorielis moved to Canada and became a refugee at age 19. God intersected her life at an Alpha Course. She gave up her real estate career to work and volunteer in leading various National Prayer Initiatives. Dorielis has a passion for seeing the nation of Canada revived by prayer through the local church in her time. She attends The Way Church in Vancouver, Canada with her husband Jason and two kids, Gabriel and Tomás.