I’m a cruddy golfer. I don’t play very often, but when I do, I get as many swings as I possibly can out of 18 holes. If I quit my job and moved to Florida and played golf every single day, I bet I would get better. But no matter how many times I practiced or played, I probably wouldn’t ever be good enough play professionally. The same holds true for baseball, tennis, bowling, poetry, guitar playing, or wood carving (I don’t think I’d have to move to Florida for most of those, thank goodness).
Why? No talent.
Some things we do take practice and persistence, but they also take talent in order to really excel at them. My eldest daughter practices her flute regularly, but she is also blessed with her mother’s natural musical talent.
In the gospel Jesus uses a parable to tell us that prayer isn’t one of those things that takes both talent and practice. The story he tells is about a rotten judge and a motivated widow. The woman keeps bothering the judge to the point that he renders a decision in her favor. Jesus doesn’t mean to say that God is a rotten judge, but rather that if even a rotten judge would respond to persistence how much more would a God who loves us listen to our plea. In the story Jesus makes no judgement on the worthiness of the woman’s situation. The story isn’t about whether the judge is right or wrong in granting the woman’s request, but just that her persistence leads the judge to act.
For us it means that our prayers don’t have to be good. Honestly, I feel like is kind of a relief. We don’t have to pray well for God to hear us. It isn’t about having the magic words or the perfect petition; It’s about doing it every day.
A successful prayer life doesn’t consist of perfect prayer, but daily, persistent prayer. For me, this means praying when I don’t want to. I know this sounds funny, but I want to want to pray, but sometimes I don’t. My prayer life is going well when I pray when I don’t really want to.
How? Just do it. Set a time/place, schedule it, and do it.
One of my favorite quotes about prayer is by Peter Kreeft, “Less-than-perfect prayer is infinitely better than no prayer; more perfect prayer is only finitely better than less perfect prayer.” (Check out Kreeft’s full article here.)
If your prayer life is going strong add this 5 second prayer, “Jesus thank you for the grace to pray persistently.”
If your prayer life could use a start, restart, or jumpstart (like mine), try this:
- Take out your phone/calendar
- Open calendar or calendar app
- Pick a time and schedule 5 minutes everyday for the next 7 days (I suggest right away in the morning.)
- Assign a location (big chair in living room).
- Options for prayer: silence, read gospel of Mark, say words of thanks petition or praise directly to God.
- Try this consistent, persistent prayer each day for 1 week