Why Is Prayer So Hard For Our Teenagers (And For Us)?
Prayer has not always come easy for me.
I know that sounds silly. Prayer is just something we do. It's part of a relationship with God. How can it be hard? Prayer just is, right?
Well, maybe not so much.
I pray and I enjoy prayer. I pray often. I talk to God as I go throughout my day. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about the ongoing, during the course of a day, short burst prayers to God.
What I'm talking about is the deep, discipline-driven, time set aside for intimate conversation with God type of prayer. If I'm transparent, this doesn't come easy to me. And my experience is that it doesn't come easy for our students, either.
There's a lot that gets in the way of this type of prayer for our students. Schedule is a big culprit. Their busy lives dictate a pace of living that isn't compatible with deep, intimate conversation with God. In a study I wrote for ym360's Disciple Now curriculum, called The Pause, we define this type of prayer as prayer that requires two things: silence and solitude. I don't know about you, but these are two things that are very very difficult for our teenagers (and me) to find.
In fact, finding these two things is impossible. These two things have to be accounted for. In the fast-paced life of our teenagers, they won't often stumble upon quiet time by themselves. This type of environment has to be planned for. And for that to happen the idea of focused conversation with God has to be valued. And as much as we hate to admit it, our teenagers (and maybe many of us) simply don't value deep, focused times of prayer enough to carve room for it in their schedules.
I wonder why. Why aren't teenagers more committed to consistently making time to talk and listen to God? Why aren't we, their parents and leaders?
And yet, I know the reason. As I've said and written before, we won't make time for the things that aren't important to us. It's a “values” issue. If we don't value prayer, we won't make time for it.
I've come to discover in my own life that if my actions are motivated by the idea of prayer strictly as a discipline, it's not enough to lead me to make changes in my life. This isn't something I'm proud of. It's just the truth. But if I'm motivated by a desire to be closer to God, to be one with Christ, to draw near to the one whom I'm called to follow, then I will make room for this in my daily life. This is true with prayer, and this is true with all spiritual disciplines.
No spiritual discipline in itself is enough to compel us to commit to it. Spiritual disciplines can only be a means to growing closer to God.
I know that for prayer to mean something to our students and to us, it has to be because we realize the importance of being closer to God. This desire for closeness has to be what motivates us. Unless we understand all of our spiritual disciplines in this way, we will never be people who struggle to develop these habits.