Besides the fear that God is distant and unloving, a general sense of unworthiness or sinfulness can prevent us from praying. Ironically, the times when we believe we are most unworthy and most distant from God are the ones when we need to pray the most!
Expectations for fantastic or revelatory prayer experiences can exacerbate this fear, as those who fear God’s distance or rejection can interpret the silence of God as confirmation of their unworthiness and sinfulness. It’s tempting to spend our time looking for the sinful roots of suffering and disappointment in our lives.
While sin can cause suffering in our lives and even leave us alienated from God, that choice of alienation is on our end. As for Jesus, he wants us to come to him at all times, especially when we have failed or made selfish choices.
Jesus assures us that, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick, for he came to seek and to save those who are lost.”
In the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son, he describes God as a woman who actively seeks a coin, a shepherd who values each sheep in his flock, and a father who is always looking over the horizon for his lost son. The details of the son’s misdeeds aren’t important, so long as he returns home.
The conclusion of each parable is a party. God rejoices each time we repent of our sins. We don’t have to live in fear of him.
Consider the tragedy of God’s people cowering because of their sins rather than seeking healing and reconciliation from God? God is longing to restore his people. He wants to have that celebration.
Having said that, we may need to rethink what we’re expecting when we look to God for healing. It may not happen in the manner or on the timetable we expect. The saints certainly had moments of uncertainty and doubt. At times they found God’s strength and presence by persevering.
The biggest difference though comes from our confidence when we pray. Regardless of what we think of ourselves or feel in the moment, God has made the first step toward us. Jesus came into the world to seek and to save us long before we could prove ourselves worthy.
As you consider your barriers to prayer, consider whether you imagine God actively seeking you, longing for you, and celebrating you. Consider for a moment what this may look like right now.
How does imagining a loving God longing for you impact how you think about prayer?
Make Space to Pray Today
You can read more about my journey into contemplative prayer and my recovery from anxious Christianity in my newly revised and expanded book: Flee, Be Silent, Pray: Ancient Prayers for Anxious Christians