Speed dialing with no signal – Dealing with frustration in prayer

Recently, the lyric “speed dialing with no signal” from a U2 song caught my ear. It grabbed my attention because it described my recent experience in prayer.

I take some comfort in the fact that many saints before me have had similar experience. In the Psalms, we find David and the other Psalmists asking God the question “how long?” at least twelve times (Ps. 4:2, Ps. 6:3, Ps. 13:1-2, Ps. 35:17, Ps. 62:3, Ps. 74:10, Ps. 79:5, Ps. 80:4, Ps. 82:2, Ps. 89:46, Ps. 90:13, Ps. 94:3). The “how long” question is an indication of frustration and impatience.

So I am not alone in my frustration in prayer. I am not the only one who has ever felt that his prayers were bouncing off the ceiling. Knowing that this is a shared experiece brings some comfort, but what is the solution?

As I consider this, three things come to mind as remedies to frustration in prayer:

  1. I need to remember the character of God as revealed in Jesus.
  2. I need to remember that Jesus teaches me to be persistent in prayer
  3. I need to remember the two great commands

The Character of God

In John 14:9, Jesus indicates that those who have seen Jesus have seen the father. Jesus reveals to us the character of God. In Jesus, we see a God that is patient, forgiving, gentle and loving. I seen in Jesus a God who wants to grant my prayers, and if he does not grant them, there is good reason for the denial.

Persistence in Prayer

In Luke 18:1, Luke introduces a parable as one that teaches us to “pray and not lose heart.” In the parable, Jesus is giving us permission to be persistent in prayer. We are to continue to come to God with our needs and requests. There is no downside to sticking to it. I cannot over-pray.

The Two Great Commands

In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus gives us that the two great commands. The first is to love God with our entire being. The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. I need to focus first on God and then on my neighbor. My conclusion is that I am not to focus primarily on myself.

My “speed dialing with no signal” experience has been primarily caused by lack of attention to this third focus. When I get focused on what I want, I can get rather petulant when it is not provided. I may hide my petulance or I may even spiritualize it, but it remains a behavior that God will not tolerate or reward.

In Matthew 6:33, I am told to seek God’s kingdom before all (that first great command again) and everything else will be taken care of. My job is to get my priorities straight and keep them straight.