Scripture calls us to pray all the time. We all know this. We all know we should pray, but we don’t always pray. If we are honest with ourselves we don’t always want to pray. We cannot always focus in prayer. There are times when we just do not want to pray, it is the last thing we would want to do. Most of us probably wouldn’t admit this. John Bunyan, however, was willing to admit this. I came across this quote while I was preparing last week to teach on the Holy Spirit’s ministry of intercession and supplication. I think we’d all do well to share in Bunyan’s honesty and reliance on the Holy Spirit in those times where we loathe prayer.
May I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty to praying to God as I ought; it is enough to make you poor, blind, carnal men, to entertain strange thoughts of me, for, as my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loathe to go to God, and when it is with him, so loathe to stay with him, that many times I am force in my prayers; first to beg God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there (Psalm 86:11). Nay, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray I am so ignorant; only (blessed be Grace) that the Spirit helps our infirmities [Romans 8:26].
Oh the starting-holes that the heart hath in time of prayer! None knows how many by-ways the heart hath, and back-lanes, to slip away from the presence of God. How much pride also, if enabled with expressions. How much hypocrisy, if before others? And how little conscience is there made of prayer between God and the soul in secret, unless there Spirit of supplication [Zech. 12:10] be there to help. – as quoted in, A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones. p. 426.
May we pray with Bunyan for the Lord to constantly set our affections and set it on himself in Christ, and once our hearts rest there that He might keep our hearts there. May we pray with the disciples, “teach us how to pray.”