Let’s look again at Romans 15:30.
30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.
In these words, we’re reminded that prayer is hard work. Paul tells us to “strive together with” him in our prayers. That’s another interesting Greek word that’s translated as “strive together.” The word means to strain along with others—straining as if engaged in a fight.
Prayer is hard work. Ask anyone who’s made a New Year’s resolution to pray more regularly. If you made that New Year’s resolution this year, how’s that going? It’s only February, but that resolution may seem like a distant memory.
We’re distracted from prayer so easily. Could it be that we’re so easily distracted because prayer is hard work? We don’t expect it to be hard work. We expect it to be easy, but it isn’t. Prayer is hard work, and it’s spiritual work. We’re fighting a spiritual battle when we pray.
In another letter, Paul writes this,
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
When we fall to our knees in prayer, we’re entering into spiritual warfare.
In 1942, C. S. Lewis wrote a classic book called The Screwtape Letters. As the title suggests, the book is composed of a series of fictional letters from a demon named Screwtape written to a young demon nephew named Wormwood. Hence, The Screwtape Letters.
In the book, Wormwood’s been assigned a Christian “patient,” and Wormwood’s job is to keep his Christian patient from growing closer to the “Enemy.” The “Enemy,” of course, in the minds of these two demons, is Jesus.
In the fourth letter, Screwtape advises his nephew about Christian prayer. Here’s a portion of that letter. Screwtape writes,
thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention
of praying altogether. When the patient is an adult recently reconverted to the
Enemy’s party, like your man, this is best done by encouraging him to remember,
or to think he remembers, the parrot-like nature of his prayers in childhood.
Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 15
In other words, Screwtape is suggesting that Wormwood should keep the patient from praying anything sincere and meaningful. Just have him pray repetitious, childhood prayers.
fails, you must fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. Whenever
they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of
preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him
toward themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings
there by action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let
them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves
and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for
courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are
praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to
estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired
Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 16–17
Friends, prayer is hard work. It’s not about our feelings. When we pray, we’re entering into a spiritual battlefield.
As you pray today, if you’re a church member in some church, consider praying for 2 church members.