When Prayer is a Struggle: A Practical Guide for Overcoming Obstacles in Prayer | Written by Kevin Halloran (P&R Publishing, 2021, 151 Pages).
“I’m not sure why prayer really matters.” “I don’t know what to pray about.” “God just doesn’t seem to hear me.” “I’m too busy to pray.” “I get so distracted.” If that sounds familiar, then this book is for you. Prayer is a struggle and a challenge for me, as it is for most Christians. Though we experience sweet seasons of prayer when God feels so near, we also experience barren seasons of prayer when we feel so alone in the universe and it then feels like our prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling. For this reason, we all need a little encouragement, a little inspiration, a little spark. And that is exactly what Kevin Halloran has provided in his eminently helpful little book When Prayer is a Struggle.
Halloran frames his book around nine common obstacles that Christians struggle to overcome when it comes to prayer: (1) I forget why prayer matters; (2) I don’t know what to pray; (3) I feel too guilty to pray; (4) I’m not sure God hears me; (5) I have mixed motives.; (6) I can’t focus; (7) I’m so unorganized; (8) I’m too stressed; and perhaps the most familiar of all: (9) I’m too busy to pray. Each chapter begins with an explanation of the nature of the struggle followed by a heads-hands-heart approach to tackling it: (1) Head: “See how gospel truths speak to the struggle we face in prayer”; (2) Heart: “diagnose those issues of the heart that keeps us from true prayer”; (3) Hands: “Learn how to move forward in prayer” (15). Halloran has done a great job of both identifying the struggles I face in my prayer life and wisely and winsomely guiding me to overcome them, and he does so in a nonjudgmental way. He says, “I am not a grey-haired sage who has all the answers. I’m a normal guy who realised that he struggled to pray and went on a journey to pursue a more faithful and joyful life of prayer while pleading to God for help along the way. My driving motivation for writing this book has been the belief that a life of faithful, fruitful, and joyful prayer is within the grasp of every Christian.” As I was reading When Prayer Is a Struggle, I felt as if I had both a fellow traveller and struggler on the journey with me and a wise coach and mentor to guide me on the path to a better, deeper, and richer communion with God in prayer. Each chapter ends with a prayer and questions for reflection making this ideal for use in a small group. Two appendices provide a list of “select prayers from Scripture” grouped by topic or situation and a bibliography of recommended books for those who want to go deeper into the subject of prayer. This is one of the most helpful and insightful, approachable and practical books I have read on prayer. Highly recommended.