When I pray, I feel like I am not accomplishing anything. I get distracted. I fail to pray for the obvious concerns, in which I really need God's intervention. I forget to ask him for wisdom. My mind wanders. I fall asleep. Sometimes I really connect with God, but too often I do not. Or at least I don't feel like I connect. Here I am, a man who struggles with narcolepsy, doing work with my eyes closed. Now that's a recipe for problems.
I believe that prayer is essential to the work of the kingdom of God. But I feel guilty when I "work" without producing anything. I would rather put dates on a calendar, make a list of sermon titles, look up words in the original language, even read a book. Those things look much more productive than prayer. And I have something to show for it. That makes me feel better about myself. It feeds my addiction.
But God tells me over and over that life is all about relationship. He wants my relationship with him to deepen. He is much less concerned about my production. Jesus reminds us that the most important thing in life is to love God with all that we are.
Dallas Willard says that ministry leaders should, above all, live a life of satisfaction in the Lord. If I am satisfied with Jesus, then life has a whole new electricity. There is freedom, excitement, and joy all around me, when I'm already satisfied in him. Production can freely flow, when I'm satisfied in him.
But production is only a byproduct. When I grit my teeth to produce, I become frustrated, uncreative and dull. I keep his life from flowing through me. Prayer is the key to my satisfaction in Jesus, even though it looks unproductive.
But I feed my production addiction, and limit the power and presence of God in my life. I need to get over feeling guilty about prayer, so I can really be with Jesus. I can ask him for wisdom, let his power flow, and grow in my satisfaction in him. Sounds like what Jesus had in mind all along.