Sometimes it happens that, when you begin to pray, you find you can pray well. At other times, even when you have expended great effort, you may find your efforts frustrated. This experience is given to make you learn that you must exert yourself constantly, for having once gained the gift of prayer, you must be careful to keep it safe. - Evagrius of Pontus
Yes, and why would we think that prayer should be easy? My thinking is that, if this is something that is right and good and honors God, then he would honor it and protect it from distraction or temptation. This goes back to the brownie point system. If I do this, then I will be rewarded. Gee, I almost sound like a millennial - I should be rewarded for just showing up.
Prayer has frequently been presented in our culture as a gentle, passive, generous activity. It's a way of showing honor and respect to God and a gesture of support and encouragement to those we pray for. Paintings show individuals quietly and serenely on their knees or with hands folded in prayer. We are touched by their example of humility and entreaty.
At what point was prayer put on the level of an afternoon tea party? Nothing I read in scripture, nor do I see in the lives of the apostles, martyrs and saints, suggests anything but blood, sweat and tears when it comes to prayer. Think of Christ spending entire nights in prayer. Think of Hannah praying for a child. Consider the deacon Stephen as he was being stoned. There is a battle raging around us - greed, power, immorality, hatred, and covetousness. Our human resources are powerless against them. These enemies are greater than what we can see, touch, taste or feel. They can only be confronted and managed by a power stronger than ourselves. Initiating prayer against them is only the beginning, for that only puts the enemy into a rage. The heat rises and the attacks increase. You have been warned.
If we see prayer as an option or another way of coping with the stresses of life, then perhaps we have deluded ourselves into thinking that we are fairly protected and secure, thanks to our 401K, our steady income, health insurance, life insurance and retirement plan. The present economic crisis and energy shortage have revealed just how fragile these provisions can be. We have placed our trust in them for so many years that we have lost sight of who truly gives us life and our daily provisions. The true battle, however, is won, not in accruing more assets or increasing our insurance plans, but by continual communication with the Almighty God and wrestling with those forces unseen - as if our life depended on it. It does.