Start Strong: Rhythms of RejoicingBen Palmer - 11 Jan 2017
"Unlike the heroes of our culture, our worth is secure. God meets us where we are"
Our culture worships the feats of super-human-esque individuals: Richard Branson. Barack Obama, Serena Williams, Steve Jobs, Beyonce. They’ve found the key to success. If only we were more like them; if only we worked harder, better, longer. Then we would be acceptable.
It's not hard to see how this success culture has crept into our attitude to prayer - we feel the pressure to pray harder, better, longer.
The way we talk about prayer can make it sound like God is standing over us with a stop watch. He isn’t. It can make it sound like God is only attentive to those who rise at the crack of dawn. He isn’t.
God only - yes, only - accepts those who accept they are broken, the sick and the poor in spirit - those who accept their need of a Saviour.
It’s a pretty easy category to be qualified for. You don’t have to earn it. Yet most of us are so busy, trying to make ourselves acceptable in our own strength that we miss the point - that those efforts are the one thing that God isn’t looking for.
Yet, the Bible is full of prayer warriors: early in the morning Jesus went off to pray; Paul prayed unceasingly; the Psalmist rose before dawn to cry out to God.
"Those efforts are the one thing that God isn't looking for..."
These can inspire us. But the problem comes when we take these shining examples of devotion as a mirror to reflect our own inadequacies. They mean we either give up before we’ve started, or we use them as fuel to burn ourselves out.
But even Jesus got tired - our theology needs to account for this - because even though he was fully God, he was also fully human.
So how should this view affect the way we pray?
Your worth doesn’t come from your works; so don’t allow that mentality to seep in when it comes to prayer. Unlike the heroes of our culture, our worth is secure. God meets us where we are.
Your prayer life isn’t like a qualification on a CV, a promotion or a pay rise. You don’t earn or achieve it. You sit, be still, rejoice, cry, sing, feel powerless, be in relationship. It's about recognising that the world doesn’t revolve around you. But most of all it's about recognising your position before God, as a child, a child of God.
Celebrate taking baby steps. I delight in falling asleep when I pray, because it means I was actually praying. That’s significant for me. It means I ended my day in conversation with God - not something I manage every day. Spending five minutes in prayer in the morning becomes something to revel in, rather than a length to compare to someone else’s devotion.
So seek out ways you can prompt yourself to pray little and often each day: when you go to the toilet, boil the kettle, before you check your phone in the morning or stick your key in a lock. Focus on building a relationship with God, not filling in a timesheet. Build the rhythm of rejoicing into your day.
When we reject our success-only culture, weakness isn’t a problem, but an opportunity for Christ to show His grace and power.