A long time ago I had a co-worker who was difficult to work with. She was a bigger challenge than putting on panty hose on a hot August day! It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, how friendly I was or how efficient I became, I just couldn’t please her. Every day before work I would ask God to give me a heap of patience so I wouldn’t have boiling blood by noon. Most days I was at a slow simmer by 10 am and I would feel like God wasn’t listening or I just wasn’t trying hard enough. Luckily it was just a summer job but I have never forgotten that experience. I remember it because just like that summer, there have been plenty of other times I have found myself in a pickle and I go into prayer asking God to give me patience or understanding or whatever the necessary grace might be and then I trot off to fix the situation. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I didn’t have it quite right. In his book God Help Me, Jim Beckman offered a thought that spun me around like a top!
“I was using a self-help approach to Christianity. I would diagnose myself and then, like a good doctor, prescribe myself a prescription like patience. Then I went to God and told him to fill the prescription. Is it any wonder nothing ever changed? The language itself is all wrong. Anytime we find ourselves telling God what to do we’re in trouble. At the very center of this self-help approach to prayer was ME, not GOD.” He goes on to explain that the whole mystery of our faith is realizing Jesus is the center, not us. We can never live a perfect life as humans but we can through Jesus. “God doesn’t want you to live the Christian life; if that’s what you think the invitation is, you’ve got it all wrong. He wants Jesus to live the Christian life in you! And through Jesus you are to become the very righteousness of God.”
When I did some serious thinking about this information, I realized that it wasn’t at all about the behavior of that tricky woman one summer a long time ago. It was about what Christ was trying to teach me about myself through her. He was inviting me to look deeply at myself so he could reveal and teach. I discovered looking back that I was angry and hurt at that point in my life and he was trying to get me to turn those things over to him but I couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with that, I wanted to find another way out. Looking back it was like riding my bike into a wall every day and expecting it to move! He was trying to mend my heart and show me some truths but I was wasting all my prayer time demanding he give me the tools to fix somebody else.
I’d like to say that I’m much older now and I’ve moved past such silly prayer mistakes but the truth is I needed these words right now just as much as I needed them that summer long ago. I need to stop complicating things and let God be God. I need to stop approaching prayer with a self-help attitude and begin to let God reveal and teach and love me; that takes an honest and open heart. Whew…I’ve got some work to do!
A Seed To Plant: Listen to your prayer words this week. Are you self-prescribing or letting God be the center?
Blessings on your day!