Why You Need to Change your Mindset towards Prayer
I’m not one of those people who loves working out. I don’t get people who love running, I think they’re probably liars. I live right by a Whole Foods but I only shop there for an occasional funky jar of Kombucha and a boujee chocolate bar if I’m feeling down.
I tell you this because at the beginning of every year my husband has encouraged me to make a goal for each category of my life. One of those is health and fitness. We don’t really follow any specific goal setting systems, it’s just this arbitrary thing we made up and do.
How does a person like me succeed in a fitness goal, and what does that have to do with your prayer life?
Eventually, the fitness goal became the last one I was making any progress towards because I *ahem* hadn’t done anything. So I got a membership to a barre studio and I actually kind of like it. I’m a sporadic barre class attendee, but I told myself that if I make it to class twice a week, I’ll call it success.
I just got back from our trip to Arizona on Monday, my sisters came to town to return my ball of fluff, Finley, to me after watching her while I was away. My to-do list was ever growing, the time change was making my head spin, I had the post-vacation blues, and then the presidential election happened and it’s safe to say most Americans were up late in anticipation looking for some truth in our chaotic media situation.
By Thursday morning, I hadn’t made it to a barre class, and the rest of my week was stuffed to the brim. I was literally sitting in my living room in a pit of self-judgement pointing at myself with the kind of self-talk we are all familiar with... you failure.
My goal to work out twice a week left me feeling bummed and disappointed in myself because on a weird and overwhelming week, I couldn’t reach the standard I wanted for myself.
As I sat there in my self pity I thought about how I didn’t want to feel like such a failure for skipping a week of barre. For the first time in my life, I actually had made fitness a priority. I was someone who valued working out, and I never had been before. Isn’t that what success looks like?
The problem I faced with my fitness goal is similar to the problem we face in prayer.
We are so obsessed with the outcome we forget that God cares less about what we do, and more about who we are.
It was more important that I had become a person who valued fitness, and less important that I missed my barre classes that week.
In prayer, I think we have started to become obsessed with the idea that there has to be a specific outcome in order for our prayer life to be successful.
What does success in prayer look like? Does it look like something we can measure, does it look like someone whose prayer always seems to be answered?
Does it mean our prayers should be answered in a specific timeframe? Does success in prayer mean that we have to pray every day at a specific time for a specific time?
I don’t think so.
We are so used to measuring ourselves by the outcome, I think we sometimes slip into believing we should measure our relationship with God by the outcome too.
In prayer, this creates a toxic environment that tells us we should be evaluating our spiritual relationship with God based on some measure we have made up for ourselves.
Then, if we don’t meet it, when a prayer goes unanswered, when something we are praying for doesn’t come to pass, or worse, the exact opposite happens, what does that mean for our relationship with God? What does it mean for us?
We might turn to disappointment and the same self-judgement I put on myself for skipping a week of working out. If we say our goal is to pray for our family every day, but one day, we spend our normal prayer time in quiet reflection, is that failure?
I needed to change the way I set goals. I wanted my goals to be focused more on who I am becoming, and to track and celebrate the progress being made, rather than being focused on the outcome and lead to disappointment and frustration when the outcome didn’t happen.
I think we need to change our mindsets towards prayer. We need to shift the focus away from the outcome of the prayer, or the measurement we have made to tell ourselves what is “successful prayer” and what is not.
Instead, we need to invite the Holy Spirit to shape us into people who pray, and celebrate what that looks like through the process. We need to cultivate a life that is drenched in prayer. We need to be people who have prayerful postures.
We need to be people who believe prayer is powerful, no matter the outcome.
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