On All Occasions: Holding on, While Letting Go: Traversing discouragement

On All Occasions: Holding on, While Letting Go: Traversing discouragement
I am free to let go of things for the sake of making the supremacy of God's worth known. John Piper

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Christian's Worst Fear

Praying out loud, with others, is one of the major fears Christians encounter.

If that's you, you are not alone. Many believers, new and old, have refrained from joining community life or praying with others due to fear. Reasons vary, but often it’s because we tend to see prayer as an outward expression of our inward spiritual life—and that level of sharing can leave us feeling vulnerable. If you’re hesitant to pray with others, I’d like to encourage you that, just like team sports, community life is actually a good place to begin flexing your prayer muscles.

One of the advantages of community life is meeting others with similar experiences. There’s great comfort in knowing that we aren’t alone and that someone else understands our struggles. Another advantage is realizing that we are all in different places in our journey. This allows us to give encouragement to some and receive it from others. In community life, as we listen to others pray, we find various forms of expression to draw from. Our styles may be different depending on our background and personalities. Some folks pray using eloquent language, some cover a subject in great detail, and others speak simply and to the point. Having a sincere heart is all that matters, so joining with others can help us learn.

Afraid of messing up or saying something stupid? Two perspectives will help us focus on Jesus and take our minds off of ourselves and what others think. First, prayer is best approached simply. Jesus said we can come as a rookie. Well, actually he said we can come as a child (Mark10:13-15). God invites us to come with the simple faith and language of a child. Jesus wants us to have a relationship with our heavenly Father so much that he opened the way for us to have access to him. We are invited to sit in our Father’s lap and talk with him. As we get to know him more, we learn to listen and our conversation becomes richer.

Second, it’s important to view prayer as an act of worship. Prayer is our fellowship offering—like saying “I enjoy hanging out with you.” It is a pleasing aroma to God. If you’re worried about being judged by others, let me assure you that those who would judge are treading on holy ground. Only God can know the intentions of our heart, and he values the prayer offered in faith so much that one day all the prayers of God’s people will be poured out on his altar (Rev 8:3-4). It’s important to honor the prayers of others in the spirit in which they are offered, just as it’s crucial that we offer our own prayers with our minds focused on our Father rather than people. I’ve struggled with people pleasing myself, and I know it’s something God can help us understand and overcome. A desire to learn is all you need to get off the sidelines.

Here are a few steps to help you get in the game: 
  1. Be open about your fears, and be willing to try. A woman who recently joined our group shared, “I don’t really know how to pray.” She did fine because she was sincere, and she was herself. She didn’t try to be something she’s not.
  2. Start by thanking God. Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer as an example, and there are many acronyms to help make it easy, but when you are starting out, thanking God is an easy way to begin.
  3. Keep it simple. If you are ready for the next step of asking on behalf of another person, begin by thanking God for who he is in their circumstance. From there follow up by inviting him to help in their area of need. For example, “Lord, thank you that you love my friend Sally, and that you are her provider. Please help her find a dependable car that she can afford.” That’s it! It’s that easy to pray and express care for others by doing so.
  4. Continue learning. I recommend Lynden author Alvin VanderGriend’s book, Love to Pray, as a good introduction to prayer.
Who knows, you too may love to pray!

How has community life encouraged you to grow in your expression of faith? What have you learned about prayer from the example of others?