Inspiring Tuesday: Keeping it Simple

This fight we’re in calls for uncomplicated prayer

by Rose McCormick Brandon

Sometimes prayer comes as naturally as breathing. I long for time with God, and create slots in my schedule for Him. My prayers soar unhindered like birds in flight. When prayer comes like a breath, I’ll give up anything for it—even sleep. My soul feels deprived if a day passes without prayer.

PrayerPostPrayer fills my spiritual sails with wind and carries me through, and often over, troubled seas. Prayer makes my small contributions to God’s kingdom meaningful. It plants holy thoughts in my mind, thoughts higher than those that come to me without prayer. This companionship I feel with Him fills my life with a strong sense of purpose.

But prayer doesn’t always come as easily as breathing. I get busy. Lazy. I ignore God. Resist Him. I feel guilty—then resentful of the guilt. Prayer becomes an uphill slog. My steps sink in the mire of reluctance. I choose trivial phone calls and even laundry duty over prayer. During these phases, prayer may not come to mind until I flop into bed at the end of the day.

If everything you’ve said about prayer is true, I reason with myself, then why the slog? I must have sinned. I make a mental list of acts I should’ve done, but didn’t. And others I shouldn’t have, but did. Bad attitudes. Thoughtless words. In a short time I’ve filled an entire page. I proceed down this endless road of self-examination in search of the particular sin that has driven a wedge between God and me. Self-examination is good. But from experience I know that if it’s carried too far, it leads to despair. So self-examination isn’t the answer to my dilemma about prayer.

Why shouldn’t prayer always come as easy as breathing to people who love God? One day when I wasn’t looking for it, I found the answer to that question. It appears in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. The older apostle is reminding the younger to remain fearless in his faith struggle. Then he writes the little phrase that caught my attention: “After all, this is a fight we’re in” (1 Timothy 1:18, The Message).[1]

When I was 14, my pastor’s wife asked me, “Would you like to receive Jesus as your Saviour?” “Yes,” I said, not understanding what she meant but knowing it was exactly what I needed. She didn’t ask if I wanted to enlist for battle. If she had told me what Paul told Timothy I’d have said, “No, thanks. Fighting’s not my thing. I’m only interested in peace, love and joy.”

After decades of loving God, I’m still learning that being a Jesus follower means doing battle. The obvious opponents—forces that demean Scripture and scoff at faith—don’t hinder me as much as my tendency to drift into spiritual passivity. Winning this inner battle is more important for my soul’s well-being than waging war against the latest threat from the New Age movement.

Prayer is needed for the fight we’re in. We can’t afford to lose our passion for it. One way to revive that passion is to keep prayer simple. Complicated prayer systems creep into the Christian’s life. Like weeds, they spread roots that choke out the freedom of prayer. Well-meaning speakers urge us to follow their “Ten Easy Steps to Successful Prayer.” Before we know it, we’re indebted to a system of prayer that soon becomes lifeless. I found an example of this on my bookshelf. This little booklet on how to succeed in prayer lays out eight points for perfect prayer, each one beginning with the letter “P.”

Jesus encouraged uncomplicated prayer. He told His disciples, “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace” (Matthew 6:6, The Message).

Prayer lists can complicate prayer. A.W. Tozer wrote, “The slave to the file card soon finds that his prayers lose their freedom and become less spontaneous, less effective. He finds himself concerned over matters that should give him no concern whatever—how much time he spent in prayer yesterday, whether he did or did not cover his prayer list for the day, whether he gets up as early as he used to or stays up in prayer as late at night.”[2] Lists take the delight from prayer and turn it into a duty. Simple prayer speaks to God from the heart.

I must accept that when I signed on as a Jesus follower, I signed up for battle. And that means praying—whether I feel like it or not. My sins, though many, haven’t caused this battle. It’s simply a fact.

When this fight I’m in gets tough and prayer comes hard, I lay aside burdens I’ve picked up in my journey, burdens that don’t belong to me. Like Mary, I sit at Jesus’ feet to listen and adore. In those moments, I know I’ve not only chosen the best thing—I’m staying in the fight.

Rose McCormick Brandon is an award-winning personal experience writer who lives with her husband Doug in Caledonia, ON. They’re the parents of three and grandparents of two. Read her blog, Listening to My Hair Grow, at http://rosemccormickbrandon.wordpress.com

1. Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright; 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

2. A.W. Tozer, Of God and Men (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1995).

This article appeared in the October 2010 issue of testimony, a monthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ©2010 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.


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