Spiritual Discipline // PRAYER
By Andrea Larson
We all know that thinking about doing something isn’t the same as actually doing it.
Case in point: I’ve been THINKING….more often… these days…about the possibility… of doing something…yes, definitely maybe… something… someday… in the not so distant future… because I’m not happy…about the weight I have gained… what with the stress and all… which contributed to my comfort eating… during this crazy past year. Well… I am getting older… nothing to do about that… my joints are hurting more… and I hate that… and I just really need to get healthier.
But, I am not as yet actually DOING anything about it. There is no plan or decision, just vague thoughts of wanting things to be different.
My random discontented musings stand in stark contrast to the remarkable words of Paul to the Philippians that we have been studying this week:
“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”Philippians 4: 12-13
We hear that Paul has learned to be content in every situation and that he can do everything through Christ. Paul has learned a secret and we want to learn it too!
Back up a few verses and we read the following instructions from Paul:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”Philippians 4:6
The secret is that the praying comes first! (With the gratitude close behind.) Paul connects to Christ through prayer to obtain strength to do the things he needs to do. Even as I am writing this, I am almost embarrassed to say that it has never occurred to me to pray about acquiring the strength to do something like losing weight to get healthy. I am accustomed to doing things like this in my own strength. I pray about things that are out of my control all the time, but it is more difficult for me to enter into a conversation with the Lord about things that seem like they fall under my “personal” jurisdiction. Paul would say that I have no personal jurisdiction – pray about EVERYTHING means EVERY! THING!
So, as soon as I am finished writing this, I will go before the Lord and tell Him about my struggles and indecision and need for comfort through hard days. I will ask for His insight and strength. Maybe I will make a commitment today and maybe I will not be ready yet, but I will bring this concern before my Lord. Tomorrow, I will do the same. And each day, He will give me more strength and more contentment.
Prayer was Paul’s secret to his strength and his contentment and it can be ours too.
1. What are you trying to do in your own strength?
Examples – Landing a job, breaking an addiction, finding a marriage partner, etc. (We are often painfully honest with you in our devotional writings, so we hope that you will be honest as well.) PRAY about it first. PRAYING is the first step of doing.
2. What is causing you discontentment right now?
Examples – not enough money, suffering with an illness, family conflicts, etc. PRAY about it. Pray about it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. Expect insight and peace and contentment to increase as you pray about your concerns daily. PRAYING is the first step of doing.
3. Share your prayer concerns with your community group or find a prayer partner. If you’re not part of a community group yet, sign up for one. Go to inewhope.org and submit a prayer request, so we can join you in prayer. Don’t go it alone.