by: Staci Stallings
So far we’ve covered a lot of different kinds of experiments you can do with your life–weight loss, homework, life, etc.
Today I want to look at how the concept of experiments works in our Christian walk.
I think we have been conditioned to believe there is “one right way” to be with God. We think it involves praying a certain way for a certain amount of time at a certain time of day or day of the week. We think it involves doing certain good things and avoiding certain bad things. And we believe if we will just “do all of that,” our experiment called the Christian life will be a success.
Here’s the thing though… Much like my son with spelling, no two of us are exactly alike. So what works for Janet down the street might not work for you at all.
However, we get trapped in thinking that doing it “right” has nothing to do with our way of doing it. So we keep doing what doesn’t work for us because it looks right to someone else.
I recently read something that said, “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” I’m not sure if that’s from the Bible or not, but I know it’s true.
My sister was a good example of this. She had been doing her praying, reading, meditating before bed each night, and it was working great for her. She is not much of a morning person AT ALL . Her children and husband all are. So her mornings were filled with noise and people needing this, that, or the other thing. Waking up earlier than them was not possible nor even advisable for her. That would only have made her more irritable and less awake and able to deal with things.
So she was enjoying her nightly time with God. Then she got a book that said the way you are “supposed” to pray is to get up early in the morning, an hour before everyone else, and sit in the quiet and pray.
Immediately she felt like a complete failure in her prayer life! She called one night sounding really defeated. “I just don’t know how to do that. If I try, I’m just going to be exhausted…”
Pray as you can. Don’t pray as you can’t.
I have a friend who hit the same wall. She went to a retreat and at the end of it, the liturgy director invited us into her “living room” one morning to pray with her. It was very peaceful and wonderful. My friend decided THIS was what she should do. So she did an experiment (okay, she called it “what I’m going to do from now on”).
She got up earlier than the sun, sat in her chair and read and prayed. The first morning this worked. The second morning, she nearly fell asleep. So she decided to have her coffee with her prayer. That worked a little better until about the fifth morning when she really did fall asleep and was very nearly late for work!
She called… also sounding completely defeated. “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. It worked so good for Carrie.”
Pray as you can. Don’t pray as you can’t.
I’m the third example. From the time I was very small, we prayed the rosary. My grandmother was a huge rosary pray-er. She loved it. Me? Uh…
Oh, I had the best intentions. But when I’d start praying, my mind would wander–mostly to the beads. “Was that #7 or did we already switch beads? I don’t remember. Am I behind? Or ahead? Maybe I should switch beads now…” The thing you have to know is my sister loves the rosary, and she would expound on how wonderful it is. So I would hunker down, determined to get this. It still didn’t work.
Then one day at a retreat I was praying it behind a wall, waiting to play music at the end. I got really frustrated with myself. Why couldn’t I keep my mind on the prayers? Then the Holy Spirit gently said, “Just hold the beads. Don’t count. Just hold and trust the person leading… Me.” I literally lost it, bawling so hard I thought they would surely hear me.
Because I’d finally found what worked for me. And all I could think was, “Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for letting me be me and loving me anyway!”
So stop trying to pray as you can’t and start praying as you can. That’s what God put in your heart to pray like! If you love gardening, garden! And don’t let anyone tell you that something else is the only way to pray. If you love a set of prayers, pray them! If you are called to work with the elderly, don’t get roped into working with pre-K because that would be more “holy” or “worthwhile.”
I know that sounds crazy, but it happens all the time to people of good faith, people who are sincerely trying. And their light slowly gets dimmer and dimmer because they are trying to be in a place they were never meant to occupy!
Experiment in your Christian walk. Find what works for you, where your spirit is released and relaxed and open! It’s a great place to be!
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