I sat across the table with a young man at lunch a few weeks ago. We were simply sharing with one another some of our personal goals for our spiritual life. Sometimes it's in these moments when you are discussing your faith that you realize that something's just not right.
I began talking about my personal prayer life and soon realized that I was encouraging this young man to do something that I had not consistently been practicing myself throughout the past few weeks. I could do my best to reason it away by looking at my busy schedule or filling my life with so-called "good things," but it really didn't matter. I had to be honest with myself.
The majority of people I come in contact with want a better relationship with God. I don't think I've ever met a spiritual sojourner who would say that they've arrived at their destination. I think we could all agree that we are "works in progress."
I began to ask myself why I allowed so many important things in my life to take a backseat. I came to a simple and yet profound statement: What you fail to make priority in your life will slowly but surely have no place at all.
How remarkably simple yet true. Maybe this is why my prayer life lately has looked more like the recent stock market figures than anything else. I want a deeper relationship with God, more quality time with my family, and more investment in my personal development, yet I haven't implemented the disciplines necessary to sustain these goals. I had thrown a few of these things into the "optional" category of life.
For years, I've always heard people tell the story about the rocks and the jar. Put the small rocks in first, and it will be nearly impossible to fit all of the big rocks in the jar. However, if you put the big rocks in first, all of the smaller pebbles will fit nicely around the big rocks. So, what are my big rocks, and am I giving these big rocks the time they deserve?
I think this takes being very intentional about things. It's understanding that we don't arrive anywhere by accident that causes us to think strategically about our "big rocks." I've found this principle at work in my life: If I make room for the big rocks, the smaller pebbles seem to fall into place. When I neglect the big rocks my life becomes a picture of disarray and confusion.
When it comes to personal, spiritual disciplines, prayer has always been one of my toughest disciplines. It's one of those things I believe in, and I know it's essential for me, yet I seem to make time for everything else.
I've asked myself, "Do I really value prayer, or do I just really want to value prayer?"
I began to think: Why don't I reverse the trend and make prayer one of the dominating characteristics of my life? Why can't I plan my entire life around my prayer life, instead of searching frantically for a place to fit it in?
When I read the Scripture, I see that prayer was not an option in the life of Christ. On numerous occasions, the Gospel writers take the time to note that Jesus went to a solitary place to be alone with God. I can picture the disciples waking up that morning and looking around for Jesus. When they don't see him, they automatically assume that he's gone off to pray.
The Savior of the world, the incarnate Son of the living God, the redeemer of all mankind knew that he could not fulfill his God-ordained purpose without prayer (an intimate relationship with the Father).
I've realized this scary truth in my life. When I fail to maintain that time in prayer what I'm saying to God is that "I don't truly trust you."
I believe that I am capable in my own abilities to do this life without you. When I consistently come to God in prayer, I'm reaffirming my faith in Him and saying with my life, "I cannot even begin to attempt to do this without you."
I would never think of missing a meal or not going to sleep at night. Why, these things are essential to my life. In my life, these are a must. If I don't do them, I don't live.
Why can't I take that approach to prayer? Prayer (or my personal time with God) tends to always get thrown into the "optional" category of my life. I'm not sure about you, but in my life the "optional" stuff rarely gets done.
Jesus believed in prayer so much that he withdrew from the masses (in other words, he stopped ministering to people) because he recognized that the best thing he could do for mankind was to have an intimate relationship with the Father.
We can be busy doing "good things" and completely miss God's perfect will in the process. I've realized that the biggest enemies in my life aren't drugs, alcohol, bitterness or sexual temptation, it's the "good things" that fill my life and keep me from that personal time with God or from the big rocks.
Just think of what my life would be like if I made my personal time with God the very center of my life. Think of the peace, joy, direction and strength that could be given to me each and every day.
More importantly, every time I engage in prayer, I'm removing myself off the throne of my heart and placing Christ where he rightly belongs. I'm definitely not there yet, but I'm doing everything I can to remove the "optional" tag on my time with God and making it an "essential."
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