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Friday, February 02, 2007

Praying Too Hard?

I ran across this quote in my reading this morning and thought I would share it. It speaks to our tendency to approach God thinking we need to "try harder" in order to love Him and serve Him. Somehow, this doesn't seem to line up well with the nature of God; a God who calls us into love, joy, and freedom. The quote goes like this; "A friend once told me to quit trying so hard in prayer. He said, 'How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun.' A small green apple cannot ripen in one night by tightening all its muscles, squinting its eyes and tightening its jaw in order to find itself the next morning miraculously large, red, ripe, and juicy beside its small green counterparts. Like the birth of a baby or the opening of a rose, the birth of the true self takes place in God's time. We must wait for God, we must be awake; we must trust in his hidden action within us."

This reminds me that ultimately prayer is God's work, not mine. I approach God and open my heart and soul to Him, asking Him to do his work in me. When I approach prayer as my own task or burden, I put myself in control; as if I could force God's hand. Not only is this theologically inaccurate, but it makes prayer a task rather than a delight. As we watch Jesus praying during his time on earth, we don't get the sense that he was working in prayer, but that he was consumed by joy of being with the Father.

I think of the times when I have felt the greatest joy and love towards my little daughter. I do not work or labor to love her. I do not make a plan and then force myself into loving her. The greatest moments of realizing my love for her have come when I am simply holding her, appreciating her and the beauty God has given her. These intense feelings of love sneak up on me, almost as if I had to be first unaware of them in order to truly appreciate them.

Perhaps it is the same with God. Sometimes we try so hard to love him, when we need to learn how to simply rest in the beauty of his presence. And without working for it or thinking about it, an intense joy and love for him sneaks up on us. We simply "sit in the sun" as the apple does and we allow the Greater to act upon us the lesser. As we pray, we can remember that, "God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases Him." (Philippians 2:13)

May His light shine brightly on you as you journey on.

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