When Trying Harder Doesn’t Work: “Lord, teach me…”

Simple Prayers That Change Your Life series, post 3 of 8

vegetables-673181_640“Try harder.  Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  No pain, no gain.  Buckle down.”

Such advise worked when I needed to pass an exam, make a team tryout, or complete a difficult work assignment.  It didn’t work so great on my spiritual growth.

Once I became a follower of Jesus Christ, I knew that my character was to increasingly reflect Jesus’.

However, practicing the spiritual disciplines, which were supposed to help me grow in my relationship with God, never came easy.

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,

For years, I simply tried harder.  New Years resolutions to pray more, read my Bible more, be more patient, be more courageous, be more or do more of whatever I thought God wanted.  But trying harder never worked for me.  At least not when it came to my relationship with God.

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13

You see, I can’t produce holy desires in myself.  I can’t produce holy behavior in myself.  Only the Holy Spirit can grow the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.[i]  We can’t grow it, no matter how hard we try.  But that doesn’t mean we just sit back and do nothing.  We work out our salvation by inviting God to work in us.

When I’m Feeling Rebellious: “Lord, give me the desire to…”

Simple Prayers That Change Your Life series, post 2 of 8

Pouting_GirlShe plopped down in the seat across from me and got right to the point.  “I just want to tell you that I’m not going to be the good Christian girl anymore.  I still believe in God, but He’s just not a priority.  I want to have fun, party, be with guys.”  She said it with a smirk of defiance and then locked eyes to see my reaction.

“Why are you telling me this?”

She shrugged casually, “I don’t know, just thought I should.”

I smiled.  “I know why.  Even though you’re having a lot of fun right now, deep down inside you are scared.  You know where your path ultimately leads – to heartbreak, to self-destruction.  You’ve tried hard to suppress the Holy Spirit’s conviction, but it nags at you.  So you’re telling me because a small part of you is desperately crying out for someone to say one last thing to stop you.”

The smirk left her face.  “Yep, that’s about it.”

Ever been there?  Ever know what God advised, but frankly could care less?

Simple Prayers that Change Your Life

Post 1 of 8

country-road-1149667_1280“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

On the surface, this verse is easy to agree with, “Yeah, okay.  God is good and wants good for me.”  But deeply believing this verse & living it out is very difficult.  If I truly believed this verse, then I’d have no problem obeying God because no matter the situation, I would trust God.   I would trust that whatever God asks me to do is for my own benefit.  Now that’s not so easy, is it?

In some situations it is easy to trust and follow God.  In other situations, it’s gut-wrenching to trust and follow God.

When I was a teen, my mother suffered from post-traumatic stress.  While I watched her relive memories of childhood rape, it seemed impossible to believe that God was good.  I ran off into the woods to scream at God.  “Why?!  Why did you abandon my mom?!  Why did you let that happen to her?!  And why does she still have to pay for it now, all these years later?”  I scoffed at Scripture promises like “I will never leave you or forsake you,” and “In all things, God works for good of those who love Him.”[1]  It was hard to believe that God was still with my mom, still with me, and that He could bring good out of such horror.