When I can’t overcome bad habits: “Lord, rewire my mental pathways.”

Simple Prayers that Change Your Life series post 5 of 8

Hide, escape.  Ever since Adam & Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden, hiding has been humanity’s default method for dealing with stress.

Stress comes in many forms: from the daily weight of tons of tiny problems that need to be solved, to the daily weight of one big problem that just won’t go away; from fractured or broken relationships, to fractured or broken dreams; from disappointment in those we love, to disappointment in ourselves.  And while we may face and work through the stress, we also crave to hide and escape from it.

Hiding and escaping comes in many forms.  The most dangerous forms of escape are well known: drug, alcohol, porn, and gambling addictions.  The seemingly less dangerous forms of escape are harder to spot:  over-indulgence in eating, shopping, sleep or entertainment.  We often wink at these more socially-acceptable forms of escape, joking how we can’t live without our coffee or chocolate, or how a problem is “nothing that a little shopping won’t cure,” or how we’re obsessed with a certain TV show, game, book series, or social media platform.  After all, they’re not really harmful, right?  (And yes, it’s totally possible to attempt to drown your problems in the drama of other people’s Facebook posts!)

When I don’t know what to choose: “Lord, give me neon blinking lights…”

Simple Prayers That Change Your Life Series post 4 of 8

got_wisdom_fbcmmOne of my favorite verses is James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

I lack wisdom… a lot.  Which college?  Which job?  Which place to live?  Which car to buy?  Which school for my kid?  Which sport or activity for my kid?  Which foods are best?  The list goes on.

That’s why I love James 1:5 so much.  It promises that whenever we lack wisdom (which we all do), we can ask God and He will give us the wisdom, no strings attached.  It doesn’t matter if we’ve been especially spiritual lately or not, God will give “generously to all without finding fault.”

And yet, so often we ask God for guidance, but the choice still seems unclear.  Why?

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.