“Guess I can only pray . . . ”
If you’ve grown up around religion, I’m sure you’ve heard and said this phrase countless times. Even if you haven’t, you’ve perhaps heard it thrown around at least.
Honestly, I’ve used this phrase way too often myself.
Years ago, I ran across something in the book, The Kneeling Christian, that challenged my mindset. The author says:
“Let us never forget that the greatest thing we can do for God or for man is to pray. For we can accomplish far more by our prayers than by our work.”
This idea has stuck with me for years. Not because I have ever doubted the power of prayer — no, but because I have always overestimated my ability to work. I have a tendency to over-trust in my ability to make stuff happen.
I find this true especially in my faith.
You see, I tend to think that I can make myself be perfect. I believe that I can do enough good things on my own to warrant blessings. If I just work hard enough, I will have everything I need and want in life.
And there is simply nothing that can stop me if I just keep trying.
Obviously, I fail quite a bit. No matter how hard I try, I cannot attain perfection. Many things do not go my way. I face obstacles that I cannot overcome no matter how much I work.
In those times, I’d fall down and finally pray. I’d come to God as a “last resort.”
And I started to realize how odd that was.
Why would I — someone who claims to believe in an omnipotent God who cares for me — wait to go to that God only until after I had tried everything else?
The hypocrisy of this tendency started to dawn on me. So, I began to adjust my approach.
What if I prayed first? What if I went to God before I tried anything else?
I wouldn’t stop doing what I knew to do, as I don’t believe that would be right either. But what I could do is go to God and offer up my work to Him. Maybe that would be a better use of all that I do.
As I started doing this, I noticed a change. It’s not that my life dramatically improved or that everything came up as roses. But it did completely alter how I fought the battles I face in my life.
It also meant that I no longer had to make myself perfect on my own. I wasn’t left alone in my effort to pursue God and serve Him with everything I do. Instead of “just me and my determination,” it became about God doing a work in my life each day, drawing me closer to Him.
This meant that when I began to sort out what my sexuality and gender identity meant to me as a follower of Christ, I didn’t have to do it all by myself. I could take it all to God.
When I had questions, I could bring them to God. When I couldn’t understand why I felt such incongruence between my attractions and my beliefs, I could talk to God about it.
For the many times I’ve come to the end of myself as my brother, Jacob, once put it, I find God right there ready to listen.
I’ve come to realize that in navigating my faith, sexuality, and gender identity, prayer was the most powerful action I could take. It didn’t matter the number of questions, hurts, frustrations, or pain around me.
I could take everything, whatever it was, and lay it before God in prayer.
I won’t lie and say everything is perfect now. But the trials of my life are no longer faced alone.
I now take each trial knowing that I am walking into it with God by my side.
And that is definitely better than just a last resort “Hail Mary.”
Do you view prayer as effectual or a needless exercise? Do you wish you prayed to God more often or more vulnerably?