Jeff Foxworthy tells a joke about looking for your wallet. He says people always tell you when they found something that it was in the last place they looked. Of course it is. Where else would it be? You ever hear someone ask “Find your wallet” and they respond “yeah, but we’re still looking for it”. I often wonder if prayer isn’t the same way. Does the process of prayer and commitment to connecting with God open our eyes to see the world more clearly? Does it simply give us the peace and serenity to accept the reality before us and to more clearly react to it? Do we put too much emphasis on “God’s Leading” when we really just took the time to see and understand the bigger picture?
I hear people so many times say that when times got rough, they stopped to pray and God gave them the strength to face it. The situation didn’t change, but things didn’t seem as tough anymore. Now I’m a firm believer in the power of prayer, but more recently I’ve come to look at prayer differently than just a communication with God for the religious faithful. It’s a means to clear your mind and heart to accept or handle the things in life you are facing. It’s an opportunity to slow your heart and your mind down to think more clearly.
Take the Serenity Prayer for example:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Now take the word “God” out of it. If you were to sit in your office during the peak of frustration with a co-worker, boss, or customer and just say this to yourself, would you begin to calm down? Would you suddenly feel more peaceful and clear headed to handle the situation?
Have you ever been caught talking to yourself? Just wandering around the house as you clean or work on projects and your spouse walks in and asks “Who were you talking to”. You turn, almost surprised they asked “No one, why?” It just seemed natural right? Why were you doing it? Did it help you to just “Think out loud”? To sort things out? No one was there to answer but yet you felt it necessary to do.
I wonder if this is what Paul meant by “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17). Not to spend all of our days on our knees pouring our hearts out to God in Praise, Supplication, Forgiveness, Confession, and Worship. But in a perpetual state of mind where we look inwardly (for the non-religious) and upwardly (for the religious) to seek a new vision in which to see the problems we face. In those moments, maybe it’s not the problems that change, but rather the mindset in which we approach them that does.