Ask less, praise more.
That’s the resolution that I have gotten from today’s sermon by Carl Schenck at Grace United Methodist Church.
He talked about how repetitive prayers can become, and how often they devolve into a series of requests. The problem with prayers that only revolve around requests, he says, is that they imply that God is like a slot machine, in which we put goodness coins so that we can get the outcomes we want. These requesting prayers suggest the ridiculous notion that God, the Creator of the Universe, somehow needs to be reminded of what we want, and will forget or not know unless we pray. Schenck suggested that if we need guidelines for prayer, we can turn to the Psalms, which can be used for a variety of prayers.
My prayers have been repetitive. I’m a graduate student, so even though I follow the “ACTS” guideline (Affirmation, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), my prayers often go something like this:
You’re awesome. Thanks for creating people and our capacity to love. And for my friends, because I get lonely.
I’m sorry that I don’t spend enough time getting to know you. I’m sorry that I turn to vices for comfort. Like eating too much. Or spending too much time on the computer. And by computer, I mean Youtube.
Thank you for my friends and family and for this shelter above my head and that I have a bed to sleep in.
Please bless this sleep to my body. I ask that you be with my family and help us to love each other. Help me to know what the right thing is to do.
In Jesus’ name,
Actually, when I’m tired they go something more like this:
Yawn. Thanks for letting me sleep.
Help this sleep to work, because I’m definitely not getting enough.
Sorry for not reading my Bible.
*collapses into bed*
Pray these prayers night after night and it seems like I am stuck in this endless cycle of tiredness and failure. Combine that with a propensity to think, “If I don’t do this, then this horrible thing will happen” or “This horrible thing happened and therefore I will never be this type of person that I want to be” or “I really want this good thing to happen, but I don’t know how to do it and if I don’t do it, then everything will fall to pieces and I will never get what I want.” Then you get a negative, neurotic, panicky outlook on life. Yuck!
Therefore, my resolution is to ask less, praise more. This extends to friends and family. From them, I should ask less of them and recognize more what they have done for me or who they have been to me. And in life, I want to demand fewer expectations and be better with acknowledging what is going right.
After all, it’s usually annoying whenever people demand, “Gimme, gimme more…”
Except when Britney Spears sings it, of course.
Queen of Pop. Can’t stop.