No, let me change that.
Pray – especially when you don’t feel like it.
Think about it. If you don’t feel like praying; if you don’t feel like praising God; if you don’t feel like rejoicing in His love, grace, and mercy:
Then you’re probably not walking in the spirit, but rather walking in the flesh. I think that’s why Paul encourages us (maybe even admonishes us?) to pray continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). While that may not seem practical, I don’t think he means for us to be in a never ending “Lord’s Prayer” (Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…repeat…repeat…)
But rather that we simply recognize and remember God’s goodness, grace and mercy all throughout our day, regardless of our circumstances. That we trust in Him; that we believe He is always with us; walking by our side through all that we encounter, enjoy, and yes, endure.
So, there we were; the night of Ash Wednesday, my wife and I lying side by side after a long exhausting day. I was bitter. Over something stupid. I won’t bother you with the details other than to say it was related to church. Some perceived injustice. Whatever.
Did I mention it was Ash Wednesday? The ashes just recently washed off our foreheads lest we soil our pillowcases as we lay down to sleep.
Ash Wednesday: A day of repentance; a day of reflection on our brokenness and sinfulness; a day to remember how much we need our gracious God; how much we need his Son, Jesus, to save us from our wretchedness; how much we need our Savior.
And there I was, all self righteous and bitter.
OK, let me check:
Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23):
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
Hmmm, not looking good…..
Acts of the Flesh (Galatians 5:19-21):
Sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things.
Hmmm. OK, I didn’t have all of those pegged. But is that really any consolation? Anything to rejoice in?
Hardly. Even just one on the flesh list is cause for concern.
Or maybe the right way to look at it is that I didn’t have anything on the “spirit” list. Not one. Not even close.
I didn’t feel like praying with my wife.
Did I mention it was Ash Wednesday?
But I felt the nudging. No, not from my wife, but from the Holy Spirit. I still didn’t feel like praying. I don’t remember exactly, but I may have thought that it wasn’t worth praying. Or maybe even that my wife didn’t deserve my prayers.
Did I really think that? And did I really type that?
My flesh wants to backspace over the last few lines, but I’m going to leave it. Because it’s the truth, even if I don’t like it. Or maybe especially because I don’t like it.
So, I asked my wife if she’d like to pray. Thankfully she said yes. Even though I didn’t deserve it. Even though I wasn’t worthy to pray. Or maybe especially because I’m not worthy.
So, I prayed. I didn’t know what to say. But I started anyway. We held hands, and I started praying. All I remember is starting with thanksgiving; for the day; for this Ash Wednesday.
And the Holy Spirit took it from there. I don’t remember what I prayed. (Or more accurately, what He prompted me to pray). But it was a healing moment for me personally, for us as a couple, and I hope for my wife personally as well.
Those are often the best times of prayer for me. When I’m sullen, bitter, angry; when I don’t want to pray. But I do it anyway. And this morning seems so much more bright and joyful than I think it would have been otherwise. Is that a result of prayer? I don’t know for sure. But I hope it’s a reminder the next time I don’t want to pray.
Note: I wrote this three years ago, the morning after that Ash Wednesday. My purpose then was simply to empty my brain and record my thoughts while the experience was still fresh. It’s published here as an encouragement and exhortation for your prayer life.