We all need encouragement in our lives – no matter what age we are, or what we are trying to do or achieve; we all need an encouraging word. It also helps if we see results, improvement or something tangible we can take note of.
Motivational speakers often use stories of people changing from one state to another – be that losing weight, getting fit, changing lifestyle habits, mental resilience or kicking an addiction. We can find ourselves moved and inspired by such stories to make changes for ourselves.
But perseverance and stickability come hard without continued encouragement and motivation. While one in seven of women in Britain can stick with a diet for 13 weeks or more, nearly one in four succumb to their favourite food cravings after four weeks. 8% give up after 1 week. If we don’t see quick results or we find that making the change is actually way harder than we thought it was going to be (why is it that it takes about 45 seconds to eat a Mars Bar and 45 minutes of hard running to burn it off?) we tend to give up.
What about prayer? When was the last time you were encouraged in your prayer life? When was the last time you felt motivated by a story to really try praying? When did you last encourage someone else in their prayer life? How often have you started on a programme of prayer only to find your self slipping away when perhaps it was harder than you first thought?
Just as muscles ache and breath comes sort when you start exercising properly for the first time, so too prayer can leave one’s spiritual muscles aching, and the mind coming up a bit short on actually how to do this thing called prayer. But just as getting fitter through exercise brings tangible positives to our lives so too does a good rhythm of prayer.
As Pilgrim Priests we met for our usual Monday morning prayer gathering on Zoom, and all of us were feeling the strain of the looming Christmas busy-ness :different this year but no less complex. We were reminded of the words of Luther (who was a busy chap), “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer to get in all done”. It’s so easy to squeeze prayer out of busy lives: to start and give up, to begin and not commit, to find excuses.
But with encouragement and support a rich prayer life actually brings so many blessings and, if you like, “tangible results”. When we connect to God deeply and regularly, when we place ourselves in his presence and commit our lives to his way, to his kingdom and to his love, our lives are transformed.
So maybe you need encouragement in prayer, maybe you are someone who could be an encourager; whichever – lets start to talk about prayer a bit more, let’s flex those prayer muscles and see how we can be changed and transformed by God.