(Picture: Leland Francisco through Creative Commons)
How often do you pray for yourself? Every day? More than once a day? When was the last time you prayed privately without praying for yourself?
I honestly don’t remember the last time I prayed privately without praying for myself. And it’s a real stretch to remember the last time I prayed for others in a private time. Before my sabbatical I knew I prayed too much for myself. I knew my life was too inward looking and self-focussed – despite the ways I serve in church and in my community, and interact with others.
However, I dismissed it. I didn’t realise the extent of the problem. Not long afterward, I went away.
For nearly a week I was disconnected from the outside world. I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t engaging on social media. And in a house with three kids and two parents as well as myself, I wasn’t going to get much time to think about myself too much.
Whilst I was there, I got to spend quality time with a couple of them. With the middle one, I got to play on the Wii, have a few jokes, talk about his life, about Harry Potter (I had only seen the first film at that point) and about games he liked on his Wii.
Later on that day whilst my cousin was putting the younger kids to bed, I was hanging out with the eldest 2nd cousin. We chatted for ages one to one about Doctor Who, Sherlock, Smallville (Yes, I am a total geek) and watched a few YouTube film clips of them and other programmes/films.
In these times, I was simply pouring into their lives. I had no time to think about my own. I wasn’t obsessing over all the problems I had which were still there, still on my mind, still concerning me. I was, for once, too busy with other people to worry about myself.
And it was liberating. Because I wasn’t concerned with myself. Without realising it, I was trusting God to take care of those areas of my life. I was allowing God to minister in those areas, and minister to me – simply by focussing more on others than my own concerns.
Once I was back I found myself in familiar territory, praying for myself a lot. Focussing too much on myself.
And guess what, I became more stressed again. Not quite at peace.
The Sunday after I got back my Pastor shared some scriptures, which pointed out something I should have already known, but seemed new to me.
Jesus prays for me in heaven.
The Holy Spirit prays for me.
And best of all, God already knows my needs before I ever pray or cry out with worry.
So I challenged myself. I would, for a month, not pray for myself. Whenever I found myself doing so, I would stop and pray for others. For a month I would pour my energy into others before myself in my prayer life. And I would trust God knows my needs anyway and Jesus and the Holy Spirit pray for me.
I’ve been doing it for a fortnight and I’ve already noticed a difference. Although some days I have struggled, overall I’m finding myself more concerned with other people. More naturally inclined to listen or be interested in others.
And I’m focussed less on myself.
I also realised just how much I pray for myself. How selfish I have been. How self-involved my attitude to God and others has been, and how little I trusted God in my life. Focussing on others more has brought me closer to God and challenged me to trust Him. It’s confronted me with the truth of my lack of trust in Him and challenged me to step out without seeing the bridge.
So I want to challenge you. Take a week, and for that whole week, don’t pray for yourself once. Acknowledge God knows your needs, but then pray for someone else. You may not succeed (I barely made a week before finally praying for myself), but just trying it for a season could make a real difference.
Because in my own experience, the more you focus on pouring into others, the less anxious you are about your own needs. As you are simply trusting them to God.
And then, God can do much more work on them than any worrying will ever do.
Do you agree with me or disagree with me?
When was the last time you prayed privately without praying for yourself?
Are willing to try and go a week, or a month, without praying for yourself?
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