I’ve had a little “a ha!” moment in my prayer life lately. I’ve discovered that, even in prayer, I want to be the subject.
Now, I’m not exactly what you’d call a selfish oaf. I do, of course, take care of my family and serve them as best I can. I try to be a good friend to my friends, a good leader to my team, a good team member to my leaders, and an all-round decent guy. While I do make some time for myself (basic introvert recharge), I try to live outside of myself as much as possible.
Some may argue that living outside oneself is a near-impossible task. Years ago, I heard author Donald Miller explain it as well as I’ve ever heard it. To paraphrase, you can view life as a kind of play. And in that play, I’m the star and everyone in my life is just my supporting cast. It’s not about you; it’s about me.
Don’t believe me? Fine. I’ll prove it. You see, sometimes we have scenes together. You enter the stage, we interact, and then you walk offstage. I know that life is about me because I’m always on stage whether you’re there or not. Life is, therefore, all about me.
Obviously, this is a horrible, prideful, self-focused view of the world. It’s not something I believe, but it certainly is something I keep in mind with every interaction. It makes me more aware of the spotlight, and better yet, it reminds me to step out of the spotlight when I’m standing in someone else’s scene.
What’s struck me lately, however, is how “me-centered” my prayers have become. I dare say there’s a chance your prayers suffer from the same “self as subject” disorder. It has crept into the language I use as I lay my requests before the Lord.
“Lord, let me…”
Sound familiar? I can’t believe how often my prayers start with “Lord, let me.” What a ridiculous prayer. Yet, it’s one we hear every day, or maybe even say every day, without thinking about it. What do I mean when I say this? I’m not asking God to do something, I’m asking God to let me do something.
“Lord, let me get home safe tonight.” That’s not a prayer for God to keep me safe; it’s a prayer focused on my own mad driving skills regardless of any traffic disaster I might encounter.
“Lord, let me feel better tomorrow.” That’s not a prayer for healing; it’s a prayer for my kick-butt antibodies to stomp out an infection.
“Lord, let me be a better father.” That’s not a prayer for God to change my heart; it’s a prayer for me to make myself a better dad.
Whenever I say, “Lord, let me,” I’m not asking God to reveal His awesome power. I’m asking Him to get out of the way of my awesomeness. And that won’t do.
God hears our heart in prayer; some may argue that the words don’t even matter. That may be true; the words may not matter to God. But I swear, the language I use when talking to God matters to me. It shapes me. It focuses me. And sometimes, it focuses me on the wrong things.
So, Lord, don’t let me get home safe. Get me home safe. Don’t let me feel better tomorrow. Heal me. Don’t let me be a better father. Break my pride and fill my heart with more and more servant love for this precious child. Do the work, Lord. You’re better at it than I am. I’d rather have your full power in action than rely only on the most amped-up version of me you can make.
You’re the subject, Lord. Make me content—no, make me wholly fulfilled—as the object, the one joyfully and gratefully receiving your mighty action.