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Last month I posted a column on Everyday Health titled How the Power of Prayer Helps Me Face My Psoriasis. I shared questions I had as a young adult with psoriasis who recently found the Christian faith:
Is it selfish to pray for yourself when the world has real problems? Is it possible to know if a spiritual practice like prayer can be a healing force in the face of a chronic condition like psoriasis? Am I wasting my energy praying if my health doesn’t improve?
You can read more about my thoughts on these questions in the column. Here I would like to interact with a couple of question that didn’t make it into the Everyday Health blog.
How Much Prayer Is Enough?
“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” (Attributed to C.S. Lewis in the movie Shadowlands).
Sometimes I ask myself if I’ve prayed enough. If I don’t remind myself what the aim of my prayer is I can fall into a utilitarian view of prayer and God. If my goal in praying is to convince or cajole God to do something, such as heal my psoriasis, then the length or frequency of my prayer is not the main concern. It’s not as if I will pass threshold of prayer where God will finally break down and do what I want.
The quotation above attributed to C.S. Lewis about prayer is from the movie Shadowlands. I appreciate the sentiment conveyed that prayer is not about changing God or His mind. While He certainly can use prayers to fulfill His purposes, prayer aligns my heart to His heart. In the process, I come to a place of peace and acceptance, of waiting and submitting.
Prayer leads me to a place where I experience peace that passing all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). My skin might rage like a wildfire. The sky might feel like it’s falling. But when I am praying “enough” I find the presence of God more than sufficient for what might come each day.
Can I Be Honest in My Prayers?
“We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” (C.S. Lewis from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, chapter 4)
In my former life as a pastor I often taught about prayer and led prayers in congregational settings. I listened to countless others pray. In that setting I noticed how prayers easily became routinized. Repeated phrases and themes often came in predictable patterns and structures. I began to question the honesty and authenticity of those recitations.
Lewis rightly notes how we need to pray what is in us. What is in me, though, is not always pretty. I might feel angry, sad, unmotivated, or lost. During the pandemic I’ve experienced all these emotions and more. Coming to God as I am, not as I think I should be, is much harder than throwing out a few phrases and sentences that sound pious in the moment.
Honesty shouldn’t be hard in prayers. If I believe God already knows what I am going to pray before I even move my lips, then I have nothing to fear. But still I do. Maybe I don’t want to admit to myself that I am not doing as well as I feel I should be. Or I might falsely believe that God or others will think less of me. Whatever the reasons, I want to be more transparent and honest in my prayers.
Today, I’m grateful to God that my psoriasis and eczema are stable. Still, I know that I have a ways to go to truly live in His presence each day no matter how my skin is doing. Reflecting on the two questions above move me along the path toward greater wholeness and growing spirituality: to focus my prayers in the right place and to authentically bring the entirety of my life in them.
If you have a prayer need or would like me to pray for you please feel free to contact me.