Thank you to our guest blogger, Carrie Whyte, Co-founder of The Watermark Shop for this post!
We go through most of our day on auto-pilot. Getting dressed, making breakfast, driving to work (or walking across the hall to our home office!) happens without us thinking too hard.
In fact, many experts claim that at least 90% of our decisions are made subconsciously. Our brain creates neural pathways that are like freeways for our thoughts and emotions to jump on and take us where we need to go. It’s actually a really efficient way of operation for our brain. However, sometimes these ingrained thinking and decision-making patterns can work against us. Especially when we are trying to form new habits and achieve new goals–such as spending more time in prayer.
Recently, my life coach sent me a document on unhealthy thinking styles and told me to identify the patterns that rang true for me and I recognized that there were 3 which were especially evident in how I approached my prayer life.
Here are the unhealthy thinking styles that I’m working on overcoming to achieve more freedom and fruit in my prayer life:
1. ALL OR NOTHING THINKING
I often have thoughts like, ‘well I don’t have time to do a real, intense workout so I’m just not going to work out on this day/week (or month!).’ I even saw this kind of thinking pop up when I went to make coffee this morning! You see, I have this large, stainless steel French press that I love. But it makes more than enough coffee for just me. I really love a good French press, but yet I rarely use it. Why? I realized that on some level I don’t pull it out because I know I won’t drink the whole thing on my own and I don’t want to waste the rest. But why not just fill it halfway and only make as much as I’m going to drink? Great question! Without even realizing it, I think I was just looking at even this with an all or nothing mentality, when there is no real reason why I can’t just fill the press halfway! I was missing out on a good, fresh cup of coffee for really no reason.
We can tend to apply this all or nothing approach to our prayer life as well. If we have a subconscious belief that prayer time equals 30 minutes uninterrupted and we don’t have that entire 30 minutes on any given day, we discard the whole idea. Yet, I think we would all agree that 10 minutes in prayer is better than none, right? That God can meet us where we are in every circumstance. If we recognized this unhealthy pattern of thinking, I think we’d end up slowly growing our passion for more prayer in our days!
This thinking style is characterized by being quick to assign labels to things, ourselves or others. In my prayer life, this has shown up when I have thoughts like, ‘I don’t hear from God like her,’ or ‘I really love my sleep and can’t seem to wake up an hour early to pray like that other person so I must not be serious about prayer.’ I know I’ve really let myself get into comparison mode and labeled myself when I’ve felt like my prayer life is not what I want it to be. In my desire to connect with and hear from God, I’ve been somewhat quick to jump to negative conclusions about myself.
If you can relate, be encouraged knowing that God only gives us a hunger for more of Him when he intends to fill it. It’s okay to be a little hungry and desiring more out of your prayer life and relationship with God.
I believe God has made us all beautifully unique in how we relate to Him and He enjoys the journey with us. He appreciates who you are and where you’re at. He is likely speaking to you way more than you realize and it doesn’t have to look like another other person’s experience.
3. PERSONALIZATION AND FEELING GUILTY
This is when we overemphasize our role or responsibility in a situation or result, which can lead to unnecessary guilt or shame. In my prayer life, this one is evidence of my tendency to veer into a ‘works-based’ relationship with Jesus, rather than operating from a place of freedom where his grace is enough.
I often don’t even realize it at first, but I can start to creep into this mindset where I’m feeling like I need to pray a certain way or amount in order to please God or be acceptable to Him. That prayer time is about me showing up as holy and righteous, ready to impress him with my heart-felt and elaborate prayers. The opposite couldn’t be more true. It’s Him who makes me holy and righteous, not because of what I’ve done, but because of what He’s done on the cross and continues to do in me through the Holy Spirit.
There have been days when I’ve been so down, desperate for God to help me through a situation and my mind has gone to Matthew 11, where Jesus says, “…come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In my prayers, I would come to Jesus, but I
didn’t realize I was doing so with a bit of a guilt complex. In my heart
I was saying, “Jesus, I’m sorry. I can’t take this burden any longer, I need to give it to you” almost with a cringe on my face, feeling bad that I was offloading my junk on Him.
One day, God spoke something to my heart that really hit home – Jesus is not weighed down by my baggage! It doesn’t offend or surprise him and I don’t need to feel guilty for giving it to Him! In fact, it’s His joy to take that off my shoulders and have me lay it at the foot of the cross! When He showed me this, it set me so free to approach him without guilt or shame, and present myself authentically – good, bad and ugly. It helped me develop a more authentic and free heart posture with Jesus when I prayed.
Do any of these unhealthy thinking styles sound familiar? If so, here are 3 actions you can take:
- Remind yourself that any time with God is not a waste. The Bible says to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17) so remember that anytime you turn your heart and mind to God, you are in prayer. He is always speaking to you and He loves every minute you spend with Him. Progress over perfection.
- Reflect on ways that you negatively label yourself and your prayer life. Then replace those thoughts with the truth of who God says you are. Words such as those in Psalm 145:18-19: The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
- Remember that God enjoys your worship, but he also simply wants a relationship with you. He wants your whole heart. He calls himself Heavenly Father, Comforter and Friend. Prayer is not just about you coming to Him, but Him meeting you where you are. It’s a two-way street and He’s ready to come to you, too.
Ultimately, as we free ourselves from unhealthy guilt, we can move forward to pursue a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Carrie is co-founder of The Watermark Shop. An online destination for faith-filled finds. Watermark offers modern, stylish, lifestyle goods inspired by faith in Christ. Their elegant self-care, jewelry, apparel and décor pieces blend faith with fashion for an uplifting reminder of God’s love and goodness.