This is a succinct, written version of the message I spoke at Creekside’s high school youth group last week.
Netflix seems to be the new “I-need-to-relax-I-deserve-to-relax” go-to of our generation.
And it can be great. It’s a lot of fun to have TV shows and movies to look forward to. I just finished “This Is Us,” am, admittedly, watching “Riverdale” with Maddie, and it’s always nice to have a go-to place to find new movies.
Still, I know that, sometimes, I watch it as a distraction from other things, in place of something else, like my homework or studying.
I am definitely guilty of starting homework and being like, “All right, I’ll take a break in like 2 hours…” and maybe throughout that time I have Instagram and Facebook tabs open, and am responding to texts at the same time, so it ends up being like half-studying; and if I’m in my house, you know, I’ll go make a little snack, etc. There have been times in which two hours of studying did not mean two complete and focused hours of studying.
I am definitely guilty of ignoring my homework.
I am also definitely guilty of ignoring loved ones. I have picked up my phone, or looked down at a text, in the middle of conversing with someone. I have been “half-in, half somewhere else” in my mind while I should be completely, selflessly focused on what the other person is conveying.
Now, this latter is the worst, because someone else is involved.
What if this person is Jesus?
I have been in the middle of a prayer, in talking to God, and just trailed off. I have been praying to God about a worry, and, before reaching “Amen,” allowed that thought to carry me instead.
I have tried talking to Jesus while simultaneously on my phone.
I have tried talking to God while choosing to fixate on what appears to be a problem instead of fixating on all that HE has for me.
Jesus speaks to us through Paul in the New Testament in his letter to the Philippians. He says
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.”
This “instead” calls us to realize that anything we could POSSIBLY worry about or stress about, anything we feel guilty about or sometimes think we just want to worry about, or control, or handle ourselves– He wants us to pray about. He CALLS us to pray about.
So… why? And why would we WANT to pray?
I am here to tell you that, among multitudes of exceptional reasons, you want to pray because you want to know, more than anything else in the world, more than you want to know any person in the world or any idea the world has to offer, the Creator of the universe. And you want to talk to Him because believing in Him and His perfection means believing that every time you talk to Him, He will have something to teach you, whether it’s something you can see at that moment or not.
you want to talk to Him because believing in Him and His perfection means believing that every time you talk to Him, He will have something to teach you, whether it’s something you can see at that moment or not.
Prayer is this incredible gateway to Your Forever Father and Best Friend.
Now, I think there are some common mistakes we can make when praying to our God, and they are mostly rooted in incorrect ideas about why we might be praying in the first place.
The first of those is seeing prayer as the spewing of a wish list, or seeing God as like a fairy godfather.
In the book of John, Jesus Himself tells His disciples that
“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.”
We may hear this and think, “Okay sweet, God bring me Netflix and Starbucks in the name of Jesús!” waiting for some mystical sky-being to transport whatever we want or ask for right in front of us.
Or, “God, give me an A on my exam. God, give me a boyfriend or a girlfriend! Make “so and so” like me!”
This isn’t the function of prayer, though, nor would we want it to be. Because we were created for DEPENDENCE on this powerful God, asking for something “in His name” actually means that it’s according to His will and for His sake.
You want His perfect plans for your life, and talking to Him is a gateway to walking in those plans, and walking close to Him, and further from the things of the world that can so easily trip us up.
So maybe that prayer looks more like, “Lord, help me to focus better on my studying, and ease the anxieties I have, so that I’m more equipped to serve you, and my ears are open to helping others.”
A second common idea of what prayer looks like that is misguided is recitation– simply saying words.
I was taught the Lord’s prayer at a young age, as well as a certain prayer that my family and I prayed at every meal. There was a time that I thought these memorized statements defined the function of prayer; that prayer was ritualistic. I didn’t think of prayer at that time as communicating with a God who is actually closer to me than any human being. Rather, my prayers looked like a moment before bed, “OK I gotta get this done… Our Father in Heaven hallowed be your name your kingdom come…”
just. saying. words.
Now, The Lord’s Prayer is a beautiful and GOOD prayer that Jesús actually taught His disciples when they asked Him how they should pray. But it was a model. Jesús knows what is in our hearts, and wants us to bring those things to Him. In praise, “My God in Heaven, holy is your name! May Your Kingdom be revealed on the earth; may it be your will, not my own will, done.”
Or maybe right now it just looks like, “Lord, I’m weak, and I don’t know what to do. But I know that you are with me, that you go before me and stand behind me, and I trust you.” Jesús doesn’t want us to come to Him in prayer as anyone but ourselves. He is Father and Friend, and He’s endured every temptation that you and I have, but without sin. You want to know this God! Sometimes just calling Him to you, “Jesús.” HIS SPIRIT WILL MOVE FROM THERE!
Finally, some of us may look at prayer as a “once or twice a day” kind of practice, maybe thinking that it’s reserved for the morning when we rise, before mealtimes, or before we sleep at night. While routine and reserved times in prayer are wonderful, conversation with the Holy Spirit was created to be done all throughout the day.
Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that Jesus is the ONLY person who will ever be with us every second of every day?
He says in Matthew 28:20,
“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We have this CONSTANT help, and it is in us to want to go to Him! We have this helper at all times, and we are meant to be communicating with Him at all times. Sometimes, it’s in the midst of a daily struggle that we would benefit from talking to Him the most– but these can also be the HARDEST times to go to Him. The more you are talking to Him, the more you will respond to the good convictions He is inevitably placing on your heart, and experience change in your soul.
It is little by little, but also all at once, that Jesús healed me from what I thought I could never be healed from. When it first entered my life, it was an idol that took me away from wanting to know Him. But He has used suffering in my life to make me impossibly aware of His voice, and constantly compelled to pray. My day is in conversation with Him. This by no means means that I am perfect, or that my prayer life is perfect.
But my Jesus is perfect.
It is Him that we look to now, that His name and perfection would be glorified and known, and I just want to pray for each one of you, that He would plant right now an ever-growing desire in your hearts to know Him more deeply and fully, forever.