Learners Pray

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Monday was awesome – I got to spend the entire day with my two favorite boys on the planet.  It was also a little scary because my favorite person on the planet, Laura, was with her Mom in Richmond.  So, it was just me and the boys!

I can tell you this – one day flying solo with those two did wonders for my prayer life.  I don’t know that I’ve ever lived out 1 Thessalonians 5:17 so faithfully, “pray without ceasing.”  Everything we did was a prompt to pray – diaper changes, making lunch, going to the park, nap time…everything!

As soon as I got out of my comfort zone, I started praying like a spiritual hero.  But on days when I stay in my comfort zone, it’s way too easy to pray like a spiritual zero.  I still believe the primary culprits in our prayerlessness are pride and a small view of God.  But complacency certainly fans the flames of spiritual lethargy.  The honest reality is that I don’t feel the same compulsion to pray in areas of my life where I’m not stretched.  Meetings, emails and blog posts come naturally to me and, yes, I usually pray for God’s guidance but not with the same intensity I prayed in the face of a screaming 7 month old who was starving but also refusing to take his bottle because I was doing something wrong.

We would pray more if we got out of our comfort zone more.

In a recent Forbes magazine article, Erika Anderson writes about a new FIELD immersion learning program available to Harvard MBA’s.  The goal is to get these students out of the classroom and into the real world.  She writes:

“When you’re really learning – acquiring new skills or understanding, behaving and operating in new ways – you’re going to be a novice.  That means you’re not going to be an expert, and you won’t have all the answers.  You’ll make mistakes and have to ask “dumb” questions, and you’ll have ideas that you think are genius that will turn out not to work at all.

And becoming comfortable in that situation – staying curious and open and continuing to explore and improve – that’s the essence of real learning.”

We don’t learn and grow in our comfort zones.  Real learning only happens when we leave safety, security and predictability behind.  So, here’s my question for you today: where are you uncomfortable?  Where does life feel a little scary, a little exhilarating and a little uncertain?

If the answer is nowhere, odds are good you aren’t growing.  I would also venture to say odds are good you aren’t praying either.  Our souls and our minds expand when we find the courage to stretch, to learn and to grow.

Want To Grow? Take Notes!

NotebookDo you want to know the three things your pastor most wants you to bring with you to church this Sunday?  I know the cynics will say, “My wallet, a friend and a willingness to laugh at bad jokes.”  In response to that, let me go out on a limb and say that if that’s actually true, it’s time to find a new church.  I’ll also tell you how I would answer the question for the people I lead at Restoration City:

  • A Bible
  • A Notebook
  • A Pen

I know I’m running the risk of sounding like a cranky old guy but let me press it one step further: your plan to consolidate all three of those into one smartphone isn’t a good one.  You need to go old school on this one and use paper.  Before you totally write me off, I’ll let you know that I absolutely have the YouVersion of the Bible on my phone and love it.  I use Evernote and understand that I’m writing this on a blog.  And oftentimes my pens are out of ink.

But if you really want to get the most out of Sunday, you’ll bring a Bible, a notebook and a pen.  Michael Hyatt, one of the most successful distributors of electronic content in Christian publishing today, recently wrote a fascinating blog on the advantages of paper books over ebooks.  One of the advantages he writes about is improved memory.  In my experience, this is certainly true of studying the Bible.  I tend to remember things better from a paper Bible and be able to find the verse again easier in the future if I’ve had to flip to it in the pages of a Bible.

Note taking will enable you to get exponentially more out of a sermon.  If you come to the sermon with the expectation that God is going to say something to you, you might also want to come with a way to record that.  Jot down verses, questions, thoughts, action steps, key phrases, whatever impacts you.  Taking notes in a sermon is the easiest way to accelerate your spiritual growth this weekend.

Your Bible, notebook and pen are a tangible reflection of your attitude towards the sermon.  If you’re coming to be entertained, you don’t need them.  If you’re coming to learn, you wouldn’t consider leaving them at home.

Whether you’re part of Restoration City or another local church, there’s no greater sound on a Sunday morning than the rustling of pages.  Your pastor will love it.  And so will you!