This is a guest post written by my dear friend, Samantha Crick. We lived in the same town as each other for less than a year, but when I needed someone’s Christ-like love and a place to crash she was the first to come to mind and the first to open her door. Grab a cup of coffee, lean back and take in just a drop of this sweet girl’s wisdom-
One of the most common disordered desires for women is perfectionism, a particular righteousness and perfection we yearn for apart from Christ. It’s not in all women and many men I am sure can relate, but it is overwhelmingly true that as women, we desire to be perfect.
As Matt Chandler quotes in this great sermon series:
“Overqualified and over-prepared women [will] still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect or practically perfect. Study after study has shown that [perfectionism] is largely a female issue, one that extends through women’s entire lives. We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer. We don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it ad nauseam. We don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than is required. We fixate on performance at home, at school, at work, at yoga class, even on vacation. We obsess as mothers, as wives, as sisters, as friends, as cooks, as athletes.”
Let’s take that idea a step further: The Bible tells us we can and that we must pray (to name a few: 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Philippians 4:6, James 5:16) and that we should devote ourselves to prayer (Colossians 4:2). Prayer is a great responsibility but also a fantastic privilege. God gets glory for every prayer lifted up, and how awesome it is to come alongside someone in prayer, sharing their burdens and rejoicing with them (Romans 12:15).
But how does perfectionism ruin our prayer lives?
I will be first to admit that I struggle with this battle of perfectionism in my prayer life, especially with intercessory prayer. I could make out a lllllloooooonnnnnnnggggg list of every thing and everyone I should and truly want to pray for and it would take me days to do so.
And with that long list, Satan does not cease to take advantage to quickly discourage us: “You can never pray for all of that. It will take hours and hours. You are way too busy. You won’t be able to work if you pray for all of that every day. How could you even begin to prioritize that? Even if you just pray for Jimmy, he needs a lot of prayer.” (*Sidenote: My husband is incredible, but he isn’t Christ so I am praying he continues that upward climb and battle). Satan continues his lies, “Is it really necessary that you pray for your dad’s salvation again; you have been praying for him for years — surely God has heard it and you don’t need to pray for that again. You will feel bad if you pray for that again and you don’t pray for _____.”
We all have those thoughts. So how do we fight them?
First things first: As Christians, we are called to take captive these questions, doubts, and lies Satan puts in our heads.
We are not to let them deter us from being obedient (2 Corinthians 10:5). We must train ourselves to recognize these thoughts and to rid them, replacing them with righteous thoughts and prayers. By the time I allow myself to go through that strand of doubting questions, I could have checked a few of those prayers off the list for the day.
Secondly, on repetitive prayer: John Calvin once said, “We must repeat the same supplications not twice or three times only, but as often as we have a need, a hundred and a thousand time…We must never weary in waiting for God’s help.” Trust in the Lord’s timing on answering prayers, especially in the salvation of people, but don’t grow tired of the same prayer. Pray repeatedly, earnestly, consistently, and expectantly just as Jesus did (Matthew 26). Third, there are some great and wise men who have spoken to prioritizing prayer (see this Faith Hack ).
One of the biggest lies though: “I don’t have enough time to pray for everything,” is a matter of perfectionism.
To combat this, I turn to these three things:
1. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” -Matthew 6:7-8
The fear of not being perfect in our prayer life – not praying for everything, not having specific scripture to go along with every request, not knowing the “right” words to pray, or not being as good as a prayer warrior as so-and-so – all of this hinders us from even starting or praying the 5, 10, or 20 minutes we do have. But we must be diligent in not evaluating our quality of prayers with the quantity of time we pray.
This type of legalistic approach to prayer puts emphasis on our works rather than the sovereign grace of God. I do think praying with scripture is helpful and you can only get better at praying by knowing more of the Word and doing it more often. Rely on a memorized verse or meditate on a verse throughout the day, incorporating it into every petition, or use the one on the background of your phone, or just plain don’t use a specific verse and talk to your Father who loves you and knows what you are praying for before you even speak. Don’t waste precious moments you could be communing with God worrying about being perfect. You’re not and he knows it. We come broken and He listens.
2. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” -Ephesians 5:15-16
We must start being good stewards of our time. A minute here and there can add up. Think of all of the short amounts of time we go about mindless each day that we could redeem in prayer: Brushing teeth, changing clothes, packing lunches or making dinner, driving to work, walking to the car or into the store, doing the laundry, going to the bathroom, washing dishes, showering, waiting in lines or even for the food in the microwave.
In those basic times alone, I just racked up 45 minutes of solid prayer time. If you are wanting more ideas for times to redeem, consider every time you are absent-minded, scrolling through any social media feed. I’m not saying we must never give our minds a break or we shouldn’t read books or blogs or have social media accounts, but I am saying that we are called to pray without ceasing and to make the best use of time.
3. “You cannot be fully satisfied in [prayer], because sin continues to separate you from the full and free communion you were made for. Until you are face-to-face with the Savior, you will always long for more because you were made for more.” -Tim Challies
I would be remiss not to also express the importance of intentional, set aside, long term praying, confessing, and meditation on God’s word. Being still before the Lord for extended periods of time is necessary and refreshing. Just as an intimate marriage can’t rely on text messages, you will need intentional time to grow deeper in relationship with your Father and Savior.