Thursday, May 26, 2016

Using prayer as motivational therapy

The Syrian Orthodox Church has prayer seven times a day and this is shortened to three and two times a day due to time constraints and changes in culture. The prayers are in one sense written for a generation which was more agrarian in nature. This does not mean that it is not effective for the present generation but that we have new challenges to overcome through prayer.

In the bible it is clear that many communities used prayer as a way of communicating with God to intervene in their daily struggles and liberate them from bondage and suffering. Prayer was a part of life for many as they managed to wriggle out of difficult situations. God answered prayers and helped people and communities escape very difficult situations. Jesus also showed us the importance of prayer and meditation through his forty day fasting and prayer. Prayer was a withdrawal for him to think, recuperate and prepare for the great ministry he was going to undertake.

What is prayer for us today? Do we get time to pray or do we pray from the prayer book routinely taking from our memory and yet not stopping to understand the real meaning of the prayer we are praying? Has prayer lost out in our busy life? Are we even reluctant to pray when we are in church? A culture change may have changed priorities for us leading to a lack of interest or time to pray.

But doesn’t prayer have huge significance in our life? Motivation is a word used frequently in our culture and in spiritual and corporate settings. It is a power, feeling or energy for us to get things done. We all need to be motivated. Lizzie Velasquez is a woman who is affected with a disease that only a handful of people have. She was humiliated when someone in school posted a video of hers and people called her ugly, fearful and what not. She was confined to her bed, crying and complaining to God as to why she was created like this and why her parents allowed her to live and took care of her to be like this. She weighed only 29 Kg and now the world was laughing at her.

We also face similar situations when people make fun of us, humiliate us and call us good for nothing. It is a very critical period of our life when we would like to end it than continue living. It is a time when we feel that we don’t want to continue in our church, school, college, office and even house. But it is also a time when motivation can do wonders. Lizzie does not give up. Her cry becomes her prayer. She finishes her graduation in Communication and goes on to become a motivational speaker. She starts her own youtube account and uploads her own videos which get many subscribers. She is also invited to talk in the famous TED series lectures. Lizzie turns around her life by being motivated by her own tears and sadness by talking about inner strength instead of outward beauty.

Prayer gives us this inner strength. It is a strength which tells us that it is okay to be the way we are and that God has a purpose for creating us the way we are. Prayer is not just seven times a day when we count and say it is over. Rather prayer is a continuous outpouring and communication of our spirit with God. In James 5:13 prayer means “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” It is not to give up or give in but to stand firm. It is a beautiful cry and release of inner pain so that God feels with us and becomes a part of our lives. Can we communicate with God like this and see our inner beauty and inner beauty of others? 1 John 5:14 says “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to God's will, God hears us.”

Why worry when we are not even responsible for a single strand of hair on our head? Instead as St. Mark 11:24 says “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” Prayer is not to change a situation and make us what others want us to be. Rather prayer is making us confident in ourselves and using that to motivate ourselves and others in any given situation. It is like Lizzie said “I haven’t met the person who put my video online which led to great torment and pain for me. But when I see him I am going to hug him and say “thank you for changing my life”.” This is inner strength that only God can give us. It is to believe in positive outcomes no matter how negative we feel. Pray and motivate yourself to be what God wants you to be, nothing more, nothing less. Amen.

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