Something that I’m focussing on in 2018 is creating and maintaining a better prayer life. This is a part of my spiritual life that’s been lacking, and I know that as part of my journey towards spiritual wellbeing, I need to spend some time each day communicating with God and being open to hearing from him. To start the new year off on the right foot, I started a prayer journal and bought Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer. The book is full of gems and I have really enjoyed being guided and learning how to pray (because although people say there is no right or wrong way, I honestly felt lost and didn’t know where to start). As Shirer so elegantly puts it, “praying with precision is key. When we pray about places where we seriously suspect the enemy is at work — that’s how we keep our prayers focussed, not only on particular situations, but on biblical truths that are consistent with maintaining vision in the midst of them” (p. 3). I’m about 80% through the book, and it’s honestly been so eye opening as it pointed me towards areas of my life I didn’t even know I needed to be praying about. One of these areas is the pressures that I often feel and I know you likely feel too.
We all feel so many pressures: pressure to succeed, pressure to have certain things and look a certain way, pressure to be better and do more, pressure to say yes even when our minds, bodies, and spirits are begging us to say no. While feeling some pressure is natural and even somewhat necessary, the amount of pressure that we put on ourselves (and sometimes the one’s we love) is enough to leave us both mentally and physically exhausted. It’s draining, and quite honestly, it’s distracting. It causes us to give our time, every, and resources to things that we shouldn’t and takes our focus off of the things that really matter.
So often, we become enslaved to our own man made concepts of achievement, whether that be gaining X amount of followers on social media even if it means sacrificing your real life friends for fake friends that you’ll likely never meet in person, making a certain amount of money by any means necessary, or maintaining a certain persona even if it drives us to the point of severe anxiety or depression. What all of the pressures we feel usually boil down to are materialism and and a need for validation. Our lives are so cluttered with superfluous things, and these things find their way onto our to-do lists and into our minds. In turn, we find ourselves overwhelmed and we forget to focus on the things that matter most.
Let me tell you about how this has looked for me: I am a person that loves my to-do list, but I admittedly often overfill it to the point where there is no way on earth that I could get everything done and still have time to sleep and spend time with my husband. Now that I’ve started my new job (which I absolutely LOVE), I have had even less free time, and I was having a hard time determining which things were must dos on my to-do list and which things I could put off or remove altogether. If my to-do list said, “write next week’s blog post, FaceTime with whichever friend, deep condition hair, read weekly Bible study chapter and write in prayer journal, pin 100 pins on Pinterest, grocery shop, and prepare for tomorrow’s VIP Kid classes,” I would rationalize that I really didn’t need to deep condition my hair or read my Bible today and that those things could wait until tomorrow, or the next day, or even the day after that. What began to happen is that I found myself falling away from the very things that mean the most to me, my mental, spiritual, and physical wellbeing. The core of who I aim to be got lost in the shuffle.
After reading Shirer’s chapter about self-inflicted pressures, I quickly realized that I needed to ask God for discernment as to what pressures and expectations were sent from him to help me live my purpose and which were not. I asked God to guide me and help me to remove things that should not have my focus from my to-do list so that I can spend that time focussing on what He deems as important. I prayed that the Lord would help me to be content and at peace in Him.
So, what would happen if we grew to realize that our God already provides everything we need and approves of us regardless of how many followers we have, how much money we make, or what we present to the public? My guess is all of these unnecessary pressures that we feel would cease to exist and we could start focussing on things that actually matter, and that ‘s my prayer for both you and me. This year, let’s declutter our homes, our to-do lists, and our minds. Let’s accept that we are loved unconditionally and that the pressures that we feel are self-inflicted and doing far more harm than good. Let’s pray for guidance and discernment so that we can live life free.