Perfectionism and the Burden of Prayer

I turn on the T.V., and there’s enough prayer requests to last me for years. I open up Facebook, and there’s another half dozen. I run to the grocery store, and I see a few there, a few on the way back, and even a few more in the store. I think about the slaves all over the world, and there’s a couple more – thousands. I remember my Compassion child, her family, the hundreds of other children I met in Burkina Faso, West Africa, and know they need prayer too. Along with the rest of that whole entire continent. By this time I haven’t even gotten to my family yet. My husband. Our marriage. This baby inside of me. Some estranged relationships. A few other people who don’t know Jesus.

For this soul with a melancholic temperment, my heart begins to ache, and the weight of burden bears down on me like one of those lead vests they drape on you while taking x-rays at the dentist.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons: Ken Bosma

It seems almost blasphemy for me to admit that sometimes I just do not want to pray. Sometimes I dread prayer. Sometimes when I hear of someone or something else to pray for I feel burdened simply because I don’t have the time to remember one more pray request, and even if I did I don’t know if my heart could handle the possible combustion. It’s just too much.

It is extremely selfish for me to feel this way when there was a time in my life, not too long ago, when I was almost willing to set up a prayer booth outside of Duke University Hospital and pay people if they would pray for my dying husband. I knew their prayers mattered. I knew he and I needed prayer more than anything else. And now I know that the prayers of hundreds, some of which I don’t even know, saved his life.

What’s even more interesting is that most of my prayers are answered. My husband and I are constantly amazed at how we will pray for someone or something and then soon after there is such vivid evidence that God heard us. Typically the whole prayer is not answered immediately, but there are hints of movement. There is proof that God is there.

If I am honest with you, though, prayer doesn’t always come easy to me. I am embarrassed to say this, but it is my raw, truth self coming out. If I have a lot of time – like in the summer when I am home from work and have two hours to read and pray – I relish sitting at God’s feet and talking to Him. But these days are few and far between. More often it’s just five minutes here or three minutes there. Sometimes there’s no time to even sit.

Recently I have been thinking more and more about why prayer has become a burden for me. It leaves me feeling weighed down, guilty, and even hopeless. The list grows and grows as the world seems to keep falling. I know feeling burdened is not God’s intent for me. After all He said to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and I know He does not intend for me to be in a constant state of burden.

I have realized, though, that it is not the prayers, or the growing prayer list, that has made praying a burden. It is my response to them based on some temperament and personality qualities I carry around with me that have made them feel that way.

You see, like many women I, too, have that Martha gene of perfectionism where everything has to be done not only to God’s specifications, but mine too, which actually seem a lot more exhaustive than His. My prayer life is no different.

Instead of focusing on who God is calling me to pray for, I look at the long  list as a whole and feel defeated before I utter the first “Dear Lord”. Then I begin to analyze. How many days should I pray for this situation? Should I pray every day? And for how long should each prayer be? What if one prayer isn’t enough? How am I going to remember all of this? What if I tell someone I’ll pray for them and I forget? How will I find the time?

Prayer becomes a chore on my list instead of a prompting from the Holy Spirit.

I am learning to rest by trusting Romans 8: 26, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” God will lead me to who I need to pray for, when to pray for them, and when to stop. Praying is not something that He needs me to do. God is sovereign and in control. Prayer is just my recognition of that sovereignty. 

What is your prayer life like? Do you ever feel burdened by prayer or do you try to make it into a checklist of have-tos? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments!

Did you know that you can have Triple Braided delivered straight to your inbox? Just type in your email address below!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Or subscribe and read in your favorite reader! And be sure to follow Triple Braided on Facebook and Twitter.

Subscribe in a reader

Comments

    • says

      Thank you, Erica. Sometimes I don’t know if it’s intentional or just a feeling of fear and guilt of leaving something out. Either way I am trying to let go of the “rules” I’ve put around my prayer life and just pray! :-) Hope your day was great!!

  1. says

    How incredibly helpful this post was to me today, Brenda! Thanks for sharing your raw, honesty.  I loved this: “Praying is not something that He needs me to do. God is sovereign and in control. Prayer is just my recognition of that sovereignty.” How wonderfully true and FREEING!

  2. Stephanie says

    Wow! I really needed this reminder. Sometimes I almost feel panicky when I pray because I feel like I should be remembering more, being more eloquent. I often quit because I feel like I am talking in circles or something…

    It is a good reminder that He knows anyway, He just wants me to talk to Him…and remember who He is.

    • says

      Stephanie, I really struggle with this. It seems ridiculous because I know He just wants me to come to Him. I think, “The people around me don’t analyze what is say, when and how I say it”, but for some reason I try to make prayer works based. Thank you for stopping by! :-) I like knowing I’m not the only one who does this!

    • says

      Stephanie, I really struggle with this. It seems ridiculous because I know He just wants me to come to Him. I think, “The people around me don’t analyze what is say, when and how I say it”, but for some reason I try to make prayer works based. Thank you for stopping by! :-) I like knowing I’m not the only one who does this!

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge