The day had finally come. I was auditioning for a spot in the DePaul University Jazz Studies program. I'd practiced my pieces for dozens, maybe hundreds of hours. I knew them by heart because I knew how important this performance was for my future.
I stood in front of the dean of the music school and several professors, took a deep breath and began. Thirty minutes later I was finished. In a word, I choked. The dean looked me straight in the eye and said, "You're going to have to work very hard to be successful here." To this day I'm not exactly sure why they let me in after that audition. My playing certainly wasn't up to my own standards, much less theirs.
It would be several years before I would begin to understand the connection between how I think and how I perform. It's as true for athletes, sales people, and preachers as it is for musicians. In fact, it's pretty much true for all of us. When our focus is off, everything is off. Paradoxically, by thinking less about doing a good job we often do a better job.
Prayer is an area of life where most Christians feel off. We feel like we don't pray well or enough. We want to learn how to pray, but we struggle to do it, therefore it doesn't happen.
"Many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying not on God." ~Paul Miller
In his excellent book, A Praying Life Paul Miller says, "A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It's intimate and hints at eternity. We don't think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with ... Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying not on God."
It sounds backwards, but we might actually pray better, and more often, if we thought about it less. Instead of trying to pray better, what if we simply prayed? Simply enjoyed God for who he is and asked for what we, and others, need? I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't incorporate the wisdom of others in how we pray. But we can overthink it to the point that we just don't do it very often.
Instead, at least for a while, try thinking less and just ... you know, praying.
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