“I don’t pray to get God to love me. I pray to hear Him say He loves me.”
I heard these words from Robert Benson while on a retreat he led almost ten years ago. God has used them to totally turn my motivation for practicing the spiritual disciplines upside down and inside out.
Prayer (or any other spiritual discipline such as Bible reading, fasting, silence, or solitude) is not something we do to make God happy with us. No, the spiritual disciplines are meant to make space for us to hear how happy God is with us because of Jesus. When I pray to get God to love me I am a legalist who works for God to earn the favor of God. Gospel-praying means listening to God say that I already have His favor through Christ and that I can now work with God in the resurrection power His Spirit supplies.
Prayer is not about earning the power and presence of God in my life by saying the right things. It is about entering the presence and engaging the power of God by embracing the right things God has said in the gospel about the life, death, and resurrected life offered by Jesus to the Father on my behalf. Practicing prayer this way is a safeguard against the legalism so many of us fear that we’ll fall into if we seriously subject ourselves to the spiritual disciplines.
Fill in the blanks with whatever spiritual discipline you practice most faithfully:
Example: “I don’t read the Bible to get God to love me. I read the Bible to hear Him say He loves me in the gospel of Christ.”
I don’t _______________ to get God to love me.
I ________________ to hear Him say He loves me in the gospel of Christ.
Which one more fittingly describes your purpose for practicing the disciplines?