A Starting Point for the Faithful

Consider for a moment the power of the phrase, “Begin where you are.” It’s a fundamental yet profound truth, neatly captured within the pages of C.S. Lewis’s acclaimed book, Letters to Malcolm. This tiny gem of wisdom, when applied to prayer, has the power to reinvent your relationship with God. These four simple words invite us to approach prayer in a way that circumvents two pitfalls that can encumber our prayerful thanksgiving and requests to the Lord, particularly concerning worldly goods and blessings. To truly appreciate this wisdom, let’s take a look at these prayer pitfalls.

Our first misstep is what can be labeled as “worldly prayers.” While these prayers may emerge from a Christian, they resemble those of a non-believer, blending into the noise of prayers uttered by everyone and anyone. In Matthew 6, Jesus cautions against imitating the prayers and aspirations of those who don’t walk in faith.

In a nutshell, Jesus disapproves of the style and objectives of non-believers’ prayers – rote recitations and anxiously seeking earthly possessions. He underscores the risk that we might mirror non-believers by wrongly desiring materialistic rewards as our primary goal, resulting in the temptation to treat God as a servant who exists solely to fulfill our materialistic desires.

Our second misstep, “false spirituality,” often occurs as a reaction against worldly prayers. This is when Christians, in their quest to avoid materialistic prayer, reject praying for earthly goods entirely. This mentality gradually pushes us to believe that only spiritual blessings are worth our gratitude. This mindset neglects Jesus’ teachings, like in Matthew 6:11, where He implores us to pray for our daily bread. Additionally, it overlooks numerous passages in the Psalms, which are replete with expressions of gratitude and requests for earthly provisions and blessings.

Lewis, therefore, urges us to start our prayer journey where we are right now, in the present moment. To truly feel gratitude, we must begin with the tangible blessings around us, however minor they may seem. A comforting hot shower, your favorite shoes, the joyous laughter of your children, the warmth of your partner’s hug – these are all God’s blessings, offered to us with love. So, let’s acknowledge them and express our thanks for these divine gifts.

This appreciation, in turn, paves the way for adoration, transforming our thanksgiving into worship. As we journey from our first-morning breath to the last thought before we drift to sleep, Lewis inspires us to receive and give thanks for God’s earthly blessings, and then ascend from that gratitude to adoration.

When it comes to our requests, Jesus advises us not to stop seeking earthly goods, but rather to prioritize our search for God’s kingdom and righteousness. As we ask for our daily bread, we should do so within the framework of our desire for God’s sanctification and His kingdom’s coming. By doing so, we can steer clear of the hollow, manipulative prayers Jesus warned against.

The core of our prayer should be an honest representation of our needs and desires. Of course, our earthly desires might often be misplaced or excessive. Yet, the best way to reorder them is by bringing them before God and allowing Him to guide us.

Our heavenly Father is the one who binds all these prayers together. As Matthew 6:8 and Matthew 6:32 remind us, He already knows our needs and wants us to seek His help.

Just a few days ago, I found myself grappling with an earthly problem. It seemed insurmountable, but I turned to God, asking Him for guidance. To my surprise, the solution presented itself just half an hour later.

Had I refrained from praying for this provision, I might have missed not only the blessing but also the opportunity to witness the benevolence of our Father in heaven. So, let’s remember to begin where we are, bring our needs before our heavenly Father, and experience the joy of His generous gifts.