Lent: First Observations

Rick Lawrence, the managing editor of Group Magazine, has a brilliant article in this week's Youthministry.com newsletter. He's talking about attitudes toward prayer in today's Christians, and my own conscience has a sore spot from being poked so hard by every point on the page. A couple of quotes will illustrate the problem Lawrence points out.

"...the overwhelming majority of teenagers say they believe in God... most believe God is like a 'divine butler'-- someone who should be available at our beck-and-call to give us what we want, when we want it. And when we don't need him anymore, we'd like him to go away."

"To most kids, prayer is simply the 'cover charge' you pay to get into God's candy bar. They've been taught that 'the harder they pray, the higher God jumps.' And they're not alone-- researchers say most adult Christians have exactly the same view of God."

My dear friend and colleague Marty was answering questions about our mission trip this afternoon at a YM team meeting, and at one point suggested that we all pray "that all the kids who are signed up will stay signed up."

My ears perked up right then because her confidence that a big mission trip is in God's plan for us was so obvious. We'd been trying to figure out what was keeping our numbers down, and speculating on ways to fix that, but (I suddenly realized) not really listening for whether this slowdown in signups was a hint about God's will for us.

I've rarely heard anyone ready to believe that God would say no to a sincere prayer. In my own prayer life I'm often guilty of praying "Okay, God, I've gotten myself into this-- now you make it right." Or only praying about something I'm fairly sure God would want for me. Or assuming I know what it is God wants for me.

This Lent in prayer I want to be aware of how many times I speak rather than listen; how many times I pray for myself instead of interceding for others; and how many times I read "yes" into silence on God's part.

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