Progress Culture & Prayer (Part 1)

I pray with and for my children every night.

Besides their request for me to pray that they have some elaborate dream (imagine a mini-story in prayer form), I also pray that God would help them grow as people.

These prayers usually involve Christ's love command — that they would grow to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength and their neighbor as themselves (Matthew 22:37-40).

One night as I prayed for my oldest son after a long day of disobedience and correction, a lightning bolt of an idea struck me.

I imagined my grown son remembering our nightly prayers and thinking, Dad was never pleased with who I was, only who he hoped I'd become.

My ever-present desire for progress hijacked my prayers for my son, and in that moment of realization, a question took shape — How can I share my fatherly pleasure for my children as I pray over them?



The Persuasive Pull of Progress


Before I answer that question, there's something we must grasp. We idolize forward motion. The cultural air we breathe smells a lot like:

  • Self-help books

  • Diet plans

  • Meditation apps

  • Wellness classes

  • And botox.

We invest an inordinate amount of energy into improving ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We believe if we're not progressing, then we're stuck.


As Christians, we'd be foolish not to see how this idea has infiltrated the church.


On the one hand, the idea of progress is a thoroughly biblical one — we should train to win the race, and transformation is one degree of change into another (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Corinthians 3:18).


On the other hand, we can cover our insatiable drive for advancement with a Christian veneer and place a burden of expectations on others that is too heavy to carry (Matthew 23:4-7).



Progress Is Insufficient


I haven't stopped praying for my children to grow, but I've added to those prayers.

I thank God for them in specific ways. I want my kids to hear my gratitude to God for who they are and that they're part of our family. Yes, I desire them to grow in loving God and others, but I also want them to grow up knowing how much mom, dad, and Jesus love and accept them.

I wonder how many of us need this addition to our prayer life?

Rather than only praying for personal growth and assistance in struggles, how much would we benefit from incorporating prayers that help us enjoy God's loving presence?

We would do well to include prayers like breath prayers and the prayer of examen into our life so we might experience our Father's pleasure.

  • Let's keep striving to progress in our love for God and others (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

  • Let's also grow in knowing we're loved wholly, completely, and forever by our heavenly Father (Ephesians 3:14-19; 1 John 4:9-10).

  • Because progress is insufficient if we're unacquainted with love (1 Corinthians 13).

Join me next week as we discuss our tendency to self-critique our prayer life and tips for overcoming these distractions.


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