I tend to pray comfortable prayers, like “Thank you for another day,” or “Please help so and so,” or “Help me be more like you.” I approach God with a sense of habit and familiarity. These aren’t bad things to pray and, in many respects, my comfort with God is a good thing.
But sometimes I wonder: Am I too comfortable with God? Am I taking God for granted? In my mundane, daily prayers, have I lost sight of who God really is?
The Comfort Problem
My regular prayers may be sweet and simple, but they also reflect something disturbing: my tendency to regard God primarily as the one who gets me through the day. Isn’t my faith meant to be more than this? Am I not called to do more than make it through each day? Shouldn’t I live with a keen awareness of God’s presence and power? Bob Goff said it this way: “Live your life right on the edge of ‘Yikes!’”
If I’m honest, I’m usually more at the edge of “yawn.”
Can you relate? The core of this problem goes beyond just feeling too comfortable in our lives—it’s about how we tend to let our comfort invade our perceptions of God. My fear is that we’ve become too used to the gospel and too flippant about our faith. We often struggle to remember the underlying truth that God is not there just to direct our paths and make sure we don’t screw up (though he does graciously provide direction!). He’s not there to passively receive our list of requests (though he certainly cares about and listens to each item!). He’s not even there just to be sure we live lives that honor him (though he certainly desires for us to do so!).
He is the God of the universe, the grand Creator, the author of beauty and wonder! He wants us to marvel at him, to be awestruck by his holy presence each day. It’s not that he doesn’t care about the small things we pray for daily, because he absolutely does. But we can trust him with those things much more deeply when we rightly understand his grandness and majesty. Then we begin to see God as less like a warm fuzzy blanket and more like the mind-blowing King of Kings he is—the great God who brings me to my knees in adoration.
So how can we shake off the lull of being so used to God that we forget who he really is? How can we see God as the God of wonder rather than viewing him merely as the God who gets us through the day? If you, too, tend to spend more time on the edge of “yawn” than “yikes,” consider these five spiritual practices that help wake us up out of a too-comfortable-with-God state and really seek, find, and connect with the true character of God.
1. Remember Who You Really Are
Many of us live mostly comfortable lives marked by occasional seasons of brokenness and dependency on God. Those seasons are painful but necessary. While we shouldn’t seek to live in a constant state of devastation, we do need to remember our own desperate spiritual state even during seasons of abundance and comfort. We are children of God, but we also need to remind ourselves of who we truly are apart from Jesus: broken, needy sinners. “‘No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one,’” Paul wrote in Romans 3:10–12. “Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous” (verse 24). When we remember who we really are without the Lord, we begin to see that what we thought were just spiritual crevices and cracks in our lives are actually gaping holes through which his mercy can shine anew.
2. Tell the Truth About God
I love to start my prayers by naming aspects of God’s character and speaking words of adoration. Sometimes, though, if I’m honest, I find myself just saying a bunch of words that I know to be true about his character—words like gracious, merciful, all-knowing, faithful, majestic, glorious, holy—without actually considering how he’s at work demonstrating those qualities. Sometimes it feels more like I’m trying to butter up God so I can petition my requests rather than truly marveling at who he is. Instead, by taking a few quiet moments to meditate on just one or two attributes of God, focusing on specific ways he is demonstrating those attributes in our lives, we can reconnect with the glory of his character.
3. Get out and See the World
We can picture the beauty of creation in our heads, see it on TV, and pin images of it on Pinterest. But when we’re actually out enjoying this good, beautiful world that God created—when we see the jagged, soaring mountains he shaped with his words and consider that he also knit us together—it leads us to a breathless kind of amazement that we can’t find on a television screen. I’m not saying you have to take a trip to the mountains to connect with God; you can enjoy the magnificence of creation wherever you are! Go on a prayer walk around your neighborhood, bike through a local forest preserve, take a day’s drive to a lake, or just enjoy the springtime wildflowers. The key is to really breathe in creation and seek out experiences that will fill you with awe for God’s works.
4. Step Outside Yourself
When we get stuck inside our own heads, needs, desires, and heartaches, it’s easy to stall in our faith, seeking the God who gets us through the day instead of the God of wonder. When we step outside ourselves to actually see through the eyes of another—our husbands, our friends, the stranger at the supermarket—our perspectives shift. Finding ways to serve others, even in small and simple acts, opens us up to see God work in new and exciting ways. It’s our responsibility and our joy to serve and pray for others, and when we focus only on ourselves and our own families, we deprive ourselves of seeing what God wants to do through his church to bless the whole world.
5. Rediscover the Real Story
How often do we remember and reflect on the messy, bloody, beautiful gospel? This is the basis of our faith, yet we often make Jesus’ sacrifice seem so clean: Jesus died on the cross and now we’re saved. But let’s consider the gritty, grimy details: Jesus wasn’t mildly embarrassed; he was publicly humiliated. He wasn’t teased; he was mocked and scorned. He wasn’t just put up on a cross and left to die; he was brutality beaten within an inch of his life and forced to carry an unbearably heavy piece of wood. Executioners drove stakes into his palms and feet, and he hung there naked as his beloved people mocked him some more. Finally, his lungs collapsed. He cried out in agony, feeling forsaken and alone.
Picture your husband in that situation. Your son. Your brother. Your dad. Thinking of it in this way delivers a blow to our guts and transforms what we often think of as “a story” into a true, harsh reality. And yet, because he deeply loved people, and because he is the God of wonder and power and glory, he literally came back to life, continued his ministry (and still continues it today through the Holy Spirit), and restored us all to the righteousness he alone earned. The Crucifixion and Resurrection are the most horrifying yet most beautiful events in history, and they remind us of the truth of God’s redemptive work: it’s unbeatable, unmatchable, and unchangeable in its glory.
When we slow down from our busy lives long enough to truly gaze at the face of our Creator through bold prayers, seeking his brilliance, serving others, and reflecting on reality, we can’t help but be brought to our knees in the face of God’s holiness, goodness, and majesty. We need to let him overwhelm us with glory by practicing his presence and seeking him for who he really is. Let’s commit ourselves to no longer seeking the God of survival but the almighty, glorious God of wonder.
Brittany Bergman is a TCW regular contributor as well as an assistant copyeditor at Tyndale House Publishers. You can connect with her on Twitter at @NestedNomad or read more at her blog TheNestedNomad.com.