Bus trips do offer many advantages. One of my current favorites is long, uninterrupted time to catch up on my reading. Another trip this weekend allowed me to finally finish 19 Gifts of the Spirit by Leslie B. Flynn and then devote my whole reader’s attention on Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels. While I didn’t ride the bus quite far enough to wrap up the book, I did get a good start and plenty to think about.
Too Busy Not to Pray, included on the suggested summer reading list, seems to cover every question you could have on prayer, as well as every excuse you have to not pray more often. Over 20 years after its first publication, this book is still popular among Christians and relevant to today. I felt challenged as I read it to devote more of my time and focus to thoughtful prayer.
The stories Hybels shares are inspiring to the point of making me want to stop mid-chapter and fall on my knees. These are not only encouraging anecdotes on the blessings God bestows to people who diligently pray with faith. One section caught my attention in particular, and it had nothing to do with making requests of God. In chapter six, Hybels provides a basic pattern to help develop good praying habits. He says following the pattern as you pray is like using a fitness routine that balances your all-around strength and endurance. A good fitness routine will work out your core and leg muscles along with building up impressive biceps. Instead of only lifting weights, you also add various types of cardio to the mix.
In the same way, Hybels argues that beneficial and effective praying means more than presenting God with your wish list. To practice more balanced praying, he uses the ACTS pattern: adoration of God’s nature and character, confession of personal sins, thanksgiving for God’s blessings and answered prayers, and finally, supplication for help and intervention from God. Visit this blog post I found for more details on how Hybels explains the ACTS pattern.
What caught my attention, though, was what Hybels had to say about confession. Personally, I rarely hear Christians talk about confessing their sins or weaknesses. They usually tend to ignore them altogether, or at least won’t talk about their personal faults to other Christians. I think we Christians have too much difficulty admitting to other Christians (or even non-Christians) that we are still sinners. We think everyone else in our church is doing just great striving for holiness and would never slip up, let alone foster certain darling sins. Well, it’s about time we all admit we suck at obeying God. Please excuse the colloquial speech.
I’ll start the confessions and say I have trouble spotting my own faults. I don’t think this is unusual among people, but when I try to evaluate my sins, my mind goes blank. Don’t think I would ever call myself perfect, though. I know that I am a sinner and that God’s grace and Christ’s price gives me my only hope to live with God for eternity. As a young child, I used to ask God to forgive me for the sins I didn’t know about because I was terrified of forgetting to confess something I had done wrong. Now that I’m older, I’m still ignorant of the specifics on my rap sheet. My self-image is distorted and warped, like an imperfect mirror that fails to show an accurate reflection (1 Cor. 13:12).
Every once in a while, God gives me a nudge in the ribs so I will look away from the bad reflection. He often uses my close family members, the people who know me best and are not afraid to say where I come up short. Recently, one of these wake up calls told me that ignorance of my sins gave me a sense of humility and holiness, which really just masked the pride lurking underneath. Sometimes I struggle to stifle the pride, other times, I leave it be and neglect to name it for what it is.
So how do we fight pride? My strategy: confession. We ask the Holy Spirit to give us a better image of how we really are. We listen to those closest to us about the faults they see. We refuse to live ignorant of our faults, and then we admit the true nature of our mistakes and weaknesses. We say, “I am not a good person.” Compared to Jesus, such a person does not exist. We all come short. We all are sinners. Only then will we have the humility to see our true human state.