Recently, I read an article I found on Facebook about being sorry. In short, it said that we should apologize less. There are many situations which warrant being apologetic, but we often say sorry when we mean something else. This article got me thinking. What else do we have as a norm in our society that needs a fresh view? What do I say that isn’t what I truly mean? How can I improve what I talk about?
This immediately took me to the way that I pray. When I was first trying to pray on a regular basis, I would often start with what was wrong. Not just with me, but I would pray about problems. God, please help me save money. God, please help my family do this or that. God, please don’t let my car break down. God, please, please, please… I was always asking for myself and my interests first. Once I got through what I was worried about, I would thank God for my blessings with the remaining time I had to pray. (I usually pray when driving home from work, so it gives me about a 20-minute window each day.) More often than not, the time I had for being grateful was shorter than the time I had for being worried. And after talking about so many problems, it was hard to think of things I was grateful for.
As I continued to grow in my relationship with God, I was introduced to many ideas about praying. The one I heard the most was to KEEP PRAYING. I agree that this is important and I encourage others to do so as well. The other thing that I heard a lot is to start each prayer by thanking God. At first, this seemed counterintuitive to me. Why would I thank God first, when I hadn’t even told him what I need him to help with? Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to tell him my needs and then thank him for delivering? To the contrary, this is not a good way to pray (in my opinion).
I was then reminded of another article I read. It was about a psychology teacher who did a presentation to his class. He had a large glass jar on a table at the front of the room. The teacher took out rocks and placed them into the jar until they reached the top. He then asked the class if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. Next, he took out pebbles, and added them to the jar, until they fell around the rocks and reached the top. He again asked the class if the jar was full, and they again agreed that it was. Finally, he took out sand. He poured the sand into the jar, and filled the jar to the top one last time. He asked the class if the jar was full, and of coarse they agreed. Then the teacher explained that the jar represented life. The rocks were the truly important things in life. The pebbles were valued, but not as important, and the sand didn’t matter. He prompted the class to think about if they filled the jar with sand or pebbles first, would they have room for the rocks?
Coming back to my point, it is so important to put the things that matter most in your life first. When I am talking on the phone to my mom, I will cut my story short to tell her I love her before we hang up. When greeting my family, I hug first and worry about taking my coat off second. I make an effort to focus on the important things in my life, like my friends and family, having fun and being a good person. Other things are pebbles or sand, and while they make my life more full, they aren’t what I put first.
Now, I have changed the way I pray. I start by thanking God. I thank him for everything I can think of: for having a good day, for having a delicious meal, for seeing a friend, for keeping my family safe, for my money, my home, my health and the list goes on. The more I say, the more I think of. With the time I have left, I ask for what I need. I don’t leave this out, but because I have less time for it, I am much choosier about what I ask for. The funny thing is, my focus has changed since I started praying this way. I feel like I need a lot less. I feel happy about what I have. My blessings seem to overflow. If you think about it, there is no end to what you could ask God for. There is no end to what you could complain about. There is no end to the negativity you could pay attention to. But on the flip side, positivity can also be infinitely pervasive. There is no end to the blessings that we have, and that is a road I would much rather wander down.
So, when talking to God, or to your friends or loved ones, or just to yourself, start with the good. Start with being thankful, and appreciating the fun stuff and talking about the important things in life. Let the other stuff take up the time you have left. I imagine that you will have less and less time left for negativity, and you can join me in wandering down the blessed road of infinite positivity.