Lord, help me not to be so sarcastic, I prayed with twinging remorse. I had just blurted out something that had obviously jabbed a friend. I hadn’t meant to be hurtful, but I knew that inadvertently I had hurt.
To my surprise, the Lord responded. Why do you pray the negative? He asked very quietly. Why not pray the positive instead?
I knew right away what He meant. So often I pray against the behaviors I wish I didn’t have. But life—joyful, abundant life—isn’t about avoiding the negative. I could avoid negative behaviors all day long and accomplish nothing more than being bland. Becoming like Christ, I realized, is not about not acting a certain way. Rather, it’s about living out the positives that He did.
So, after a moment’s thought, I changed my prayer: Lord, make me kind. Let gentle and uplifting words come out of my mouth—words that bring life.
What a wonderful change of perspective! Whereas my first prayer, framed in the negative—help me not to do something that often I do—put me in a discouraged, self-condemning mood, praying the positive actually gave me hope. Kindness, gentleness—these are fruits of the Holy Spirit! Uplifting, life-giving—these are things Jesus does and wants to do through me! By praying the positive, I take the focus off of me and put it onto God—which is where it needs to be! He is the one who transforms me. I cannot transform myself.
Since that a-ha moment, I’ve thought of other negative prayers that I can exchange for more positive ones. Here are a few I’m working on:
- Instead of “Help me not to waste time,” I can pray, “Help me to make the most of the opportunities You send me today.”
- Instead of “Help me not to give in to fear,” I can pray, “Help me to know Your power and presence today.”
- Instead of “Help me not to be critical,” I can pray, “Help me to see the good You are doing in this situation.”
Do you see the difference? Would you like to try it? What negative, self-focused prayers can you exchange for positive, God-focused ones?