Prayer, Plain and Simple

Short fuses are “all the rage.” Very, VERY public outbursts this week at the US Open – ala Serena Williams and Roger Federer, during President Obama’s health care pep talk before Congress – Representative Joe Wilson, and at the MTV Video Music Awards – Kanye West have made it to the front pages of our newspapers and spiked to the top of YouTube hit lists. Evidently, we’re angry out there. So, what the “bleep” has gotten into us?!

Actually, nothing. It’s just all more of the same, more evidence that we in our natural human state are prone to self destruction and other destruction.  

I’m not immune. Are you? While I’ve never “lost it” in such a public platform, I have, a time or two, had my own personal emotional meltdown. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’m learning in “old age” (I’m nearly 50) that releasing anger – in the right way – can actually be productive. Maybe I’m finally learning to grow up. Placid Mr. Rogers advised his wee watchers to “share your feelings.” His song “What do you do with the mad that you feel?” talks about directing our frustrations, not repressing them.

Good luck! To manage this feat we need, I believe a dose of supernatural “self control.” Without that, we’re prone to the same fate all civilizations ahead of us have faced – self-imposed extinction. I say “supernatural” because controlling anger isn’t “natural” to any human. Like all mammals, we’re instinctive, and when we “feel” something – something or someone getting in our way for instance – we don’t just “think” it’s inconvenient, we “feel” the rage. From the reptilian sector of our brains, we react!

But God asks more of us. He calls us to live above our instincts, to master them with our wills. The challenge is that imposing restrictions on our behavior, either personally through self discipline, or socially through the mores of our culture, only go so far. God asks something of us that we can’t deliver! We can suppress anger or any other passion, but eventually it will leak or explode onto the scene. True self control is not “self” at all. And this is where God comes in.

I was reading this morning – again – Paul’s words in Galatians. “The fruit of the Spirit is… self control.” Beside my Bible is the St. Paul newspaper with pictures on the front page of Joe Wilson, Kanye West and Serena Williams. The paradox could not have been more drastic. Self-control is actually Spirit control, or it isn’t anything. Wilson, West, Williams and Herringshaw do not have the capacity on their own for “Self” control. That has to come as a “fruit” – a supernatural outgrowth – of God’s presence in my life. If and only if I step aside and let God live Life through me, I can experience self control. That kind of self control is not myself, but God’s divine Self.

This is where prayer matters. In true prayer I step aside and invite God to live his life through me. On my own, I’ll make a muck of things. I’ll lose my cool and hurt people. But if Jesus, through his Spirit lives his life through me, his character becomes mine! It’s possible.

Question: Have you ever had a Serena-Williams moment? Have you tried to cap your passions only to have them explode in ways that hurt others? Talk about that here.

Here’s a prayer for God’s “Self Control:”

“God, on my own I don’t have the capacity to manage my passions. I don’t even understand where they all come from and while I have tried to control them, they seem at times wild and out of my grasp. I give you access to all of my soul, and I ask you to take what is me and give me what is you. You are self control, it is part of your character. Come live that through me now.”


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