This article originally appeared in an old blog of mine that no longer exists. The original post has been edited for style and relevance.
As a teenager, I developed a sweet affection for God. I remember reading the Bible as a “hart panteth after the water brooks,” drinking in every word, thirsty for the knowledge of God. My times of solitary prayer were rich and meaningful. I especially remember one night when I wept for hours in my bed for the joy that God’s majesty brought to my soul. I wanted to serve this holy and majestic God with my life. I gave myself to the ministry.
Off to Bible college I went, still enchanted by the love of Christ.
My first semester introduced me to the hectic lifestyle that is the college student’s. Classes, friends, dating, and weekend ministries all clamored for my attention, and I gladly gave it. Soon, the busy drone of college activities drowned out the still small voice that I had cherished a few months earlier. I had done that which I thought was impossible: I had allowed my religious affections to grow cold – in Bible college!
My prideful heart became a fountain of misguided zeal and a fanatic for counterproductive busy-ness. Those sweet seasons of communion I had enjoyed with my Savior were replaced by brief and obligatory moments of time that I had scratched out of my hectic college lifestyle.
And in those brief minutes of devotion, something changed – something was not the same. A certain feeling of familiarity and close communion was absent. Those moments of rapturous joy – episodes that would whelm me over and turn my petitions into silent sobs of wonder and amazement – had grown more and more infrequent. My prayers were different, felt different, sounded different.
I was different.
My paradigm had changed. No longer was God my end-all and the joy of my life. He had become a means to make me bigger and more successful. My prayers revolved around my prideful desire for more attention from my ministry superiors, more success in the numbers game, and more notoriety on campus. I developed a legalistic perspective on prayer, thinking that time in the prayer closet equated to better numbers for the Sunday bus route. So I tried harder to pray longer, but I lacked real passion for God.
God existed for my glory; I no longer existed for God’s glory. Everything I did in the ministry was tainted with vainglory.
Lest any make accusations, let me state emphatically that I do not blame my dark season of cold spirituality on my alma mater. It was my fault that I allowed myself to become inordinately distracted with hectic schedules and sinfully obsessed with ministry statistics.
Thankfully, God has some sure-fire remedies for pride-infected preachers: frustration, failure, stagnation, anonymity, and desperation (to name a few). For almost ten years, I tried to get God to do ministry my way. And He slowly, lovingly, and graciously used my failures and my stupidity to mold me more into the shepherd He wanted me to be. He prepared a great fish to swallow me, and in the dark belly of discouragement I cried out to God.
I have choked down the dry husks of legalistic and robotic prayer; I have tasted the bitter waters of prideful motivation. They are all poisonous vanity. By His grace, I learned to enjoy the sweet refreshment of communion with Christ again. The prayer closet is no longer a chore; it is a joy. Prayer is no longer timed recitation; it is loving conversation.
We must be vigilant. Pride is always with us – it lurks around every motivation and decision. Like a jess on a falcon’s ankle, it prevents us from soaring to the heavenlies. Kill your pride, Christian, and fly freely into the presence of Almighty God.