When I was a kid, I wanted to be powerful.
The world’s strongest man, Paul Anderson, was the special guest at my church one Sunday. He pounded nails into a board with his bare hands. He bent steel bars with his muscles. He blew into a glass bottle with his iron lungs and the bottle shattered. I’m sure he gave his personal testimony at some point along the way, and I’m sure it was awesome. But I left church that Sunday with a desire to pound nails into a board with my bare hands.
Somewhere along this same time, I decided that I was going to dive just like an Olympic diver. My brother and I stacked up a bunch of plastic milk crates in the backyard. Because I was the braver of the two, I was nominated to take the initial dive. I dove, and landed on my face. This test dive would prove to be the last. For the first time in my life, and not even close to the last, my vision was a little impaired by the blood in my eyes. It’s a weird sensation, and actually kind of cool. But I wouldn’t recommend it.
When I was about seven, I announced to my dad that I was going to be over seven feet tall when I grew up. The Atlanta Hawks had a dude named Tree Rollins who was over seven feet tall. I wanted to be a basketball player, so it only stood to reason that I needed to be over seven feet tall. My dad, who was about five ten, didn’t answer my question with words. He was laughing too hard.
When I was eight, I asked my dad if he thought I could live to be 508 years old. They had just announced on the news that all of the planets had been perfectly aligned the night before, and this only happened once every 500 years. I responded to this broadcast with anger and determination. I was angry that the news had waited til the day after to announce this important astronomical event. I was determined that I was going to live long enough to see it happen again.
Something happened along the way to being powerful, though. Something called seventh grade football. The first day of practice I noticed that all of my friends had gotten pretty much huge over the summer, while I might have even managed to shrink an inch or two. It was at this point I gave up on power. Forget football – the marching band would be my thing.
As an adult, I just want to be effective.
I gave up the notion of being powerful. I don’t know – it just sounds kind of Machiavellian, and just a bit self absorbed, to seek after power. But effectiveness feels just about right.
I want to be the kind of person who make plans and follows through with them, so I strive to be effective.
I want to be an effective dad, so I read parenting books and make plans to spend time with my girls. I set bedtimes and schedules and try to get them to eat vegetables even as I’m shoveling in more pizza. I get up at God-forsaken hours to get children ready for school. I play pretend. I give in and get a dog. And fish. And more fish.
I want to be effective at my job, so I read blogs and download apps and listen to the radio to stay “current” (whatever that means). Being a musician this involves keeping up with the trends and the scarves and the skinny jeans. OK maybe not the scarves – that’s a bit too much. OK forget the skinny jeans, too. But you get the idea.
I want to be an effective person, so I’m a proud owner of not one, but two copies of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (Come on, admit it. You’ve got one too. Statistically, every household in America has a copy or two. I’ve even tried to read it. I really have).
But something still feels a little hollow, doesn’t it?
God made us an awesome garden and gave us absolutely everything we need. But the enemy sold us a lie. We don’t need God, the lie says. We can be powerful and effective on our own. And so we bit into the fruit of this lie. And that fruit left us a bit, well, hollow.
It’s like maybe we’re settling for a lesser version of ourselves when we try to be powerful or effective. Maybe because we’re going about things the wrong way.
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” ~ James 5:16b
Prayer turns everything back right side up. We acknowledge that we can’t make it on our own, that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never be powerful or effective enough. We give all that back to God.
And then a funny thing happens. When we pray, God moves. It makes us want to move a little, too. And through this combination, power and effectiveness happens. In bigger and better ways than we ever could have imagined on our own.
Your turn: do you have any thoughts you’d like to share about prayer? About our need to be “powerful” and “effective”? Feel free to share in the comments…