AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
Think positive. Dream until your dreams come true. Pray until something happens. Believe in yourself.
What effect does reciting such mantras have on our relationship with God? Well, for starters, mental focus is a very powerful thing. Repeating something over and over again in your mind is definitely going to affect the way you view life. If you wake up every day, stand in front of the mirror and say, “I’m so ugly and God hates me,” it’s guaranteed that over time, your confidence in God’s love for you will start to weaken. But if instead you were to look in the mirror on a daily basis and recite, “I am so wonderful that the whole world should fall down at my feet and worship me,” you won’t develop problems with low esteem. If you take yourself seriously, you’ll become an arrogant monster. Mental focus is extremely powerful.
The way we think doesn’t just affect our mood, it affects our faith as well. The things you constantly hear yourself saying become part of your core beliefs in life. This is why it is so important to think about how we pray. If we are constantly asking God to be with us, we are going to have trouble believing that He already is. To ask for something is to tell ourselves that we don’t already have whatever that thing is. This is why we need to choose our proverbs very carefully in life. There are many who will try to tell you that you can shape your future and get what you want simply by focusing on the right phrases. The problem with these theories is that they downplay our dependency on God. They encourage us to form exalted views of ourselves and our abilities. They encourage us to rely on “the power within” instead of on God’s power. They encourage us to focus on what we want instead of on what He wants.
I can claim that I don’t need oxygen all day long, but that isn’t going to change how my lungs function. Likewise, we can downplay our dependency on God through a bunch of “I” centered statements, but our need for Him isn’t going to change. Without God, we can do nothing. We don’t shape the events of our lives, He does. We don’t attract blessings to us like a magnet, He brings blessings to us. The trouble with a lot of “mind over matter” teaching is that it turns our minds inward instead of upward. We end up obsessing over ourselves instead of obsessing over God. This will only end up inhibiting our spiritual growth.
To thrive spiritually, we need to shift our focus off of ourselves and onto God. Faith grows strong when we stop trying to do things in our own strength and instead rely on His. Embracing our total dependency on God is what helps us move forward in life, not trying to leave a trail of good karma behind us. To grow as Christians, we must learn to thrive in the role of servants. We need to realize that life isn’t about us, it’s about Him. We aren’t down here to try and better our lives or even better ourselves—we are here to bring pleasure and joy to God. How richly can we bless His heart? How well can we know Him? This is where we want our focus to be. When it comes to asking Him for things, the wisest requests will center around improving our relationship with Him. Certainly we could spend our prayer time asking for the usual human requests:
Help me get a better job.
Please fix my health.
Help me get a raise.
Help me afford a better house.
But seriously, how dull. In the eternal perspective, these things are utterly useless. Even if we get them, what will we have gained? More physical comfort on earth? More status? More friends? Whoopee. Why do we want to waste time pining for temporary things when we could set our sights so much higher?
Deepen my love for You.
Align my passions and priorities with Your own.
Help me know You better.
These requests are far wiser, for they focus on enhancing our relationship with God. God is the One who made all things and sustains all things. Without Him, we could not even exist, so it’s only logical that He should be the center focus of our thoughts, our dreams and our desires. If pursuing a more intimate relationship with God isn’t our top priority in life, then we’re clearly heading in the wrong direction. Why on earth would we sit around obsessing over our human dreams and desires when God’s opinion is the only One that matters? Nothing is good unless He says it is. Nothing has any value unless He says it does. Nothing will be approved unless He Himself approves it. So before we decide to “keep praying until something happens” we’d better make sure that what we’re praying for is approved by Him. And before we “dream until our dreams come true” we’d better make sure our dreams align with His best plan for our lives.
Now some mantras just don’t work. “Believe in yourself.” Well, no. As Christians, we don’t put our faith in anything but God. Of course the world means well when they hand us this saying. What they’re trying to say is “you can do it.” But whatever “it” is needs to be approved by God before we waste any more time or energy on it. Everything comes back to God. Everything revolves around God. So if we’re going to have productive positive thoughts, God must be the main focus of those thoughts. If He’s not anywhere in view, then no matter how positive and poetic our new saying is, it’s not going to lead us in the right direction.
For the Christian, there are plenty of positive statements to dwell on which can help bolster our faith.
God is in control.
God always has a good reason for everything He does.
God is always with me.
God loves me just as I am.
God made me because He wanted me to be.
God delights in drawing me closer to Him.
God is always taking the best possible care of me.
Mentally rehearsing such essential truths will have a very positive impact on our relationship with God. The more we think of Him, the more real His Presence becomes to us—not because He has changed, but because our awareness of Him has changed. I can be sitting in the same room with someone and forget they are even there if I become totally absorbed in my own thoughts. Or I can turn and give them my full attention. If I focus on them, they don’t become any more real, but my awareness of them does. The same principle works not just with God’s reality, but also with His attributes—His love, power, grace, and wisdom. By focusing on individual qualities about God, we become more aware of them and we begin to see evidence of them at work all around us. If we spend a lot of time dwelling on the fact that God is in control and that everything He does is for our spiritual best, then our reaction to the daily news headlines begins to change. Instead of feeling anxious and sad, we feel calm and confident that God is working everything out for the best.
Rehearsing truth is very powerful—but so is rehearsing lies. So choose your mantras carefully in life and make sure you ask the Holy Spirit to guide your selection process. Before you add some nice sounding proverb to your collection of daily reflections, ask yourself, “Is this saying encouraging me to focus on God and His priorities?” If the answer isn’t yes, then it isn’t worthy of your focus. Remember that in God’s universe, everything revolves around its Maker. To thrive as a Christian, you want God to become the center focus of your life, thoughts, passions, dreams, and goals. Embrace the things that encourage you in that direction and reject the rest. The world is full of self-help tips that will teach you how to temporarily calm your emotions, bolster your esteem, and realize your goals. But none of these things are worth anything unless your soul is moving closer to God. We Christians have no use for the two-bit clichés that are plastered all over calendars and internet posts. We have discovered the true meaning of life: we were created to bring joy to our Maker and to thrive in an intimate soul bond with Him. We have found the Source of all inspiration, joy, peace, and contentment. We need to pursue a deeper bond with that Source, not dwell on a bunch of catchphrases that try to grasp at blessings without exalting the Blessing Giver. If it isn’t about God, then it just isn’t worth spending a bunch of mental time on.