Ways to Wellbeing: Be Present & Be Prayerful
So, if the first ‘WAY’ to wellbeing is to BE REAL, I guess that leads us to my second ‘WAY’, which is to BE PRESENT, or, as Ruth Rice (founder of an amazing charity called Renew Wellbeing) puts it, ‘show up’. Our hearts and our emotions are so variable that they aren’t reliable. We can’t survive if we turn up when we feel like it. So falteringly, hesitantly, or with great joy and abandon, show up!
In the Psalms, how often did David start with how wonderful it was to be in God’s presence? How grateful he was for his mercies? Certainly not more than 50% of the time. More often he started with lament or downright stropping (the kind of thing that would have got me in trouble as a kid and the retort ‘yes young lady, life’s not fair, and no you can’t have that ice-cream/toy/sweet’!). Even the first few Psalms we can see this: 1) Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked (ok so far) 2) Why do the nations conspire… 3) Lord, how many are my foes 4) Answer me when I call to you (cheeky!) and 5) Listen to my words, Lord…
David doesn’t pull any punches, he’s just himself, warts and all. I’ve found that showing up is all that God needs to start a work in my life. Whilst there is so much to be thankful for, so much glorious work that God has done and continues to do that our response ‘should’ be to praise him, there are many times I have felt unable to pray, unable to drag my sorry behind into God’s presence. And yet, and yet as I start to declare God is Almighty, he is Beautiful, Creator, our Defender, our Rock, our Saviour, our Father, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, he is Alpha and Omega, he redeems us from the pit, he sits us at the right hand of the father… Suddenly I’m both praising and praying and the peace of God comes flooding into my weary soul. We just need to be there, just start declaring truth, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, and he will work, he will bring life.
Which brings me neatly to BE PRAYERFUL. Now in spite of all the times that I’ve have talked about prayer and failed in prayer and simply not prayed… I know that it is the best thing I can do with and for any situation. That, however, will not stop me from often trying to put things to rights in any other way – most especially talking about whatever the situation is with a friend (and an obligatory large mug of tea – my mum’s influence) and then finally at least an hour later – saying ‘erm do you think we ought to pray about this?!’
I could pick any number of passages about prayer, but this passage from Philippians seems particularly apt:
“Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, 7 then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:6-7
I heard a quote recently about a Chinese mega-church pastor that went to speak at a conference in America. Everyone was so excited about her speaking on prayer, they were all there, notebooks open, ready to scribble all the inciteful and inspired words she was about to give. She got up on the platform and said, ‘Prayer is really simple – Open mouth, pray’ and then sat down again. That’s hilarious isn’t it, how often do we overcomplicate things, feel inadequate, don’t have the words, get stuck and yet our heavenly father would just say ‘Son, daughter, just say something, anything, I love you, come as you are’.
And what is the outcome? Well conveniently it’s part of a definition of wellbeing – it’s peace.
Now I have this little voice that says ‘ach come on now, really? Peace at this time? Peace with everything that is going on in the world, peace when what really makes me settled is knowing that I’ve got a plan, colour coded and annotated and pinned on the wall?!’. And the reply – yep peace! Not normal, you’ve-got-it-sufficiently-covered-to-sleep-at-night kind of peace, but peace that passes, that transcends, ALL human understanding. Peace that floods and invades our minds and our lives that we can’t help but fall into his loving arms kind of peace.
Oh, ok you’ve got my attention, that kind of peace! I’m interested in that kind of peace! So how do we get it? Well the passage tells us: we pause (ie stop being pulled in every different direction – including Netflix, work demands, cleaning, etc. etc.), we pray, and we praise!
So this talk of wellbeing comes from a place of slowly realising that God would much rather have my paltry efforts to be with him honestly in weakness and faltering, through tears and vulnerability for a few minutes when I can let my guard down, than a day of background worship music and sanitised, squared away bible studies. From a place where I am reminded again that leadership is servant-hearted, where the gospel is topsey turvey, where the first shall be last and last first, where it’s actually a form of faith to wrestle, as David is so often found doing in the Psalms.
A place where I know a God that deals with both realism and hope, where lament is just as important as praise, a place where we can say defiantly (like the men about to be dropped into the fiery furnace) ‘and even if he doesn’t’, because we know that even in the really tough times that he is right there with us and never ever going to leave us.
So wellbeing, finding peace in all circumstances, enabling us to live life to the full, is open to all of us. Be real, Be present, and Be prayerful.
Dr Claire Hollingsworth – Fitfish Team