My good friend Alana and I have been prayer partners for almost ten years now, and podcast partners for about half of that time. One of the funniest moments in our friendship came when we were discussing prayer styles on the Praying Christian Women podcast and both admitted we had envied each other for the way we prayed. Each of us had been secretly wishing our prayer style was more like the other for years!
Playing the Comparison Game
Alana is ultra-productive in everything she does. She is a prolific author, owner of a growing publishing company and homeschool mom to boot. In her prayer life she is organized and consistent. She has multiple prayer journals, loves lists and sticky notes, and can spend an hour in her “prayer closet” easily.
Then there’s me.
I tend to be scatter-brained, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, and have a hard time being consistent or organized in my prayer life (and really in any other aspect of life!). I’ve always looked at her, with her intense prayer burden for North Korea (reflected in multiple novels she’s written on the subject – amazing novels, might I add), and envied her spiritual maturity and passion for prayer.
Then that fateful day on the podcast as we were talking about strengths in our prayer lives, Alana revealed that she had always admired the way I would spontaneously suggest prayer during conversations and do “on the spot” prayer. I’d never, ever seen that as a strength. I’d always thought it was kind of cheating to pray in real time, with no advanced planning. Like it wasn’t sacrificing enough because it came easily.
But Alana said she wished she was more like that, and that she had become better at that kind of prayer because of me…me!?! And all this time I’d been elevating her prayer style as superior to my own. I had adopted some of her really great prayer tips (my favorite being “sticky note prayers” and “one minute prayers”), and had definitely grown as I’d learned from her. But I never thought she would have anything at all to learn from me.
The Danger of Comparison
This is what made me realize a very dangerous practice in our Christian lives: the almost stoic belief that if something comes easily to us, or we don’t have to work for it that it doesn’t count.There is a dangerous, almost stoic belief that if something comes easily to us, or we don’t have to work for it, that it doesn’t count as worship. Click To Tweet
We have this tendency to look at people whose faith walk or prayer life looks different from ours and envy what they have, assuming it’s better. Like if it isn’t painful, it’s not worship.
But I think we need to remember that God made all of us so different from one another – not a single human is exactly like another. That’s God’s creativity at work! While there definitely are spiritual disciplines that take time and energy (and work!), I believe that there are also things we do for God that put us in “the zone” – that place where we just feel like it’s not work at all, but purely joy.
Ditching the Comparison Game
The experience of living life abundantly, operating in our giftings and passions, that’s absolutely worship. So it would do a tremendous disservice to the Body of Christ (not to mention an insult to the Creator) if someone God created to fulfill unique purposes tried to act like someone else.
This is what scripture says:
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.1 Corinthians 12:14-26 (NIV)
Alana and I can learn from each other, we can admire the way each of us prays and appreciate the unique qualities and gifts God has given each of us. But we shouldn’t wish for being just like the other person, or look down on ourselves for not possessing all of the qualities of the other.
After having that conversation, I think Alana and I both came away feeling built up and empowered by knowing that God had given us each strengths the other admired. I know I did.
Since then, when I’m tempted to think poorly of myself for something I wish was more like someone else, I take that thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I look at my perceived weakness from a different angle, trying to figure out how that “weakness” could actually be rooted in a strength.I look at my perceived weakness from a different angle, trying to figure out how that “weakness” could actually be rooted in a strength. Click To Tweet
For instance, instead of thinking of myself as a “hot mess” and “scatterbrained” I can think of myself as spontaneous, sensitive, and open to change. This could empower me to meet the needs of others immediately which can result in things like being available to praying those “on the spot” prayers.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s always room to grow. Learning from each other and having spiritual mentors and role models is a very positive part of the Christian life – as long as those relationships are healthy and rooted in truth.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
So how about you? Are there areas in your life where you find yourself wishing you were like someone else? Try looking at it from a different perspective, seeing it as a potential strength and see what happens!
We’d love to hear from you in the comments.