This cute meme has been making the rounds on Facebook and Pinterest. It suggests that prayer turns meek kittens into mighty lions. And it can. Most times it should. But how often do we experience this level of transformation when we pray?
I began this blog, partly in response to recent comments I’ve heard that belittle the effectiveness, the power, of prayer. I talk a good game when it comes to prayer–I pray daily, I keep a prayer journal, I consider myself a prayer veteran, even a prayer warrior. I believe in the trans-formative power of prayer. So why do I often feel like a kitten both before and after prayer?
I’m afraid that, too often, I don’t want to be transformed when I pray. I want to be heard; I want to be comforted; I want to be refreshed. But I don’t really want transformation. Transformation is not cute or comfortable–it hurts, it stretches. Transformation requires risk and commitment in the face of uncertainty. I want to be a kitten who thinks of herself as a lioness, but I want a cozy lap to rest on, and a bowl of gourmet cat food laid out for me. Kittens may wrestle with yarn or mice; lionesses wrestle with crocodiles and wildebeests. I want to lift up those in pain, those who struggle, those in need– but I want to do it from the comfort of my own quiet corner.
If my prayer life isn’t causing changes in every other aspect of my life, I need to be concerned. Prayer that never calls me into battle; prayer that leaves me feeling comfortable while others suffer..that isn’t really prayer. That is giving lip service without heart-service.
But I also need to be careful to be transformed by the renewing of my mind (See Romans 12: 1-3). Prayer should be transforming my heart and mind, but in Christ’s likeness. Christ, who is not only the Lion of Judah, but the Lamb of God. There are times when I should charge out of the prayer room, energized and ready for battle. But it must come from God’s spirit, and not my own pride or in conformity to the world’s pattern of fighting. Transformation doesn’t come about just because I pray– it comes about as I walk and talk with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I don’t have the power to transform myself, nor do I have the power to decide the nature and speed of my journey.
I think sometimes, I see it as all or nothing– either I am running full speed ahead and making great conquests (Lioness), or I am mewling and helpless (Kitten). But God sees the bigger picture. Sometimes, we should enter the prayer room as kittens and leave like lions; other times we should enter as lions and leave as lambs– recognizing that our own roaring will never win the battle, and also recognizing that sometimes, in quiet obedience and sacrifice, we are doing what is necessary in the larger plan. What should never happen is that we go running into the prayer room eager and ready to serve, and come sauntering or swaggering out, puffed up with our own importance, but unmoved toward others.
So the challenge is to go into the prayer room, expecting to be transformed– by God, for God’s glory, into the people God wants us to be– expecting to be changed, stretched and challenged.