God wants to work through us, but often our comfort zones can get in the way. We refuse to do stuff we don’t have confidence in our ability to do well. We don’t like to do things that are strange, hard, or seem crazy. But, as the oh so true cliché goes, if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat, just like Peter did.
Over the summer I was a counsellor at a Christian camp, which threw up lots of God-given opportunities to step out of my comfort zone. One powerfully stands out as an example of God powerfully working through what happened when I stepped out of my comfort personal comfort zone.
(NB – one important thing to note about stepping out of your comfort zone is you should never step out and do something you are uncomfortable with because you feel it to be sinful, only step out to do things you know God would want you to do but which you aren’t too fussed on, scared of even.)
So I’m very much a quiet prayer kind of guy. I don’t really like praying out loud, even when I’m praying alone. Which is totally fine, God hears all prayers whether expressed with many words or internally thought. (And if we look at the example Jesus gives in the Lord’s Prayer, short is good! Martin Luther even once said “The fewer the words, the better the prayer”… )
But when someone asks you to pray with them and you just stand their silently then I always imagine they are left wondering if you are actually praying for them or just thinking about your weekend. Plus when you ask someone to pray for you, usually you want to hear the words they are praying as often I’ve found God speaks through their prayer to give you encouragement or reassurance.
So because I’m not all that confident at praying with people in a one-on-one context I don’t usually do that. But one night at camp they had played a Louie Giglio DVD (How Great is our God – watch it! Really amazing talk.) And it had a pretty powerful impact on the young people watching, and then there was an impromptu prayer time as a response after it, and the campers were forming little groups of their friends to get together and pray. And I was standing with one of the female counsellors (Heather), just talking about the video and how class it was to see everyone praying, when a female camper came up and asked if we would pray with her. (NB – practicality tip: don’t pray alone with younger members of the opposite sex. Having someone of their sex there too is ideal. When it’s someone your own age of the opposite sex it would still be ideal in most situations to have a third person, but there’s been times I’ve been praying with a girl of my age where having an extra person would have been akin to third-wheeling if you know what I mean…)
So knowing I’d have to pray out loud I was already uncomfortable, then the camper opened up with some personal concerns so I was feeling totally out of my depth, like how on earth do I even begin to pray for this in a way that will help her and won’t be patronisingly wishy-washy ‘there’ll be a light at the end of the tunnel’ optimism that helps no-one? And then Heather whispered that I’d better start as she didn’t know where to. (In rugby they call that a hospital pass.)
And here’s the thing – if you feel totally out of your depth, if you just take a step out of your comfort zone God is faithful. He won’t let you sink. Through the power of the Holy Spirit He will help you. So I began to pray despite my fears. And it probably wasn’t the best prayer in the world. (In fact I can be pretty darn sure it wasn’t!) But even by the time we had finished praying it was clear something had changed. And several months on I can happily confirm there has been a great turn around in that girl’s life. Not because of anything I did, but because of how God used me once I took that step of faith out of my comfort zone.
God rewards our faith and uses us powerfully when we step out of our comfort zones – are you willing to take that step?