Dr. Barbara Fredrickson in her book Positivity ( Norman Vincent Peale with data) says that “experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative ones leads people to a tipping point beyond which they naturally become more resilient to adversity and effortlessly achieve what they once could only imagine.”
And how do we do experience three positive emotions to one negative one?
Well, here’s one way for a Christian: We interject prayer into our lives, until it becomes as instinctive as breathing. Okay, let’s start small: As instinctive as worrying!
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It’s University application season, and parents and children are getting nervous. None of us wants to drop the ball. My daughter Irene is applying to one of the most competitive courses in one of the most competitive Universities in Britain.
We can do this two ways…though worry and anxiety and striving, or in peace and quiet and trust and prayer from which the wisdom and strategies we need will blossom. I know which path we are going to take. So each worry, I plan to turn into prayer, so that, whatever the outcome, with God’s help this is going to be the most prayer-soaked University application ever.
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I now try to add a 50 percent margin to everything I do. If I think it will take 30 minutes to get to small group, or to German class, I leave 45 minutes early, and use the extra time to practice German on Duolingo or catch up with email, and replies to Facebook comments or tweets. And this injects serenity into my day.
And what when things go wrong, as things are apt to do, and I am rushing somewhere and sense time is against me? I relax. I do my Duolingo. I listen to my book on tape. I breathe. I close my eyes and pray (Roy drives!) about the next things in my day. I do not look at the time. Half the time, we are not late after all, and when we are… well, at least I don’t know how late. Being stressed about the outcome won’t change it, but using the time to retreat into the cave of God, there’s holiness and peace and wisdom and strength in that.
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I’ve blogged for over five years now, and every now and then I hit a wall.
And the wall—a temporary plateau in subject matter, style and audience–is an important thing for a blogger to hit. Otherwise, we can go on autopilot, saying the same things we’ve said before, boring ourselves and the world!!
When I used to hit a wall, I would feel I should blog up, write more mandarin posts, carefully written, long, on subjects likely to speak to or engage many people. Yeah, sounds to me like a recipe for writers’ block, insecurity, frustration, weariness and stress. For it’s best to blog your weekday self, not your Sunday best!
But now that I am tired, when I hit a wall, I blog down. Share little things which interest me, a bit like Facebook. Share my fears, failures and worries. Find my subject matter in honesty about what it’s really like to follow Christ. Find newness in honesty, the best place to find newness!
And then I pray—for ideas, for time, for energy, for readers, for deeper surrender, for the ability to abide in Christ ever more deeply, to burrow deeper into his heart, and record what I overhear as Isaiah did. Prayer thus converts the butterfly flutter of fear when stats plunge into faith and assurance, which is a sine qua none for writing well and quickly.
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I have lost 24 pounds since changing my diet, but as anyone who tries to change their body knows, scales have a mind of their own. And when they tilt upwards, I have learnt that there is only one thing to do to keep focused—return to thanksgiving for all I have lost. Renew a commitment to health, to 10,000 steps a day, and more fruits and vegetables!
Ask Christ “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” to show me the best way to get strong.
And my heart and emotions are stabilized and, indeed, hopeful.
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Prayer calms me, opens my mind up to possibilities, reassures me of an infinite power beyond myself. I work in a more assured and relaxed way.
These are the benefits of prayer, if there were no God.
But, of course, there is a God and so prayer has a power whose limits we can only guess.
Many things happen in our lives, and in other people’s lives because we have prayed.
So much so, that as Mark Batterson says, the transcript of our prayers can become the transcript of our lives.