Spring is coming, and all living things are eager to proclaim it. The geese, back from their winter vacation, have assembled a small army at the pond where I walk. They squawk loud orders at each other and at anyone else trying to slip quietly by. Dogs, always happy to be released from the hold of winter, take deep sniffs of the thawing ground as their owners gaze up at blue skies. People wave as they pedal on bicycles, and children laugh as they race to the park swings. Soon gardeners will be planting seeds and selecting flowers.
Spring does not hurry, and neither do those who revel in it. We love the season’s slow, mindful pace, and we readily get outside to play.
What if time to pray was welcomed like time to play?
Many of us, however well-intentioned, do not pray with thoughtful ease. Maybe it seems intimidating or useless or less important than other things. Maybe we are not sure what we believe or how to begin. Perhaps we are afraid God will not listen or we will do it wrong…
The reasons why people struggle to pray are as unique as the individuals themselves.
The importance of prayer is taught in the Bible, sermons, books, and devotions. And, prayer tools like Bible reading plans and journal writing certainly help us. But, like being in school, our lessons in reading and writing are limited in what they teach. As students in God’s classroom, we long to go out and play.
Studies show kids learn better in school if they have time to play. Are adults really any different? If recess activities help children develop socially, cognitively, and emotionally, then wouldn’t an adult’s developing prayer life benefit in similar ways? How can we use play to help us pray?
1. Play Promotes Confidence in God
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 NIV
When we play in healthy, enjoyable ways, we grow confident in our skills and in who God made us to be. We tend to be nicer to ourselves when we are having fun. Expectations and attitudes are lighter, so we can learn about our strengths and weaknesses with less judgement.
With some thought, we may even see how God uses the activities and hobbies we enjoy to teach and love us. Play encourages our trust and confidence in God’s good works to grow.
2. Play Encourages Praise
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; Psalm 24:1 NIV
Engaging in play opens up our eyes to the world and the place we hold in it. Indoors or outdoors, the activities that bring us joy help us feel fully alive and present by heightening our senses. If we spend our leisure time with others, then we receive additional benefits of companionship and combined learning.
Spending time doing things we love brings contentment and helps our sense of gratitude thrive. Play brings us joy, and joy reflects praise to the One who created us all.
3. Play Boosts Creativity
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV
When we have fun, we let go of worries, schedules, and commitments. We become more receptive to the ways God is speaking into our lives. As we play, our minds enter a creative state where we can easily lose track of time. Thoughts freely wander and open up avenues for ideas, problem-solving, and self-assurances to form.
Taking a break from our daily routines allows us to spend time with God and see the ways he might be trying to use us. Through play we can evaluate our gifts, talents, and resources, and then prayerfully consider how to use them to serve God and others.
Know God In and Out of the Classroom
In school, cordial relationships form as we work in the classroom, and more substantial friendships are forged on the playground. Both are necessary for learning and development. Similarly, a classroom type respectful relationship develops with God through study and learning. And, a different, deeper relationship can evolve with him on the playground of his creation.
He made you so you could share in his creation, could love and laugh and know him. ~Ted Griffen
Life, in its hurry, can make us feel like we should skip recess time with God. We are pressured to know and to serve him, often more than we are encouraged to just enjoy him. Eventually, our lives and our prayers become depleted. Then, we are less eager to learn from him. As our best teacher, God wants us to pray, but he also wants us to play.
Remaining mindful of God as we pursue healthy hobbies or interests brings increased confidence, newfound praise, and heightened creativity to our prayer life. Time spent in play can make us more receptive to God’s plans for us, and help us better align our prayers with his will.
Scripture tells us: “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NLT). Spring is coming! It is okay to twist in our seats with anticipation. God loves to join us on the playground. Press on in faith, my friends!