My brother in law taught me how to drive a golf ball at a pristine golf course on the Atlantic side of sunny, sunny Florida. Until then my only knowledge of the game (sport, addiction) was on my PlayStation 2, featuring Tiger Woods and brought to fruition by EA Sports. Since that era both names have taken a turn in our culture, but that’s not the point. The point is that Andrew was showing me how to hit a golf ball with a special stick called a club. I had to pay attention to my shoulders, my arms, my knees, my head, the angle of the sun, the barometric pressure, and the location of innocent bystanders. I did pretty well, but please don’t ask Andrew if that’s true because he may remember it differently. Golf is a game of fuzzy memories and expensive… everything.
More importantly, golf is a game that requires us to pay attention. We take notice and respond appropriately, lest we lose another Titleist in the tall grass or, worse, get to the putting green in 2 but take 11 strokes to sink it. “Drive for show but put for dough” is what my friend Ken Funn often said as we played Tiger Woods on the PS2.
Following Jesus, if you will, requires us to pay attention and respond appropriately. Paul says “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful,” and I can see what he’s driving for (ha!) when you swap the word “prayer” for “golf”, because serious golf requires devotion, watchfulness, and thankfulness. The bible continually reminds us to pay attention, which is the chief concern of a disciple. It was Mary who paid attention to Jesus while sitting at His feet, and it was Martha who was preoccupied with good work which left her with little attention to spare (Luke 10:38-42).
I bet Mary would’ve been a good golfer (1st Opinions 9:31).
So what? So here’s three things to sweeten up your prayer game:
- Be devoted. Serious golfers are undoubtedly devoted to their craft! They set aside time, expend resources to improvement, and talk shop with other golfers. To devote (proskartereō) means to be adherent, like glue. If something really needs to stick, builders use construction adhesive and not Elmer’s glue. Envision yourself as a person who sticks to the practice of praying. Make the intention to pray, which is more purposeful than wishful thinking. Find the means of prayer — when will you pray? Where? How? Make the decision ahead of time and stick to it! These kind of practices are the difference makers when it comes to being devoted to prayer.*
- Be watchful. When I hear that word, I always think of it as a cautious word, like “look out for danger.” But what if we expanded our definition so that we saw the risks and the blessings? Don’t be so preoccupied with the sand trap that you miss the glorious fairway. Paying attention to the good stuff is what sets us up to…
- Be thankful. Thankfulness is the antidote to worry, anxiety, doubt, fear, anger, joylessness… all the things I felt on my few attempts at golf! Thankfulness is a result of being devoted, which is an intentional discipline, and being watchful, which is seeing things as they truly are.
Golf is a mental game, too. Why do we follow Jesus? So we can become like Jesus. How do we become like Jesus? In many ways, though much of the work is done in how we think. Paul is teaching us how to think, which will overflow into how we live.
Play & pray on!