Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was a prolific writer. But apparently he didn't like to write. As he put it, "I love having written."

I admit that when it comes to Christian devotion, there are too many days when I say, "I love having prayed." I think of myself as a committed Christian, but many days prayer is more duty than delight, certainly not something I bound out of bed and eagerly begin. But I do admit to often being happy once I have prayed. It seems I like the idea of prayer more than prayer itself.

I know this is true because of the mental battles I fight upon first waking up. I often hear the enticements of the Enemy: Why not just sleep in; you deserve it; you've been working hard. You're not going to get much done if you're tired all day.

Or: You really need to get that SoulWork column written; writing is a type of prayer, after all.

Or: Wouldn't it be more loving, more Christian to make your wife breakfast than to piously pray by yourself?

And those are just the opening lines of a book I could write: Excuses I've Entertained to Avoid Prayer. But it would never get published. Way too long.

The reason I don't like to pray is simple. I don't really love God. I do love the idea of loving God. It would be a fine, fine thing to love God, I believe. But I have to face it: One reason I go to church is not because I already love God but because I'd like to love him. I'm afraid I have the same reaction to church as I do to prayer. Lots of debate about whether I should go. Going most Sundays because I should go. And when it's over, a lot of times I can say, "I love having worshiped."

Don't get me wrong. I'm as devout as the next Christian. Or ...

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In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is former editor in chief of Christianity Today and author, most recently, of Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals.
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