Recently I preached a sermon that addressed the problem of giving all-too-easy excuses for not doing this or that with our faith. It was intended as something of a spiritual kick in the posterior to “get out of the shade and into the heat, off our rear and onto our feet.” Actually, I was preaching some of this to myself and just letting the church overhear it. I suspect I sounded a bit like Yoda in Star Wars: “Try not. Do or do not. There is no ‘try.'”

Hard on the heels of that sermon was another in which I made passing reference to my distaste for some church advertising I had seen of late that said quite simply, “Try God.” As if our Maker was some “thing” we’d give a go at the same way we think about trying on new clothes. “Try God on for size.” It was certainly well-intended and I’m sure as what they meant to convey, but it was just too flippant in nature and too loosey-goosey in aim for me. I mentioned such in the context of what it is exactly that we, God’ creation, owe our Creator, namely, our all, beginning with profound respect.

Not many days after I preached those sermons I was talking privately with a brother who is going through some exceedingly difficult trials in life right now. As I offered a listening ear and some encouragement he happened to mention, “I know you don’t like the word ‘try.'”

I was surprised and a bit taken back. I assured him that I do indeed like the word “try,” primarily because it’s a word of great honesty. “Try” admits what doing the right thing is, a real challenge, a challenge that can even be a daunting task. We are human, and we will at times fail even when we try as hard as we can. “Try,” in the right context, also speaks honestly of the good intent in one’s heart. The person who actually gives the right thing a “try” is someone who is not overcome by darkness, but is actively seeking the light. That sort of a “try” is terrific.

Now all of this set me to thinking and asking myself a great many questions. One of those questions was rather straightforward: “How does the Bible use the word ‘try?’” And so, seeking an answer, I threw a quick cast of my net into the New Testament. It did not come back empty. It seems the New Testament has some rather significant things to say about “trying.” I don’t know if what I hauled in will develop into a sermon or not, but the results were enough to set me to thinking yet more. Let me share with you here what I found in the net. Perhaps it will stir some thought in you, too.

Do try to find God.

“It’s impossible to please God without faith because the one who draws near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards people who try to find him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Do try to please God.

“… we are trying to please God, who continues to examine our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4b)

Do try to make your ways transparently holy and pure.

“We are trying to avoid being blamed by anyone for the way we take care of this large amount of money.” (2 Corinthians 8:20)

Do try to be there for others as it is possible for you to do so.

“Try hard to come to me before winter.” (2 Timothy 4:21)

“When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, try to come to me in Nicopolis, because I’ve decided to spend the winter there.” (Titus 3:12)

Try to share the good news of Christ with others.

“Every Sabbath he interacted with people in the synagogue, trying to convince both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:4)

“… we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:11)

Try to forgive and re-embrace repentant brothers and sisters.

“… you should try your best to forgive and to comfort this person now instead, so that this person isn’t overwhelmed by too much sorrow.” (2 Corinthians 2:7)

Try to build up others in the community of faith with the gifts God has given you.

“… use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at building up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12)

And there are some things we must not try, too.

Don’t try to get revenge or retaliate.

“Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

Don’t try to be a people-pleaser.

“If I were still trying to please people, I wouldn’t be Christ’s slave.” (Galatians 1:10)

Don’t try to make yourself look good by flattering people.

“Don’t work to make yourself look good and try to flatter people, but act like slaves of Christ carrying out God’s will from the heart.” (Ephesians 6:6)

“We aren’t trying to please people …” (1 Thessalonians 2:4a)

Don’t try to make money the answer to things in your life.

“But people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful passions that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9)

Don’t try to make your appearance your fulfillment.

“Don’t try to make yourselves beautiful on the outside, with stylish hair or by wearing gold jewelry or fine clothes.” (1 Peter 3:3)

Thank you, my brother and my friend, for reminding me that “try” is a very, very good word.

how to fail at prayer

Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways. (James 1:6-8 CEB)

Rest assured, you can be a big zero in the prayer department. If you are, you need to know that it’s not because you:

  • flat out forget to pray.
  • have periods of prayerlessness.
  • often can’t find any words to say at all.
  • often stumble to find just the right words.
  • don’t audibly say “in Jesus’ name” in your prayers.
  • write out your prayers (or because don’t write them out).
  • have had doubts at times whether your prayers get past the ceiling.
  • don’t take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way to pray.
  • can’t sound eloquent or learned when praying in the presence of others.
  • sometimes pray the prayers of others instead of coming up with your own.
  • sometimes sound like a broken record, praying what you’ve prayed already.
  • wind up “informing God” with your prayers at times rather than leaning on him.
  • think there’s something wrong with you because you can’t hear God responding.
  • have been known to think of what should have prayed for right after you pray.
  • spend more time asking of him than you do simply adoring and thanking him.
  • seem to pray most fervently only when you’re in a time of personal crisis.
  • are clueless as to how long or how often you’re to pray about something.
  • have been known to critique or even “judge” other people’s prayers.
  • wonder why your prayers sometimes seem to go unanswered.
  • just don’t “pray as good” as some people you know.
  • have yet to couple up fasting with your prayers.
  • always feel inadequate when talking to God.
  • occasionally fall asleep while praying.
  • don’t always feel like praying.
  • struggle with your emotions.

No, the way to get a zero in the prayer department is to simply, consistently question whether or not God is truly good. Good on his word to hear you and get back to you. Good enough to always have your back, no matter what. Good enough to always be good.

Trust him for who he is. Without a doubt. God is good.

No one should hesitate to make a request from God. What they need to do is ask of him with faith in his good character. There is no place for doubt here. If you’ve ever seen ocean waves churned up by the wind, then you you know what a hesitant, doubting person is like. People who aren’t sure about God’s goodness and that he’ll do what’s best for them are just dreaming if they think he will give them anything. One can’t be of two minds about the one God without unsettling their life in every way. (James 1:6-8 DSV)