Why Comparison is Hurting Your Prayer Life

Comparison is often how we judge things; which song sounds better, or which Life Teen camp do you prefer? Whether we do it to ourselves or others do it to us, we’re compared to standards, to averages, to societal norms, to others, and sometimes, painfully to our own past. There are many problems with this, but one that can quickly begin to affect you is also one that’s easily disguised as a “good” thing: that is, trying to compare your own personal prayer life with God to that of others. When this false idea is disguised as a way to better your prayers, it is a particularly slippery slope to go down.

Is It Just Me?

Last year, several of my friends made their Marian consecration, and I thoroughly enjoyed asking them all about it. Later, though, when I went home, I would avoid making “eye contact” with the image of Mary on my own consecration booklet – largely because I hadn’t opened it. It’s not that I don’t love Mary (I do). It’s not that I don’t trust her with my life (again, I do). It wasn’t placed on my heart, though; maybe I wasn’t ready. The best way I can describe it is that I wanted to want it; but right then, if I were honest, I just wasn’t there yet.

The hardest part was asking myself “why?” I had everything I needed, so why was I waiting? Was it me? I’ve listened to amazing stories about relationships with Mary, which only make me feel even more firmly that I wanted to be there, too. Only, that didn’t change the fact that I still wasn’t; at least, not yet.

My prayers seemed ordinary to me because I saw the different things others did. The thing I had to figure out was that I was in the middle of working on my own prayer life, and it’s not worth any less just because it didn’t look like anyone else’s. It only seemed ordinary because I was used to it, not because it was any less than enough. One huge prayer for me in these past months has been the Litany of Trust, because that’s something I need to work on. What I’ve begun to realize is that God knows that even better than I do, so why would He want me to be like someone else instead? He put the right prayers in my path that would go with my struggles and journey, and that’s how I can come to be closer to Him.

You’re the Only You…

So why do some people pray with their hands open, and some with their hands folded? Why do some stand in adoration, while others kneel, or even sit? Well, none of us are made quite like anyone else! You know how you love the way your cousin’s nose wrinkles when she gives you that smile? What about the way your friend’s “mom look” makes you feel protected? Or think about how you still laugh when your sister puts on her sunglasses to pretend to be serious.

All these unique things from these unique people aren’t odd to you – they make you feel connected to the people you love, and the best part is: God feels that way about you, too. And just as special as God made you, He also knows the way you talk to Him best, and He doesn’t expect it to be quite like anyone else. God always wants to hear from you – in the joy, in the pain – and because He knows you better than anyone else, He can’t be fooled by imitation! He only wants you to bring your heart to Him in prayer.

…and the World Needs That You.

You have strengths that can complement others’ weaknesses and vice versa. If we all wanted the same strengths, who would be left to help us in what we lack? Instead, we’re called to cultivate the gifts God gave each of us, and that will lead to different journeys, different callings, and, yes, different prayers to prepare us.

When we’ve realized this, we might find two things. For one, you might actually find you’re not the only one! I can confidently say there are others around you who feel the same doubts you might, and just aren’t sure enough to say so (and if everyone else denies it, I’m here raising my hand). Two, you might actually find that you love your own style of prayer with God! Have you ever had an inside joke with a close friend, or a special handshake or greeting? That’s what God wants from you, too! When you come to Him in the way only you can, you come to Him with yourself the way He created you; the way you can best connect with Him.

One common roadblock to disarming comparison is also social media. The thing about social media is that people are only sharing the best moments of their lives – and that goes for their prayer life, too. No matter how many pictures you might see of bullet-journaled bible verses and gracefully prayed rosaries, these aren’t an accurate representation of anyone’s prayer life when what matters is inside, not outside! The first thing you have to stop comparing yourself to is standards that you think you should live up to, but that weren’t really standards in the first place. Pictures, prayers, and posts might be a creative way to share your favorite parts of the Faith, and by all means, they can be encouraging to others! But not if you look at what other people pray and begin to feel any less about your own prayers.

Your God Knows You

At the end of the day, I find comfort when I pray honestly. At my worst, when I don’t understand and I want to cry; at my best, when I could shout from the rooftops at how blessed I am; and at my most tired, when I just can’t think and I don’t make any sense – oddly enough, these are the moments that I revert to talking to God as I would most naturally. Yes, there are places for song, for Lectio Divino, for Rosaries, and for Novenas; but in any average moment you come up to me, the likelihood is that I’m not in the middle of the most popular prayer of the day, but I just might be spending time just chatting with God mentally.

We certainly have to challenge ourselves, but we also have to do so in the way God wants for us, not for anyone else. You’re called to a relationship with Him that won’t look like anyone else’s, so the way you communicate with Him shouldn’t be identical either. Bring your heart to every conversation with your Savior, and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks – Jesus didn’t. There’s a joy that comes with letting down any façade and truly being yourself; the you God purposely designed, and the only one who can fill the very specific life He is seeking to share with you.