When I was a child, I wanted to learn how to play piano. My mom played and when I was about 8 years old, she bought a piano for our home. She made the instrument come alive with sound and I loved hearing the music she made as her long fingers slid over the keys. I wanted to be just like her.
When my mom was growing up, piano lessons were a part of many a young person’s life. My mom and aunt had many years of lessons and all the John W. Schaum Piano Course books to prove it.
I had already learned how to read a staff and musical notes at school, so I got out Mom’s Schaum Red Book – A and tried to teach myself. The old saying, “Practice makes perfect” is a lie.
As a teacher I have learned that practice does NOT make perfect. Practice on its own can be done wrong or incorrectly and take longer to re-learn the correct way. That’s what happened to me with my own piano lessons. When I finally did get lessons from a teacher a couple of years later, I had to overcome some bad habits, and essentially “re-learn” the correct way. So, a better saying is “practice makes progress”. Progress can sometimes be more important.
There have been more than a few times I’ve had to reteach certain multiplication facts to students because they practiced the wrong product. If Johnny practices 8 x 9 = 74, then that’s what he thinks the answer is, even though it’s wrong. So maybe the saying should be “perfect practice makes progress, not perfect.” ?
Watching my daughter during a recent softball practice reminded me of the saying, “practice makes progress”. As the coaches watch the girls throw a ball, or try to bunt, they point out where they are incorrect or could improve, and then the girls do it again, and again, until they get it right.
Most athletic coaches depend on training their athletes to have “muscle memory”. They want them to complete a particular physical or mental task CORRECTLY with such repetition that their body then learns to complete the task more efficiently, using less brain power. During a game situation, the girls can go on “auto-pilot”, so to speak, with throwing and catching in order to spend more brain power on other aspects of the game.
As I was watching them practice, I thought about my prayer life. Do I have to be perfect at it to make progress? Absolutely not, but I must practice consistently to have results. To me, the greatest result of prayer is intimacy with God himself, not the acquisition of things. However, have I done it enough to have “prayer muscle memory”?
Prayer is one of those things that you just have to do…you have to “practice” it in the sense that you have to apply it in your life. The more you DO it, the more progress you make. So, you can apply that “muscle memory” concept spiritually too. The more you pray, then your mind, body and soul learns to complete the task more efficiently (not necessarily faster). Maybe this is what the writer of I Thessalonians was trying to communicate when he said:
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)
When a stressful situation hits, you can go on “auto-pilot” and know that you can pray instead of doing other ineffective things you may have done before to deal with stress: eat, get angry, avoid the situation, etc. Essentially, you grow as a person spiritually, and that my friends, IS progress.
How about you? Do you believe practice makes perfect?