SAILING: Sailing is living the Christian life with the wind at your back. God is powerful and active, and you see, feel, and recognize that clearly. Prayer is a pleasure and study is a joy.
ROWING: Rowing is when you are working. You find the disciplines to be a duty more than a delight. It doesn’t feel like God is doing much. You feel alone often. You keep at it, you don’t give up, but you don’t see the results.
DRIFTING: Drifting means that you’re feeling the same way you felt if you were rowing—but instead of digging in, you’re letting yourself drift. You don’t feel like approaching and obeying God, so you don’t. You feel sorry for yourself, so you indulge and self-medicate. You’ve given up for now, but hope is not lost.
SINKING: A boat that drifts long enough will eventually sink. It will collide with another boat or a shore, or eventually time and negligence will compromise the hull. Drifting long enough leads to numbness, negligence, and death.
If you pray, worship, and obey despite negative circumstances and feelings, you won’t be drifting, and when the winds come up again, you will move ahead swiftly. On the other hand, if you do not apply the means of grace, you will at best be drifting, and if storms come your life, you might be in danger of sinking.
In any case—pray no matter what. Praying is rowing, and sometimes it is like rowing in the dark—you won’t feel that you are making any progress at all. Yet you are, and when the winds rise again, and they surely will, you will sail again before then.
(Adapted from Tim Killer’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)