frustrated. defeated. embarrassed. ashamed.
If you asked me about my prayer life, and I decided to give you the real and raw answer, rather than the watered down one I think you want to hear, those might be the words I’d use.
And I know. In my heart of hearts, I know that those are not words to be defined by, most especially when I am defined by the grace of God.
I yearn to have a prayer time that is fruitful, active, life giving, full of joy.
So why is it such a difficult thing for me?
I sit down, cup of coffee in hand, ready to have a long chat with the Lord. “Heavenly Father…” I begin, and suddenly I remember that I need to switch out the laundry. I run downstairs, switch the load, run back upstairs, and begin again… Until the thought creeps in that I need to get more windex at the grocery store. I go grab my grocery list and scribble “Windex”, along with a few other items. I keep the list next to me to write down any distracted thoughts while I try focus on talking to the Lord. Then begin again… and take a sip of my now cold coffee… and after several other distractions I give up and get my crying baby out of the crib.
Am I alone in this struggle?
I want to be known as a woman who follows through on her promises to pray.
I so deeply desire to be a woman who follows up with that prayer in practical, tangible, loving kindness.
And most of all, I want to be a woman who fights her battles daily on her knees.
Then one day it occurred to me. Maybe in this season, where I’m still growing and learning, “on my knees” is more a posture of the heart as I go through the day.
Maybe my prayer time doesn’t quite look like an uninterrupted 30 minute talk with the Lord each morning yet. It’s something to work towards. But perhaps I begin with Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians and simply pray as I go through the day.
“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thess 5:17
Praying as often and continual as breathing in and out.
Breathe in thanks. Breathe out praise. Breathe in confession. Breathe out supplication. Breathe in intercession. Breathe out adoration. and so it continues…
I can have purposeful, intentional, little moments with God as quick as the thoughts come and go through my head.
When my hands are busy folding clothes, I can pray through the anxiety and worry that threaten to crowd in over that situation.
I can consciously count my blessings in thanks as I’m forced to sit quiet and still while I nurse my daughter.
And put up intercession and supplication as I drive past that coffee shop that makes me think of a friend.
It sounds so simple, I know.
But it takes intentional and purposeful thought to include God in your daily moment by moment reflections.
And as I’ve started looking at prayer like a continual conversation throughout the day, my prayer life has been transformed. I’m actually praying for people, instead of just using “I’ll pray for you” as an empty phrase that I say to assuage someone’s hurt. It’s funny, I’ve found that the more you pray, the more you want to pray, and the more natural it becomes.
A quiet time of prayer is an important spiritual discipline that all believers should be striving towards. I want to reiterate this. I love how Jesus often went off by himself to a solitary place for extended periods of time to pray (Matt 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12). This is necessary for spiritual growth and builds relationship with the Lord.
But when shame over my prayer life kept me from having successful and fruitful communication with the Lord, I knew I needed to reevaluate things. Because I couldn’t give Him that hour uninterrupted, I mistakenly believed Satan’s lie that I couldn’t give Him anything except a hurried thanks before meals.
Can I pause and remind you, darling, that shame never comes from the Lord?
It’s about extending grace to allow yourself to be at peace with where you’re at. AND actively striving towards spiritual growth in disciplines like prayer.
Someday I’ll get to a point where I can successfully do both: powerful prayer sessions and continuous conversation with the Lord. For now I’ll continue to work at it and refuse to place shame and guilt on my walk. The Lord isn’t looking for perfection. He’s looking for surrender.
I’ll leave you with Elizabeth Elliot’s words:
“Prayer is the opposite of leisure. It’s something to be engaged in, not indulged in. It’s a job you give first priority to, performing not when you have energy left for nothing else. “Pray when you feel like praying,” somebody has said. “Pray when you don’t feel like praying. Pray until you do feel like praying.” If we pray only “at our leisure”–that is, at our own convenience–can we be true disciples?…
In prayer I am saying, in effect, “my life for yours.” My time, my energy, my thought, my concern, my concentration, my faith–here they are, for you. So it is that I participate in the work of Christ.”