Prayer is such a simple thing, isn’t it? Pooka, who is five years old, likes to pray with us. We give her pictures of people to pray for, and she prays her sweet, simple prayers: “Dear God, thank You for Auntie Laura as she lives in–Spain and thank you for the Campbells as they live in–Peru.” If she draws the card with her own picture on it, she prays, “Thank You for myself.” I have to say that’s not anything I can ever remember praying.
I can remember as a very young child praying with my parents at bedtime, thanking God for a good day. One day my sister piped up that she hadn’t had a good day, so after that for a long time I prayed, “Thank You for giving us a pretty good day.”
My point is, prayer isn’t complicated. But sometimes it feels that way, and our emotions are very hard to overcome. And sometimes it seems very overwhelming. It was that overwhelmingness that kept me from a meaningful prayer life for such a long time. I mean, if I commit to pray daily then I need to pray for myself, my husband, our marriage, all three of my kids, our family, our extended family, our friends, our church people, the missionaries, all the people I know who are sick or who have sick children or sick grandmas or sick dogs, the kids who come to our children’s ministries, our neighbors, the people on my message board who post prayer requests, the country, the President, the government, my enemies, Israel, military personnel, victims of human trafficking, victims of AIDS, orphans, widows, starving children . . . I mean, face it– that’s a really long list. Especially if you want your prayers to have depth and meaning beyond, “Pray for so and so, and such and such, and this and that and the other thing and inJesus’nameamen.” Especially early in the morning or late at night, when my house may actually be quiet.
So I fought God about this prayer thing. I had so many excuses. But He wasn’t going to let me slide on this. He pursued me with love and grace, just like He pursues you. Because God wants us to open our hearts to Him– not because He doesn’t know what’s happening in our hearts, but because relationships require communication. Because intimacy requires honesty and openness. Because He has the answers for our hearts’ cries– He is the answer. And until we open our hearts before Him, we never really can understand that.
Someone suggested that I journal my prayers. Maybe more than one person. I fought this. I wanted an idealized prayer life– head bowed, hands folded, eyes closed. I have arthritic hands and have been prone to writer’s cramp for as long as I can remember. How could I write out whole prayers? It would take me ten times as long to write my prayers out as just to say them. Remember that long list? I’d spend my whole day writing in my journal. I’d have to get up insanely early. And did I mention the writer’s cramp?
Nevertheless, on February 17th, after yet another day of attempting silent prayer at 6:30 AM and falling asleep and drooling onto my open Bible page, I decided to try it.
Oh Lord, time and again through this [Bible] study You have brought home to me the importance of prayer and the necessity of it in my life. Your Spirit has pressed it upon me with more and more force and I have steadfastly ignored it. All these years Your child, and still I run away from You. And You still pursue me. . . .
Give me strength to get out of my bed and out of my chair if needed to do battle on my knees for the hearts of those I love. Make me a prayer warrior. . . . I offer You a willing heart, oh God. You know my weaknesses. May Your strength show itself perfect in them. I have failed at this my whole life. Make now the time that I am changed. Fulfill Your purpose in me.
That was 3 1/2 months ago. In that time I have filled up four whole journals with my thoughts and my prayers. I’m not saying this because I want you to think, “Whoa– what a holy person.” I’m saying this because God has answered that first journaled prayer, and so many others, and He has met me every morning and we have had sweet communion and it has changed me.
I’m not saying that everyone should journal their prayers. I’m saying that if you don’t spend time with your Father each morning, you are missing out, my friend. Because He is always there and the more I write my messy thoughts and confess my messy sins and pray about my messy life, the more I see Him in the middle of all of it. Journaling works for me, and the very thing I thought I would hate– the time it takes to write my thoughts down– has turned into the greatest blessing. Taking the time to write each request out gives God the time to answer my prayers, and for me to recognize the answers. Let me tell you something– if you pray that God will search your heart and reveal sin to you, He will. But if you are rushing through, you might not hear that still, small voice.
Sometimes I have sensed God leading me to pray for a specific thing. Sometimes I have prayed for wisdom and God has given it to me even as my pen wrote the words. I have prayed for courage and walked away with a sense of soul fortification that I didn’t have before I prayed. For me, taking the time to journal is what slows me down so that I can be still and wait for His answers. Often it’s just a reminder of a verse I have memorized from His Word. I pray Scripture every day.
Of course it hasn’t all been easy answers. As I said in my post last week, I have done battle with God and have cried before Him. I have struggled to get up early enough to have time. But I am seeing changes that I didn’t even believe I could see in my life– and in my children’s lives, and in the lives of others I pray for. This is because God loves to answer our requests.
I have more to say, so I guess I’m going to continue this series– hopefully tomorrow. But I want to say a few things before I go. First, I have really resisted writing these blog posts because I don’t want anyone to think I have it all figured out. I hope yesterday’s post made it clear that I am a big old mess and that the only good in me is Jesus. I am writing this because I believe God wants me to, and so I need to obey Him. But if I have given any sort of impression of super-Christianness, or super-momness, or super-anything-other-than-messiness, then I apologize. I am a mess held together by God’s grace, and He deserves all the glory for any kind of change in my life.
Second, I believe it is never to late to have a real, deep, meaningful relationship with God through prayer. That is why I need to share this. I had pretty much given up on myself, but God never did. He pursued me and He is pursuing you. He is a God who changes even the most hopeless heart. He loves you beyond your ability to understand or imagine, even though He can see even the most closely guarded secrets of your heart.
This is my story. God is writing it right now for everyone to see– He is love, grace, mercy, and an ever-present Help in times of trouble.