Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When Praying Isn't Practical

"Ain't nobody got time for that!"

Right?  Or maybe not...

In 1 Thess. 5, the Church is encouraged to make herself ready for Christ's return.  Among the many ways we are encouraged to stay alert is verse 17:  "Pray without ceasing."

Sounds good.

Until you have five kids, homeschool, and need sleep.

This has been a struggle for me for years, the knowledge of the amount of time I should be spending in prayer verses the amount of time I actually DO spend in prayer.

Why is it that the more I need to pray (I have a teenager, for crying out loud!) the less time it seems I have to do it?  And fasting?  Don't even go there.  How do you fast when you are preparing meals three times a day? The instruction to "spend the time praying that you would have spent preparing meals" is difficult to follow when you have hungry kids and a kitchen to keep at least sanitary.  

But there is the reality of the Word of God.  He didn't say "fast if you have time" or "fast when your kids are little and that will get you through the teen years."  And He especially didn't say "don't worry about fasting. It's really not necessary."  Nope.  In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus said "when you fast."  WHEN, not if.
Hoo, boy.  How do I do this in real life?

I've tried fasting in the past, only to end up feeling like a hungry failure.  I read about those who had breakthroughs and experienced awesome times of communion with the Lord, but I had not experienced it myself.  Not in that context.

Praying is easy when I am in crisis.  When the enemy is attacking our family you can bet I am a prayer warrior.   I'm on my Abba's lap and holding on with both hands, soaking in His reassurance.   But what about when every day is the same?  What about the days when I'm just tackling a pile of laundry and the kids are playing video games and we aren't really under attack but just "not into it?"  What should prayer look like on a mundane Wednesday afternoon?

I've mentioned before how the Lord has given me a word for this year.  "Prayer."  I have pondered this and sought how to apply it to my life, to make it an effective part of my walk and NOT be legalistic (because I, unfortunately, tend to default to legalism...baggage from my upbringing) so I have asked Him to show me how to pray when, to all outward appearances, it just isn't practical.

I want to preface what I am sharing by reminding you that I'm not giving you a "how-to list."  I'm giving you a "what God has asked of ME list" in the hope that you will ask Him to give you the same.  I want to encourage you to seek Him and be obedient to what He shows you.

First of all, I have broken out some old prayer books.  One of my favorites is a series by Phyllis Tickle called "The Divine Hours."  Now I know written prayer is not for everyone, but I have found it to be a wonderful springboard for me.  In reading aloud prayers that have been spoken over decades and centuries, my heart is drawn upward and I find words that had been bottled up spilling forth.

Second, I have set aside one day each week to fast breakfast and lunch.  I'm two weeks into this and I can already tell you that God is blessing it, despite my weakness.  The first week I survived and gratefully ate a tortilla chip at 5:00, giving thanks for the privilege of going without for His sake.  There were no fireworks, but I did it and felt good about it.  The next week was, shall I say, hilarious.
The night before, I whipped up a batch of Pioneer Woman's chicken salad because we were in a lunchtime food rut.  I deboned a delish rotisserie chicken, made the dressing, chopped up onions, celery, and grapes, and put it in the fridge to sit and get happy for the next day.  That night I sat in my reading chair and opened my Bible and, of course, happened upon a passage about fasting...
which reminded me that I had committed to fast the next day.  To say I had a sour attitude about it is an understatement.  I was all "Aw, MAN, what was I thinking?  WHY did I make that chicken salad?  Maybe God wouldn't care if I put it off a day.  But didn't I make a commitment and have only kept it once??"

So I decided to keep my commitment.   The next day I served up breakfast and lunch and prayed silently for strength not to lick the spoon the whole time.  I played worship music and tried not to smell the chicken salad and prayed.  I cleaned up the kitchen and sat down with my kids to finish out our school day.  Then I went into my bedroom to freshen up and saw my book of prayer lying on the bed.  I picked it up and opened it to the current reading, noticing that voices were raised in the other room because someone was arguing.  I battled silently within myself then went into my closet...locking the door.

I fell to my knees with the book open, and recited the poetic words of Psalms.  I spoke praise to my Father and felt His pleasure.  I sang to Him and realized that His presence was filling the air I breathed and I inhaled deeply.  I thanked Him for the privilege of being empty before Him, for loving me and being so patient with me when I was almost derailed by chicken salad.  I cannot describe the sweetness of the moment, the power I felt coursing through me as He filled me, or the sense of accomplishment when I walked out of the closet and my kids were still arguing.  Yes, the enemy would have loved to distract me in that moment, to have robbed me of that time with the Father.  He would love to make me feel like a bad mom for ignoring the chaos.  And too often I have let him do just that.  But not that day.  That day, I submitted to the calling of the Spirit and the result was true peace.  Incentive to keep going, to keep fighting for my much-needed alone time with God, to ignore my flesh and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit one hour at a time.

Last of all, I am listening to less talk and reading more.  I'm limiting my exposure to talk radio and the 24 hour news cycle.  Not eliminating it, just putting it in it's proper place.  I can get fired up over the evil that is permeating our culture.  My blood pressure rises and my anger boils and 2 hours later I'm still listening to what is only making me mad.  But what good is all of this education doing if I'm not taking it before the Lord?  So I'm still informed, but not obsessed.  I no longer need to know every gory detail, because God does.  I'm lifting up my church, my government, and our country to God and spending more time reading the Bible or books that help me go deeper into His Word.  (Beth Moore, Bob Warren, Susie Larson...just to name a few.)  I'm turning off the talk and listening to more music that lifts up the name of Jesus.  I'm logging onto the International House of Prayer in Kansas City and worshipping live with brothers and sisters who have devoted their lives to 24 hour a day, 7 days of week of praise and worship.  (There is even an i-phone app!)  The media I choose to ingest makes a huge impact on my heart and attitude, so I must be so careful to make wise choices with the limited hours I am given each day.  The atmosphere of my home is much more peaceful with music drifting through the air than with a TV blaring in the background.

So really isn't practical, is it?  When I look at it through the eyes of this culture it makes very little sense to carve out time to sit and talk to God.  Those who don't know Jesus think we are crazy, wasting out time.  Even some Christians would offer me a million excuses as to why it is acceptable to put some of these things on the backburner in this busy season of life.  But when I look beyond the veil, to the very real battle that is swirling and the storm that is gathering around the children of God, praying is more than practical.  It is vital. It is the very heartbeat of God's people.  It is another chance to choose life, so that I and my children may live.  (Deuteronomy 30:19)

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful and oh so true. Have experienced both sides of all of this. The time crunch, the guilt, the failure, the success. Thanks for the reminder and perhaps the nudge from the Spirit. Although I did lots before moving, I have not fasted since we moved so time to add this back to the routine.


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