Category Archives: heart of prayer

Are You Too Busy to Pray?

“How are you?”

Traditionally, we’ve answered, “fine.” But more commonly, the new answer is — “BUSY!  I’ve been crazy busy. Not sure what I’m even doing.”

Fine implied a sense of well-being. Busy suggests our time is occupied. But how we are doing has a lot to do with what and Whom is occupying our lives.

IMG_3079I long for peace, stillness, quiet — but I feel busy, distracted, overwhelmed and scattered much of the time. I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing. Which begs the question — what do I WANT to be doing? What really matters?

We frequently talk about our goals and priorities. But we can’t truthfully have priorities unless we are willing to STOP doing one thing in order to do the better thing. So many of us constantly ADD to our schedules… saying yes to the next thing without ever subtracting anything! All of us are stewards of the same 24 hour day. Which of your priorities is getting squeezed out due to your chronic busyness?

IMG_4110For many Christians, Jesus (seeking His face) gets lost in our fast paced busyness. We profess that prayer, worship, praise, petitioning God, and reading our Bibles is foundational to our Christian walk. Of utmost importance to us. But some days we barely squeeze in a minute at bedtime to sigh… “Lord please forgive me, bless me and those I love, and please — could I sleep through the night, just this once? I’m so tired.”

We believe these few moments are all we can afford to give Him. Recently I had a 16-month period worthy of a country song.  Three weddings, my father’s death, my first grand daughter’s birth, a fire, and a move. Complete with their own caprice, all were squeezed into my already crazy busy life.

I wish I could say it was my priority on maintaining a rich and constant prayer life that got me through this overwhelming season. In truth,  my prayer life shifted to one of abiding prayer (I was with God: thankful and aware of Him), but my time devoted solely to being in His presence was inconsistent at best. I believed I was just too busy for daily, deep, relational prayer time.

IMG_4032I want to change that moving forward… because “normal” only exists as a setting on my dryer! “Normal” days won’t magically follow this “season.” Maybe I will have a little reprieve, but not for long. Life keeps coming. I’m responsible to choose how I will be.

I needed union with God through all the craziness. I don’t need to take another step without the Holy Spirit’s hand. I’ve missed out on blessings these last months by letting distraction and busyness curb my prayer life — why?

Even when we say we say we WANT to make prayer a priority, we’re neglectful. Following are two simple reasons:

  • We believe the lie that we don’t have time.
  • We don’t believe the Truth that prayer will really make a difference in our lives — that it’s necessary.

First — you and I both have time. How much time do you spend watching TV? (average is 5 hours a day) On social networks? (average is over 2 hours/ day) — you get my drift. Screen addiction is real! As are the idols of worshipping our children, work, hobbies, etc. Whatever it is you are doing, we all make time for what we want to do. For Who we love.

We know the right answers. Maybe we need compelling reasons to believe in and obey God’s command to pray.

Prayer — stepping away for quiet, devoted time with His Father — was necessary even for Jesus, who was God! He knew his time on earth was short, yet in the midst of His demanding, important ministry of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, saving the world form destruction and teaching about God — He frequently slipped away to a solitary place. Left all the many miracles He could do… to be with His Father (Mark 1).

IMG_4685If anyone could have justified busyness it was Jesus. One with God. Always successful. Always good. Infinitely able — but He consistently left demands and to-do lists undone to be alone with God the Father in prayer. It was His priority. And he knew it was necessary and fruitful. How much more so for us — no matter what all we have on our plates?

Jesus said not to even try doing life without ample time spent seeking Him. It would amount to nothing!  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

While He was on earth Jesus himself was dependent on spending vital time in prayer with the Father. How much more so should we? Hebrews 5:7 reveals the passionate prayer life of our Lord.  Jesus knew prayer to the Father was necessary on this earth.

IMG_4300In John 5:19 Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”

And we try to rationalize that we are too busy, important, overwhelmed… to pray?

God made us to do good works… the opposite of busyness isn’t laziness. But when our prayer life falters, we easily land in a sloth of distracted activities (maybe seemingly productive), but it’s just fruitless busyness without God at the center. How much better all our efforts would be (even if we had less time to give to service and work), if we refused to squeeze out God. Do we really believe that? Do we believe His Word?

It’s a matter of the heart. Am I a people pleaser, proud of my accomplishments, relying on my own strengths and ability to perform? Do I have something to prove? Am I over achieving? A martyr? Seeking comfort and ease? How am I making life about me? The list is endless.

Why am I doing “this” (fill in with our current excuse) and claiming it leaves me little time for prayer? We are finite. Time is finite. We need to embrace our inabilities and believe that God is the One who accomplishes all things. The Bible doesn’t tell us we’ll be held accountable for outcomes. We will, however, answer for disobedience and how well we KNOW Him.

IMG_4080We are too busy (like Martha, reprimanded for doing what did indeed need to get done), if we cannot sit listening at the feet of Jesus when it’s appropriate. Mary was commended for doing the better thing in Luke 10:38-42 . When I am too involved, overwhelmed, pressed, etc. for unhurried time in prayer, the Word, and the Presence of God — I am too busy. No excuses. Just repentance.

God and time with Him must be my undisputed priority. With God at #1 all the worthy and wonderful second things can fall into place. If I make ANY second things first, nothing can work well — not even a country song.  God demands the worship that is rightly His (Exodus 20:5).

How’s your prayer life?  Today is the day to make God and prayer our undisputed top priority.

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)IMG_3650

 

 

Is Your Best Really Enough? Or Could it be the Root of Your Problem?

I asked a simple question during my morning prayers yesterday. “What is true about me, Jesus?”

IMG_4324Why am I struggling with things that should be simple? Why am I stressed? Sad? Confused? Tired? Romans 8:27 says, “He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.” He can tell me what’s true about myself with more clarity, accuracy and purity than I can possibly muster.

I know John 16:33 says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” I’m not referring to these “normal” trials and problems — though they certainly happen — and can sometimes be consequences of my heart’s condition.

IMG_3094I’m talking about subtleties.  The tears that were present just behind my eyes all day yesterday; yet I couldn’t quite put a name them. The tension in my neck and shoulders. The confusion about my future and today’s big decisions. Even with my limited understanding, I was pretty sure that a large part of my problems and these feelings… began within me.

When I asked, “What is true about me, Jesus?” the following words came to me in my prayer journaling — I believe at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

IMG_3089“You try to run in your own strength without returning to me to receive my resurrection power. What you receive from your time with me is quickly “used up,” but often you don’t sense your spiritual depletion. Being spiritually dry feels “normal” because so much of your life has been lived performing outside of my abundance. You begin in surrender with a heart focused on me, but quickly shift to dependence on your natural gifts and abilities instead of me. Learn to see your negative emotions as indicators of your desperate need to seek my face frequently and regularly.”

The thought isn’t new, but the words ring true. I am humbled and saddened at the thought that I can forget Him so easily, and go at it on my own — even with good intentions. I know that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) I also know that John 15:4-5 says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Scripture backs up my journaling, as it always must. When I push forward in my own strength — I find myself tired. Confused. Overwhelmed. Sad.

IMG_2414As I was writing this post, I was reminded that the verse from John I quoted above is the answer to a question. I looked back for context — planning to transition to today’s devotion from My Utmost for His Highest (below). I hadn’t realized before, but I was looking at the same verse — different translations!

Here is the expanded context I looked up from John 16:30-33 in The Message.

His disciples said, “Finally! You’re giving it to us straight, in plain talk—no more figures of speech. Now we know that you know everything—it all comes together in you. You won’t have to put up with our questions anymore. We’re convinced you came from God.”

Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

When God repeats Himself, I’ve learned to listen.  Below is today’s Utmost for HIs Highest devotional that underscored my prayer time message (words in parenthesis are my commentary).

IMG_3054“Now we believe….”  (I’ve been telling Jesus, I Believe! I want to live trusting and surrendered to YOU!) But Jesus asks, “Do you…? Indeed the hour is coming…that you…will leave Me alone” John 16:31-32.  Many Christian workers have left Jesus Christ alone and yet tried to serve Him out of a sense of duty, or because they sense a need as a result of their own discernment. (That’s been me at times… and it seems harmless, even “good” and fruitful). The reason for this is actually the absence of the resurrection life of Jesus. Our soul has gotten out of intimate contact with God by leaning on our own religious understanding. See Proverbs 3:5-6.  This is not deliberate sin and there is no punishment attached to it. But once a person realizes how he has hindered his understanding of Jesus Christ, and caused uncertainties, sorrows, and difficulties for himself, it is with shame and remorse that he has to return. (Here I am Lord! I believe; help my unbelief!)

IMG_0573We need to rely on the resurrection life of Jesus on a much deeper level than we do now. (Amen!) We should get in the habit of continually seeking His counsel on everything, (I’m planning to really expand on what seeking His counsel on EVERYTHING looks like for me) instead of making our own commonsense decisions and then asking Him to bless them. (This one has gotten me into trouble more than once! He always forgives… but there are consequences.) He cannot bless them; it is not in His realm to do so, and those decisions are severed from reality. If we do something simply out of a sense of duty, we are trying to live up to a standard that competes with Jesus Christ. We become a prideful, arrogant person, thinking we know what to do in every situation. (OUCH! Thank you for your forgiveness.)  We have put our sense of duty on the throne of our life, instead of enthroning the resurrection life of Jesus. We are not told to “walk in the light” of our conscience or in the light of a sense of duty, but to “walk in the light as He is in the light…” 1 John 1:7. When we do something out of a sense of duty (or relying on our own common sense, talents and even spiritual gifts), it is easy to explain the reasons for our actions to others. But when we do something out of obedience to the Lord, there can be no other explanation— just obedience. That is why a saint can be so easily ridiculed and misunderstood. (I have felt this kind of “misunderstood” by man and it’s NOT comfortable… but oh how sweet it is knowing I’m right where Jesus asked me to be.)

(http://utmost.org/do-you-now-believe/)

IMG_3041Can you relate? In my journaling, He went on to say…

  • Overeating? Seek me.
  • Tired? Rest in Me.
  • Stressed? Give it to me.
  • Confused? Ask me.

“Not just in your journal and “prayer time,” but all day. And when you speak to Me, don’t just shoot a missile you hope lands in my earshot. Stop. Turn your attention to Me. Speak. Silence. Wait. Expect My answer. You can accomplish this even as your body continues moving if necessary… but wait for Me to answer, because you believe I will.”

James 1:5-7 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.…”

Matthew 21:22 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Thank you, Jesus, for your answer that’s as simple as my question. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief! Amen.

 

It’s About Time! Musings at Midlife

Midlife and the Empty Nest. I’m many years into both but still searching to understand this new rhythm and stride. Shouldn’t someone have written What to Expect when I’m Expecting — but don’t Know What?

IMG_1287In my experience, the freedom is intoxicating at first. You do fun things you couldn’t fit in before. The bucket list remains and can serve as a defining focus. Carpe diem!

But if we listen there are other voices.  Sometimes an edge of loneliness creeps in with the absence of structured opportunities for socializing with other parents. Often there are the added distractions of illness, menopause, weight gain, elderly parents, job shifts, relational shifts, moves, children’s graduations, jobs, weddings, and/ or those absolutely wonderful grand babies…

Time marches on. Circumstances multiply and keep coming at us, as if we’re drinking from a fire hydrant. Nothing is quite as it was. I call this perfect storm being in the sandwich generation.

Time especially has become an unrecognizable commodity.

On paper, I have all sorts of “freed up” time. But somehow my reality is that I’m pushed, pulled and distracted. Busy but without even a vague notion of just what it is I’m accomplishing. At least not in a “big picture” sense. And the clock’s rotations seem ever faster.

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In childhood it seemed there was an eternity between holidays and all the markers of my calendar. Time meant nothing to me outside the present moment and whatever was just ahead.

In my 20s, 30s, even into my 40s, I meandered through my days with anticipation. I still remember what I wore on those milestone birthdays (now I can’t remember if I’ve done laundry this week). It felt like THIS season was the REAL LIFE I had always dreamed of. I had all the time in the world.

But in midlife, time is moving faster! I’d swear I was at the dentist just before Christmas — but I’m due my 6 month appointment! I find myself thinking “that went so fast” about everything.

In my heart I’m a young mother with a family to raise. In reality the kids have been adults for a while, and the stranger in my mirror has pills to take each morning.  I’m living a favorite phrase of my Granny’s,  “Tempus do Fugit,” but I’m not sure how to respond? I feel an urgency to get life figured out.

I’m conflicted about how to save and spend my time. I’m protective in scheduling, but not sure for what purpose. Not only did I not plan for this stage, I never really believed I’d be here!

The angst makes sense not only because of my denial, but also because midlife is a major transition — the process of changing from one state to another. Beyond the family dynamics — the physical, emotional, and spiritual adjustments are forces to be reckoned with.

IMG_3000What is my purpose, God willing, these 25-30+ years I’m already inhabiting, but without an instruction manual (sounds like bringing the 1st baby home… sigh). Who am I besides what I’ve known? I know God is calling me to something else — but the particulars are not yet clear.

I’ve been trying to give myself grace in the questioning and to live in patient expectation. To be comfortable with this in between and experiment my way to the answers — allowing for missteps and mistakes along the way. Admittedly, it’s hard.

Even the same old, same old often feels very different today. The once comfortable is ill-fitting, like a well-worn glove that’s been molded on someone else’s hand. One part of me is ready to discard it to make room for tomorrow’s new thing; another is holding on to that glove, as if it is Life.

What is it I feel… is it lonely? Lost? Or a new sort of peace?  I’m befuddled. I want desperately to engage in something that’s not yet here, and I’m oddly protective of my Time, so I don’t miss it when it arrives.

Ambivalence. Juxtapositions. Change.

I looked around yesterday and realized I’ve become a stranger in my own home. A month after Christmas an almost dead poinsettia is still on the coffee table along with a strand of Christmas lights that went half dark while still on the tree. A Swiffer has long been propped in the kitchen near the ever-cluttered island counter. My bed isn’t made. But the house doesn’t mind; no one is bustling in and out. And Rob and I no longer “see it” or care quite in the same ways as we once did.

I am not this person! …Or am I…?

I used to enjoy having a well-used, but almost always tidy home. A full refrigerator and pantry were a given as we were a “hub” of activity. Meals were fed and clean sheets offered to the predictable tides of friends and family. Happy times for a mom who loves hospitality.

IMG_1418But my truth today IS different. I’m frustrated with the late afternoon taunt in my head, “what’s for supper?” It’s just the two of us — that’s not the cooking I understand or enjoy! The fridge is all but bare, save the outdated produce and dreaded “healthy” additions like coconut milk and kale — neither of which I had heard of when I was young and skinny. But alas, the battle of the bulge is lost if we’re not fighting. There is no cease fire. Culinary enjoyment removed until the next holidays or party.

I resent the dust, laundry, clutter and such that perseveres in its attack to wear me down. Yet it feels frivolous to have someone else help too often with the everyday stuff — when it’s just the two of us.

Rob left a great career in corporate America, to make a change. Am I different? Could it be OK to shift my entire focus? To let go of what’s worked so well? Is it time for something altogether new?

Homemaking distracts me and pulls me away, but from what? Exploring. Purpose. Meaning. I’m restless, but certain God is up to Something…

My sense of time. My priorities. My friendships and involvements — they’re all changing. A metamorphosis is taking place. I’ve been in the cocoon for a while — but I’m emerging. I can feel it. Life has been defined by my own little red wagon. God charged me with certain roles and responsibilities. Certain people and places. And now, my purpose is less clear.

But one thing He is speaking loud a clear… I am so much more aware of eternity. His Kingdom. Biblical Truths I have always heard but couldn’t absorb are becoming Life to me.

My world is increasingly complex and confusing — with many demands on me and my time, making it easy to get lost and perplexed as to what’s next. What’s important.

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Philippians 3:13-14 says, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

It is critical to my peace and well-being to nurture and strengthen my relationship with Jesus.

Direct answers to my question of “what’s next?” have been elusive. But God reminds me of Matthew 8:3 and my need to be more childlike: embracing patience. Being present wherever I am — in the moment without worrying about the next. Humble. Dependent.  Trusting. Expectant. Full of awe and wonder.  So much easier said than done.

To relish focused time with my Papa first and foremost helps all else fall into its proper place. He’s reminding me of what it is to be “like a little child,” for there is much there that connects me to the kingdom of heaven.

I have 52 years of His faithfulness to draw on as I trust Him. At His feet, I’m finding rest and renewal. Life. For now that — with hope and faith in the future God already knows — is enough.

All will come, in His Time.