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I really don’t pray enough.
Of course that is the world’s greatest understatement. There are many reasons why I don’t, but the top three which come to mind are:
* I like to feel in control. Prayer is the ultimate exercise in loss of self-control. My life is no longer being controlled the way I would like, but guided by the One who knows me better than I know myself.
* I am a task-oriented person. Prayer cannot be ticked off a ‘to-do’ list, usually has no immediate tangible results, and doesn’t result in a tidier house. I need to remember that it is a million times more important than things which seem more urgent and pressing.
* I am an activist. Prayer seeks the divine hand of God to impact situations in an infinitely more powerful way than our own intervention would ever do. Still, it is tempting to come up with solutions myself, to look for the ‘logical’ answer to a situation, and to set my own deadlines so that I’m not left waiting till the last moment for the answer.
I’ve written on this blog about the tricky discipline of Bible reading when you have small kids as well as how you meet together with other Christians as a busy parent, so here I’m going to look at prayer.
Is parenthood a good time to try and develop a better prayer life?
I’m not keen to stay where I am, to merely shrug my shoulders and go “Oh well, that’s me, I’m just hopeless at prayer”.
But is early parenthood really the right stage of life in which to try training myself into better prayer habits? Two recent thoughts make me say a resounding, if slightly nervous, “yes”.
Do less, pray more
This has been running through my head for several weeks. God is challenging me to see my weekly commitments as prayer-commitments too, whether they be to do with family, friends or church.
He’s not saying “Do this in a few years, when life’s calmed down a bit” – He’s saying do it NOW, before I squeeze Him out of those things I expect Him to automatically ‘bless’.
A day of prayer
Recently I’ve been reading Jackie Pullinger’s Chasing the Dragon and, although I could go on all day about what a fantastic read this is, the story which held the most challenge for me was when she took a fellow Christian on a prayer walk through Hong Kong for a day.
He was sceptical – but she prayed as she walked, on the buses, in the drug dens…just on that one day several people came to faith!
Is this a way of life I could train myself to develop?
Paul talks about ‘praying without ceasing’…for a young parent, with little time to stop and pray for hours at a time, this could be a godsend!
So how do we approach prayer when we’re busy and tired?
I am no expert.
Well, I’m an expert in being busy and tired – that much is true.
But I’m no expert in prayer. I am, however, desperate to continue being a disciple of Christ, despite the pressures of having small children.
John Ortberg suggests we should be ‘training’ rather than ‘trying’. This makes a lot of sense. Have you ever tried to lose weight? Tried to go for a run? You may have had some success, but ultimately when we try to do something, the focus is on a point which we haven’t yet reached (a goal weight or a running time), and therefore we’re bound to feel like we’ve failed.
When we’re in training, however, the focus is still on where we would like to be, but there is an understanding that we can’t fast forward to that point immediately. We realise we can’t lose three stone overnight, but we know that if we train ourselves into different eating habits, more exercise, etc, then that overall goal is more than possible.
So I’m applying this principle to my prayer life. I am not discouraged when I have a busy day and pray little. But I’m in training for a more disciplined life of prayer.
How to pray as a busy parent
Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
As I ‘train’ to live a life of prayer-on-the-go, I figure I will start with the times when I am pushing the buggy. As a prompt, I have attached this band to my buggy handle:
It says ‘pray without ceasing’, and reminds me to pray (if not conversing with Mister or anyone I might be walking with).
Great. A reminder. But what do I pray for? Baby-brain kicks in, and if I wasn’t in training then I’d have nowhere to start.
But I am – so my decision is that my buggy prayers will focus first on whoever is in the buggy. Next, I will pray for wherever we’re going, whatever we’re doing, and the people we’re likely to meet. Once I’ve done that, we may be at our destination – if not, then my praying brain has usually been warmed up sufficiently to remember other prayer needs.
Bored of prayer? Then try a board of prayer!
I am a visual learner…images help me to concentrate. So I made a prayer board. Pun courtesy of my husband.
I’ve been wanting to make a prayer board for ages…finally, the planet of Spare Time has aligned itself with the planet of “Eventually-got-a-noticeboard-on-Freecycle”, whilst the moons of “Got-round-to-printing-off-some-photos” and “Collected a few prayer letters” have collided…and it’s done.
It displays photos of family, friends and godchildren we are praying for. There are pictures, logos and prayer points for the organisations we support. There is space to add new prayer requests.
It’s a helpful place to keep prayer letters where they’ll actually be seen, read, and hopefully prayed through. It stimulates my weary mind when I know there is stuff to be praying for, but can’t remember exactly what.
Effectively, it makes better use of my (limited) prayer time, as I can launch straight in, rather than spend three minutes trying to remember what I’m meant to be praying for, then get interrupted by a waking child or an incident involving wee.
It’s also totally fab for encouraging Mister to pray! He loves looking at the pictures of his friends and family, and praying (or asking me to pray) for them.
God made you…YOU!
My friend Hannah reckons a lot of it comes down to recognising what type of people or pray-ers God has made us.
If you’re an activist (me), then perhaps doing something, and then using that as a prayer stimulus, is the way to go. Her example was: buy a box of chocolates, then pray about who to give them to. If you’re a prophetic pray-er, then you could commit to praying prophetically for a specific person.
As Hannah says, “If we work within our gifts to start with then perhaps it will open paths for different types of prayer”.
I have so far to go – and am grateful for God’s grace which allows me to fall, and even to never pray at all. But what incredible things might we see happening in our cities, in our countries and all over the world, if we allowed ourselves to be changed through committed, passionate and sacrificial prayer?
Am I opting out, just because I have young kids?
They’re 100% a part of it.