Bill Hybles wrote a book entitled, “Too Busy Not to Pray.” I own it. It looks like a good book. I haven’t read it. The title is convicting enough. I am without excuse when it comes to my prayer life.
My spiritual theme for this year has been “never leaving the temple.” I confess I haven’t been as conscious of it as I need to be. To be honest, I lost it in the month of February. How fitting it should return to my focus on Fat Tuesday, the day before my Lenten journey begins.
So my busyness and my laziness have dimmed my focus. The result has been a pathetic lull in my prayer life. I pray for each prayer request the hits my mailbox or Facebook feed—at least once.
Somehow I have to do better.
Many years ago, I gave a talk called “Shooting Down Our Excuses.” My topic was study and my aim was to address many of the excuses people (including me) throw up to keep us from moving deeper in our relationship with God. Some of those same excuses fit when we think about our prayer life.
Pastor Hybles is absolutely right we’re too busy not to pray, but how do we find time to pray?
I believe part of the problem has to do with our image the person who prays. We all have someone, either in our families or early church experience who lived the prayer warrior life. They spent hours praying…and seeing results. We consider our own lives and schedules and we feel we’ll never measure up.
We’re probably right, but a seemingly unattainable image isn’t enough reason not to pray.
Scripture tells us to “pray without ceasing.” I don’t think Paul meant we’re to be consciously praying one hundred per cent of the time. Centuries ago, Brother Lawrence described the wonder concept of practicing the presence. Our prayer should be as close to us as our breathing.
In each of our lives there are ample unnoticed opportunities which could encourage us to pray. I thought of a couple just this morning as I was getting ready for my day.
First, as I washed my face, I was aware of a feeling of tension and stress leaving as gently rubbed my cheeks and forehead. My mind was pulled into prayer as I asked Jesus to help me to release the things I was stressing over. Hmm, this could work. I started to wonder what other tasks I mindlessly went through that I could be using to prompt and improve my prayer life.
My next idea came to me as I started to brush my teeth. I got excited. I could use the time I spent brushing to pray, asking God to use my words to encourage, comfort, and teach. I could be praying the psalmist’s words, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight my God (Psalm 19:14, my paraphrase).”
It didn’t go quit like I thought. Recently, my husband purchased me a Spin toothbrush. It’s battery operated. I am pleased with how clean my teeth and gums feel after I use it and my dentist is happy too. This morning I wasn’t quite as focused as I should be and I forgot to turn it on when I began brushing my teeth.
There I was manually brushing away. It felt odd, sluggish, as I pushed the potentially powerful brush across my teeth. As the awareness of what I was doing dawned on me so did the spiritual implication. I had all the power necessary for a good cleaning right in my hand, but I wasn’t connected. And spiritually, I have all the power of God available to me. Each moment contains ample opportunity to connect.
Many years ago a dear friend of mine was going through a particularly difficult time in her marriage. She kept her Bible in her car and each time she was stopped at a long red light she would either use the time to stop and pray, or pick up her Bible to read a few verses. She found both of these things strengthened and comforted her and as a result she was able to stand firm in her faith.
I think we might be amazed at how much time there really is in a day to pray if we will just look for it.
I want to be better connected. I want a prayer life filled with joy, coming from focused intentionality, not from a place of ought and should. I’m going to use this Lenten season to accomplish this.
The inevitable question of Lent is, “What are you giving up?” It won’t be chocolate, pop, TV or the internet…not even Facebook. I’m giving up my laziness. I’m giving up “leaving the temple.”
These next forty days I’m going to be more mindful of times when I can connect with God and intentionally connecting with others.
How will you be using this season to grow in grace and knowledge?