I thought I was bad at praying

I thought I was bad at praying. When Luke and I would take the time to pray together, my mind would go blank. How do I decide on just a few things to pray for? How do I not take it from something seemingly tiny, like my day at work, to something huge, like the salvation of humanity and ultimate world peace?

It wasn’t until our mentors challenged us to pray together every day that I started to learn the truth: it doesn’t matter how we pray or how much we say – what matters is bringing our concerns and requests to the feet of Jesus.

Praying together every day began as a struggle. In the beginning, I didn’t know what to pray. I didn’t feel passionate about anything. I didn’t have a stirring deep in my soul to see something big come to pass. But one of the goals was to pray for each other, so I remembered a few prayers from my high school days and I threw in some scriptures I had recently read. I began to pray over my husband that the Lord would increase his territory, that his steps would be made firm and that the work of his hands would be blessed – both at work and at home. I prayed that he would be looked on in favor by both his bosses and his colleagues. And that was about it. Then Luke would pray and we’d be on our way and off to work.

I prayed that same prayer for a while. It felt right, and based on what I’ve read in the Bible, I knew I was praying things that would be pleasing to God.

Then Luke got a promotion at work. And a raise. And things started to happen. God was indeed blessing the work of his hands throughout the day. Even at home, things were falling into place for him. He would work on something and it would take half the time it normally did. He was able to find answers quickly when he was having trouble. And his joy and satisfaction were rising. It was beautiful!

This has started teaching me an important lesson: God is listening to me. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t felt the power of the Holy Spirit rising up in me each morning – it matters that I’m saying the words and asking. It matters that I am acknowledging the Lord and surrendering my cares to him.

Matthew 6:7-8 says,

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!

I am finding freedom in this passage. Freedom and humility. Matthew 6:30 goes on to say,

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

This is all transforming the way I think about prayer. The other morning I felt the desire to pray, but again felt the weight of it. Where do I even begin? Thinking about how I prayed over Luke, how short and to the point those prayers have been, and yet how God not only heard me, but moved, I allowed it to be simple. I wrote the following in my journal –

Lord, my prayers today are that I would find freedom from stress and perfectionism. That I could surrender all knowledge and control to you. That I would stop trying to figure out the meaning of life, and would instead trust you. That I would see miracles happen in the people around me. That our community and influence would explode. That we would be generous at all times and we would overflow with thankfulness.

I poured out my heart to the Lord, and left it at his feet. And that is the point I want to drive home: You have no power in prayer…God does. The power is in our surrender. The power is knowing that it is God who holds the world. It is God who knows every single hair on our heads. He knows when we rise in the morning and go to bed at night. He knows the people in our circles. He knows our innermost being, down to our deepest desires, down to our tiniest cells.

I was bad at praying because I thought the answers to my prayers rested on my shoulders. I need to keep reminding myself that prayer is my opportunity to place my desires at Jesus’ feet, and to ask him for help.

Prayer can still be hard sometimes. But I am thankful that all I need to do is ask for his help and trust in faith that he’s listening.

Holy is your name

At times, what we need the most is to remind ourselves of who God is. To tell our hearts what is true. To whisper to our souls what is good.

May this prayer give you a place to start.

Lord, thank you. You are my father in heaven. Holy, holy is your name. May your kingdom come and may your will be done, here on earth just as it is in heaven. Please give me today my daily bread, and forgive me of my sins – just as I forgive those who sin against me. And lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.

You are the Alpha and Omega. You are the first and the last. You are the same now as you were back then with Adam, with Moses, with David, when you sent Jesus… You never change.

You plant and you harvest. You prune and you cultivate. You are the author of my faith. In you I am whole, perfect, clean, blameless, redeemed. You set my feet upon a rock. You restored my soul. Your ways are higher. Your thoughts are greater. You know all. You see all.

The heavens are your throne, and the earth is your footstool. You are unfathomable. You are everlasting.

Holy! Holy is your name!

Remain in me

Since July, my focus has been on my marriage and my relationship with the Lord. It has been the single most transformative period of my life, and I was happy and content to continue as such. However, I had some changes in my schedule come up unexpectedly over Christmas. Changes I felt peace about making room for.

In the past, it’s been hard for me to have a lot on my plate. I just haven’t had the bandwidth for much more than the basics like work, marriage, and family. It’s usually ended badly when I’ve taken on more. But having peace about something makes all the difference. I wanted to follow where God was leading.

But even though there’s peace, there’s still a new rhythm and balance to find, which inevitably will result in trial and error. I’ve gone through this before without much luck. I don’t want to go through that rigamarole this time. Ideally, I’d like to have it figured out before it even begins.

I took to my journal to try to sort it out, and the prompt at the top of the page was, “God can do in a moment what we cannot do in a lifetime. Ask for God’s favor, power, and intervention today.” So I started asking for him to show me what my new life balance is supposed to look like. Instead of mapping out my weeks and trying a hundred different schedules, why not go directly to the one who has the answer?

What I felt was a whisper…Remain in me.

img_4587I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. – John 15:8

It’s not a black and white answer like, “On Wednesday nights you’ll do this and on Friday mornings you’ll do this.” But it’s an answer that I understand and that makes it so completely simple.

Remain in Christ.

Over the last year I’ve seen the fruit of spending hours each week in prayer and in the Word. I’ve been able to handle the curve balls of life unlike any other time. My focus has been on the Lord and I have hidden myself in him. God has indeed produced fruit in my life where otherwise I would have nothing.

I felt peace, so I know that he’ll provide what I need to see it through. He’ll give me the extra energy and time. He’ll bring the resources. He’ll supply my every need.

My answer isn’t a perfectly planned schedule. It’s residing in his presence.


Featured photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash