As a child I daydreamed of monasteries and monks and what it would be like to cloister away all day to pray and read.
I love solitude, and I thought monks—with all their praying—were as close to God as you could get.
Ok, maybe I was a weird kid. But even as a child I saw prayer’s importance.
In junior high I scrawled my prayer needs into a journal, faithfully tending that list. By high school praying had etched itself in me, carrying me through two years of ministry training and then college.
I never really struggled to pray—not until marriage and motherhood, when diapers and dishes swallowed up my time. After kids, the question, “Have I prayed today?” quickly turned into “Did I remember to brush my teeth?”
On these days I appreciate the simple prayers—what Anne Lamont calls the “three essential prayers, “Wow,” “Help,” and “Thanks.”
Motherhood showed me how I complicated prayer. I treated prayer like an end itself—like a spiritual barometer—not the bridge to know Jesus.
I no longer see prayer like a subject we can master. It’s not a game we win or lose.
Imagine if we charted and measured how much we talked to our spouses or our children?
God doesn’t watch us from on high with a stop watch, calculating how many minutes we devote, just like I don’t carefully measure the minutes my sons spend with me.
But I do take note when they choose to snuggle up next to me. I notice their small acts of gratitude and love. God, too, notices when his children trust him enough to come—not out of duty—but out of love. God doesn’t judge us by the clock, but he does test our hearts for faith.
Sometimes we forget that mountains don’t move because of heavy-duty lifting in the act of prayer, but the faith behind the prayer—faith in the Mountain Mover.
We earth-dwellers so often forget that without faith we will never please God (Heb. 11:6).
As humans this confounds us. I can picture myself in that fanatical crowd after Jesus feeds the five thousand. They can’t wait to find out what they must do to accomplish God-pleasing work. Jesus’ answer still catches me by surprise.
He didn’t tell them to go to the synagogue to pray for hours or send them away pledging a laundry list of good works.
Here’s how John’s Gospel records it, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’” (John 6:29).
Believing. The true work of God is not in doing, but believing.
Allow that truth to sneak into your heart and smuggle out the fear your prayers don’t matter or measure up. Allow the grace-healing power of belief to set you free so you can keep trusting and talking to the One who offers unending relationship.
And when we begin to remember that our prayer walk is really a love walk, we’ll run to prayer
Practical Prayer Help
- Don’t wait for quiet to have a “quiet time.” Solitude may never come, but God can calm your nerves and anxious heart when the house pulses with the busyness of life.
- Plan it. Set your alarm and coffee pot. If you want to develop a workout routine, habit experts tell us to lay out our clothes the night before. In the same way remove some of the barriers to prayer. Get your spot ready, complete with Bible, blanket, pen, and notepad.
- Carve out time. Make what Ann Voskamp calls “hard stops” to pray. I think of these as little mini vacations from work and kids—time to connect with God, if only for five minutes.
- Get sleep. Sleep might as well be a spiritual disciple because without enough of it, all the other spiritual disciplines falter.
- Walk. For me motionless prayer so often lapses into sleeping, so I pace around my house to keep myself awake and focused. If you’re able, quit the house for a prayer walk outside.