“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping. It does not change God. It changes me.” — C.S. Lewis
My prayer life is inconsistent. My wandering mind often can’t be tamed. I assume others have more together prayers.
I compare myself to the Pinterest mom who prays through 31 virtues for her children each month, or the Instagram photos of steaming mugs of tea, open Bibles with faultless scripture doodling in the margins, a beautiful journal with filled pages, and a perfect pot of succulents, all sitting on a vintage, farmhouse table with a hand stitched quilt in the background. After that person got down from standing on a chair to photograph their quiet time, I imagine it being superior to mine. I envy the time and beauty of it.
Most mornings, I just push to read the She Reads Truth devotional app before Facebook. I always have tea, but it’s often cold and sitting on my non-farmhouse table surrounded by markers and muffin crumbs.
Comparison is a dangerous thing, even creeping into my spiritual life. The Author of Lies is quite cunning at subtly taking my eyes off the simple beauty of talking to my Maker.
Fortunately, the more my faith roots grow deep, the more life’s challenges make me lean in to God, the less set on formality I’ve become. And there is beauty in that.
My side of the conversation has reduced. I am quieter before the Lord, so I hear Him more. I’ve experienced His work, so I trust more and plead less. I recognize His voice, so I beg less for clarity. I need Him more, hour by hour, so my prayers flow out like breaths, unpolished and free (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Not Instagram-able, but good.
When my mind can’t be stilled, when my requests are lopsided with petitions for myself, or when rare quiet comes, I revive an old method and open a journal. Dividing a page into columns, I label sections: praise, thanks, confession, intercession, petition. Then I simply make lists.
- Praise: Reminding myself who God is and thanking Him for it. (Check out Adoration Printables from Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.)
- Thanks: Listing out big and little gratitudes.
- Confession: Admitting failures and falters.
- Petition: My requests.
- Intercession: Praying for others and the world.
I’m far too scattered to do this every day, yet the intention is embedded in my heart and comes out in those organic prayers throughout the day. Sometimes though I make time to pursue the peace of pretty journal prayer time and tea leaves.
Sadly, at times my kids’ prayer lives are also compared. You know the kid. The two year old who prays for ten minutes with tears rolling down his face, pleading on behalf of those suffering from Ebola in West Africa, confessing his own personal selfishness and greed, thanking God for dying for our sins, quoting scripture and ending with a praise song.
It doesn’t look like that at my house, friends. I’ve actually argued with, and chastised, my kids about prayer. Parenting fail. Faith flop.
But when I drop the perfection-seeking comparison, I see evolving prayer lives. I recall hands held around the dinner table and morning carpool prayers.
I recollect our barely verbal four year old waving his hand for dinnertime blessing, bowing his head, and spilling long, mostly incoherent words of prayer until we say, “Amen.” (Desire.)
And then our three year old beaming, “Me, me!” Hands clasping again, eyes closing, and then, “Dear God. Tank ou. Peese help. Amen.” (Petition.)
While driving to school, our five year old prays, “Dear God, thank you for mailboxes, sidewalks, flowers, garages, signs, trees…..” (Thanks.)
Our seven year old thanks God for being God, remembers a family friend with cancer and orphans in China in her prayers. ( Praise and intercession.)
We forget confession, often say the same things over and over, and sometimes grumble. But still, I claim a parenting win. Maybe our faith isn’t a total flop.
We are a work in progress. So, I have a prayer Pinterest board, and goals:
- To daily ask my family how I can pray for them.
- To pray more with my family.
- To keep a family list of prayer requests.
- To confess more.
- To more intentionally pray for global needs.
- To pray aloud more, on the spot, when needed.
Grace plus intention. May my family, and yours, grow in prayer so that our lifted words flow like breaths. May we acknowledge that comparison is a distracting thief. And, may we accept our meager, insufficient prayers as simple communion with a God who bends to listen.
“Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.” (Psalm 116:2)
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