“In prayer Jesus slows us down, teaches us to count how few days we have, and gifts us with wisdom. He reveals to us that we are so caught up in what is urgent that we have overlooked what is essential. He ends our indecision and liberates us from the oppression of false deadlines and myopic vision.” – Brennan Manning in The Ragamuffin Gospel
As of late, the Lord has been ever so gently trying to get my attention and teach me about prayer. It, of course, has been difficult to learn because of the many distractions that have been jumping, waving their hands across my vision attempting to avert my attention from what is truly important. Which is precisely the whole point of this post. I am graduating from college in 10 days, that number alone makes my stomach drop, and there are a myriad of things constantly vying, competing for my heart, my emotions, and my attention, playing on my weaknesses and fears.
Time on our knees alone with God in the complete quiet and stillness is indispensable, vital, and pivotal. That time in solitude seeking the Lord and hearing Him speak is where everything happens. It is where the Lord changes hearts, where we lay down burdens and make altars, and where the Lord changes our desires and hearts to be more like His.
I am a big proponent of talking to God all the time – on the walk from one class to another, while running, at the grocery, anywhere/ anytime. Constant prayer and conversation with the Lord should, of course, be happening and is important, but there still needs to be a time void of distraction where we intentionally are STILL and QUIET and our hearts are intent on listening to Him. Just being with Him.
Think of Daniel’s story in Daniel chapter 6 and how He fought, even to the fate of the lion’s den, for his thrice-daily prayer time. Also think about other relationships in your life: for example, you talk to your roommates on the phone and see them in passing around the house, but you still have to have regular one-on-ones with them to really hear what is happening in their hearts, right?
We know how important prayer is simply because of how hard Satan works to thwart it. Try to get still and quiet in a solitary place with no music, just you, your knees and God, for at least 5-10ish minutes for 7 consecutive days at the same time of day. Are you able to carve out that time, or is it hard? Does that time that is normally free for you suddenly fill with other things? Does your mind wander once you get still making it hard to listen and speak to the Lord? I spend concentrated time in prayer in the morning, and it is actually comical how hard Satan tries to sabotage that time. I will wake up late, it will take longer to make breakfast because of a strange cooking incident (think burnt toast, eggs on floor, etc.), I’ll forget to do something the night before and have to do it that morning; any and everything can try to replace your prayer time. You know something is important when you have to start dodging the flaming arrows that come at you from every direction and try to stop you at all costs. Acknowledge the spiritual warfare and fight it with Truth.
One thing that the Lord has been showing me within the topic of prayer, other than the general importance of it, and the heart of the thing that I really want to share with you today, is that I am too often the main subject of my prayers. During this time of job-hunting and closure on the most intense, painful, yet amazing four-year growth period that is also known as college, in addition to just living life, the Lord has brought to my attention that I am constantly hyper-focused on my life and myself.
The Lord has reminded me of the importance of turning my eyes from myself and onto Him. He, in turn, redirects my prayers to lost people, hurting people around me that I see every single day, my family and friends who need prayer. As a result, I am less worried about my future and my other “needs” because the Lord has a way of refocusing my eyes and readjusting my skewed perspective. And man, let me tell you how freeing it is to walk with my eyes lifted instead of focused inward, only seeing self. It’s the whole “keep my eyes above the waves” thing that Hillsong sings about: our lives and our worries are the waves, but when we lift our eyes to Jesus, we stop sinking and start walking on water.
Here are a few of the questions that the Lord tossed my way that I have been mulling over. My answers to these questions have helped me refocus my heart and eyes on Christ and His purposes instead of my own worries and concerns. Go ahead: pull out a pen and paper and jot down your answers to these questions. I know He will use them to teach you the same way He has me.
Think About It:
1. Who are you praying for most fervently right now?
2. Is there a nonbeliever whom you are daily lifting up to the Lord and trusting Him for their salvation? Consistent prayers like this over time build our faith and trust in God and the way He moves, and keeps our focus on what our job here on Earth actually is.
3. What does your prayer time look like right now? Ask the Lord how He might want to grow and develop your prayer life and deepen your walk.
4. Do you truly, way down deep in the caverns of your heart, believe that God is always working for your good (Romans 8:28) and that He has gone ahead of you and walks beside you (Psalm 139:5) all for His glory and divine purpose? This is a tough one, but your answer makes ALL the difference.
5. If it is not already a part of your daily routine, when this week will you fight against the distractions to get alone and quiet on you knees with the Father?
Friends, I believe that the biggest thing that we need in our lives right now is not a job offer, a significant other, more friends, a better figure, or even more of the fruits of the spirit. I believe what we need to fight for is time alone with the Lord and use that time to pray for more than just ourselves. We get up off our knees after time spent with Him and we are changed from the inside out. The other things will naturally flow into place as we shift our focus to what is essential – Jesus. So amidst your summer plans, your internship applications, your final projects and the general stress that comes with this time of year, carve out that time to sit with Him and listen and have a conversation. He will honor you as you do, and He WILL show up.
- Mary Margaret // @margegunn
Photo: Jenna Clare Photography