I find that when I sit down to pray, I often feel like it's an obligation, something I need to get over with so I can move on with my day. I always want to start my day off with some quiet time, and when I don't I'm always sorry, but it shouldn't feel like so much of an obligation. In my opinion, Christian leaders oftentimes make too much of a fuss over getting it right--like it's a 1-2-3 step process, when in my life it isn't. When I pray during my quiet time, I feel this pressure to remember everyone on my prayer list, to thank God for everything that is good and then some that is not-so-good, to not forget to praise Him and last but not least to remember to ask for something "Godly", like more peace, or extra patience, or a little more joy, or a little boost of kindness.
Of course, all of these are important elements in prayer, but I tend to find that my quiet times ebb and flow with the currents of my life. The other day I read something that stopped me in my tracks.
It was a challenge to sit quietly and listen to God.
Oh. Hmmm. I talk quite a bit but listening isn't really what I do best.
I find that when I quit talking and try to start listening, my mind begins to wander. I'll start thinking about painting a room, then jump to wondering why one of my kids is acting a certain way, then to what to have for dinner tonight. I can't seem to focus on listening. I don't really know how to focus on listening to an inaudible voice.
I've tried meditation, which is an excellent way to memorize verses but not so much a way to listen to God. When I meditate, I repeat a verse over and over in my head--but I can do that while also doing the dishes and the laundry. If God is trying to talk to me, I think the distractions of my life often override any sort of conversation we could be having, and I'm back at square one: a busy, restless mind.
I was intrigued by this challenge of sitting quietly. And listening. It somehow seems less like an obligation and more like something I want to do. How exactly does one sit quietly and listen to God? For me, I have to purposefully choose to ignore all the distractions that present themselves to me. I also have to purposefully and carefully choose my time. Obviously, right when my kids get home from school isn't the best time to be trying to sit quietly and listen! Then I ask God to help me practice and enjoy stillness and quiet.
The other day when I read the challenge, I decided to see what I could do. It was 2:26, but the bus comes at 2:27, so I figured I could try to be still for at least a minute, right? I wanted to commit to 5 minutes like the prayer proposes, so I prayed that God would give me 5 minutes, even knowing the bus was coming, and honestly not really believing that God would even hear that prayer. I prayed the following suggested prayer* as a way to get started, and I'll share it here: Dear Lord, my soul is having a hard time being still. I lay down my resistance to silence, and commit to five minutes of silence with You for the next month. I praise You in advance for what You are going to say to me in the silence. I thank You for the rest only You can give. In Jesus' Name, Amen. Then, I meditated on this verse: "But I have stilled and quieted my soul..." (Psalm 131:2). And the most amazing, beautiful thing happened! I could feel my soul actually rest. I felt God's peace enter into my heart. I felt...still. Quiet. At rest. I heard a breeze rustling through the trees, along with the most beautiful silence I've ever heard. It was almost as if my mind, along with my body, was collectively sighing the most satisfying sigh ever.
I would highly recommend this to anybody and everybody.
There is none more satisfying than God's peace. My soul is often restless and parched, searching for "that thing" that will satiate my soul. And even though I have an ongoing conversation with God, it's usually me doing all the talking. I need the complete and total calm of God.
Oh, and the bus?
It dropped my kids off at 2:31.
*from the Proverbs 31 ministries devotions page. Devotion called "Silencing Our Soul" by Wendy Pope