Prayer

Prayer has been on my mind a lot lately which is interesting because I haven’t been praying much.

photo credit: Teri Lynne Underwood via creative commons

photo credit: Teri Lynne Underwood via creative commons

I will say a prayer before going to sleep at night and when I wake up but both total less than a minute. Most of the time they are followed by a deep breath. In the morning it’s a breath trying to wrap my head around everything I have to do during the day and at night it’s a deep breath to compensate for the overwhelming feeling of everything which didn’t get accomplished during the day.

I feel guilty for praying about the small things in life which are big to me. When we were in the process of selling our home last year I prayed a lot and thus felt guilty a lot. Here I was selling a home for no reason other than I wanted a better home. There wasn’t anything wrong with what I was doing, however, I prayed about it a great deal. I was nervous we were going to make a mistake. Things couldn’t have worked out any better. I don’t feel guilty for praying because I believe there should be an open conversation going on between God and myself. I should tell him when I’m frustrated and when I’m at peace. I should talk to him when I’m stressed out and when I’m content. There is something which gnaws at me about praying for a good situation I want to be great. Shouldn’t I pray more for people who are hurting and need help? I have a laundry list of problems I review with God regularly. Most of them are small even insignificant. I do have bigger issues I pray about. We all have at least one thing which constantly weighs on us. It might have only been weighing on you for a few months, a few years, or perhaps you don’t remember a time when it wasn’t a burden in your life. I find in my own weird way I don’t even want to talk to God about it. He knows what’s going on. It’s not like he forgot it was bothering me or that he doesn’t know that it’s a problem. Why do I pretend it doesn’t exist when I’m talking to him? Why do I wish that it would mysteriously go away like a character from a 90s sitcom? I think sometimes I can ignore situations and they will solve themselves. Maybe that is why I don’t pray about the bigger issues in my life.

In San Francisco last October I saw the second largest homeless population in the U.S. scattered throughout the downtown area. If I’m honest I feel like most of these people have made decisions to put them there. I walked by them pretending I didn’t hear their pleas for help.I don’t know their story. I remember seeing one lady in particular and the look on her face is seared into my memory. She had a scared and overwhelming expression which made me feel something. I saw two kids near her and another older lady who was perhaps her mom. I’m sure in that moment she felt scared and desperate. She looked like someone who had the responsibility of raising kids but didn’t have the means to do anything about it. She held up a sign on a piece of cardboard that I didn’t read. There is a good chance she is in that exact same spot right now with the exact same look on her face. Two days later I was sitting at the gate praying for my delayed flight to take off. It’s irrelevant if the woman I saw was in that position for justified reasons. She was there likely praying for help. I was looking at a watch I bought several years ago that I couldn’t afford and thinking about how I wasn’t going to get much sleep in my nice home. I prayed to God asking to get home quicker and she might have been praying for her next meal for her kids. Shouldn’t God be much more concerned about what she is going through then my selfish problems?

I love what Michael Hidalgo says,

The expectation of good things is a message peddled and preached from pulpits across America and held onto as God’s shining truth by millions. It should be no surprise, then, to find our prayers and requests are often in the direction of benefiting us. But this is misguided. Does God care about us? Yes. But this should not be confused with God ensuring our pleasure and giving us what we want. As long as our comfort and wants are the focus of our prayers, we will remain the dangerous place of falling asleep in the comfort of our privilege. Prayer has the power to change us, rather than only ensure our happiness.”

He goes on to say, “Prayer ought to move us away from a selfish way of living toward a selfless way of living. If we are honest, praying for trivial things—a good parking spot, green lights, our team to win—is quite self-centered.”

So I’m trying to not only pray more but pray for others. Pray for things which don’t benefit me at all. You should do the same.

Why Being Still is Important

You wake up completely exhausted. You went to bed at a decent hour but feel like you slept four hours. You walk to the shower and feel the coolness of the tile on your feet. You keep your eyes closed in the shower only opening them to locate the shampoo and soap. You get out, get dressed, and head out the door. You probably won’t slow down until you lay back down at night which seems an eternity away.

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Think about it. Any other moment of the day which slows down slightly you will pull out your phone and check Instagram, text a friend, or find some other way to occupy yourself. As each day goes on you feel more and more empty. Not simply running on empty physically but also empty in every other area of your life. Something is missing.

You have tried to fill it with working out or reading or playing music but it doesn’t fill the void. When was the last time you sat in silence and let yourself be still? I’m not talking about meditating. To me it brings up an uncomfortable picture. I’m talking about sitting and simply basking in stillness.

I like feeling as if I’m in control. When I fly I am always reminded there are times when I’m not in control and those times occur much more than I realize. There are helpless feelings we all experience but for me the climax of those feelings occur when ascending 30,000 feet.

I pray continuously on flights. I would like to say I’m not scared but deep down I am uneasy. Someone I don’t know is in control of the large piece of machinery and I have to wait to take off and land. I control nothing about the situation. As I touch down I always get a sense of calm as I turn my phone back on. I’m back in control. I’m not really in control but I feel like I am.

I always am still on flights. Perhaps it is boredom. Whatever the cause is, I know it is good for me. Being still helps us subconsciously prioritize. It reminds me the majority of things I’m occupying myself with aren’t important and are keeping me from what is important.

I took this picture above Saturday morning looking out on our back porch. We got a somewhat unexpected snowfall. This image is certainly all that’s left of the snow. In fact it was almost completely gone early Saturday afternoon. Life can be the same way. If we don’t slow down we miss it. We look at our life and it looks nothing like it looked the last time we checked. We don’t even know what happened.

There aren’t enough hours in the day. Some days and weeks it seems like I’m continuously going to bed and getting back up. The time between is a complete blur. Prioritizing and focusing on a few important things is the only way we can get things done. Being still helps me prioritize and focus and I know it will help you too.

I love the way The Head and the Heart put it in their song, “Let’s Be Still”

    “The world’s not forgiving
    of everyone’s fears.
    The days turn into months, the months turn into years.
    So just for the moment, let’s be still.”

What a Trip to The ER Is Teaching Me About Praying Intensely

This past week both Morgan and I were battling a cold. She woke up Thursday morning feeling it and felt worse on Friday. By the time Friday night rolled around she was so sick she was having trouble breathing. She had asthma as a child and she felt like she was having an asthma attack. Thankfully, this happened right as I got home from work. We went straight to the emergency room and they got her right in.

digital cat via creative commons

digital cat via creative commons

Once they got her on a breathing treatment we thought we were home free. She still felt rough but she was breathing better so we were joking around and hoping to get out of there soon.

Unfortunately she got worse. She had a great deal of stomach pain and pain in general. They gave her some pain medicine and some stomach medication but it didn’t seem to help. The pain medicine did allow her to get some sleep. Once she was sleeping but still in a great deal of pain I sat there not knowing what to do besides pray.

It was the most helpless feeling I have ever experienced. I have never experienced first hand being with someone you love and them being in so much pain. I texted family and friends asking them to pray. I even texted a friend who is currently living in China to make sure people all over the world were praying. My prayers by her bed weren’t pretty. They were basically, “God please help Morgan feel better.” I repeated it over and over.

In Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker, he writes this about prayer:

The viability of our prayers is not contingent on scrabbling the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet into the right combinations like abracadabra. God already knows the last punctuation mark before we pronounce the first syllable. The viability of our prayers has more to do with intensity than vocabulary.”

I prayed intensely. I was praying prayers a 5 year old could pray but the intensity was there. I wasn’t faking it. I was praying hard because my wife was sick and I couldn’t do anything about it.

Thankfully Morgan started feeling better and we were able to leave the ER early Saturday morning just after midnight. She’s feeling better now which makes us very grateful.

I want to pray with the intensity I had Friday night for everything. For blessing in my life, health, and everything else I pray.

I have been praying for several things recently and the intensity I have prayed was nowhere near what I prayed on Friday night. I want to get to that level. I know what that intensity is like now. I challenge you to pray like I did Friday without having to go through the experience.