In your praying to God, you might simply need to slow down. The number one reason that people who are active in church give for not praying more is — they are too busy. Isn’t that ironic? We’re so busy doing things for God that we don’t have time to talk to God! What’s wrong with this picture? The moment we start thinking that we don’t have time to pray, that prayer is just a prelude to the real part of the meeting, that prayer is yet one more thing we have to do for God – at that moment we know that we have become too busy. We have forgotten what prayer is about, how it changes things, how it changes us, how it connects us with the most powerful force in the universe. There’s a real danger here. In warfare one of the first techniques for conquering an enemy is to cut off their lines of communication; once you do that you have isolated the troops; they can’t coordinate efforts or call for help. In the end they panic, retreat, or surrender. It’s the same with us. If the Devil can just keep us busy enough so that we don’t have time to pray we won’t think to coordinate our efforts with God or ask for help from our Christian friends. .
We’ll feel isolated. We may well panic, retreat, or surrender – to worry, guilt, confusion, or worse. If we’re going to win the battle against depression, anxiety, and anger we have got to keep our lines of communication with God open – at all costs.
So let’s make prayer the first thing you do in your day. Consider it an appointment with God as important as any appointment you’d keep with your boss or your best friend. And don’t worry about the time it takes. If you think you’re too busy to pray, then you are too busy not to pray. God – the Alpha and the Omega – the maker of time — can squeeze some more minutes into your day. Some of our busy-ness, is of our own creation, isn’t it? Some of us fill our lives with so much activity that God can barely get a word in edge-wise. Deep down we like it that way. Because we’re afraid. Afraid of the quiet. Afraid of the stillness. Afraid of God or whomever else we might hear if we slowed down enough to listen.
Perhaps you remember Portia de Rossi from her days on the T.V. show Ally McBeal. She wrote her memoirs .. and explains , in part, her battle with fame, self-acceptance, and anorexia. Her love/hate relationship with food went even deeper than the Hollywood’s pressure to fit in. It went to the core of who she was. It was not just her stomach that was empty, she was empty. She said:
“When it’s quiet in my head like this, that’s when the voice doesn’t need to tell me how pathetic I am. I know that in the deepest part of me. When it’s quiet like this, that’s when I truly hate myself.”
From her book, Unbearable Lightness.
I bet that Portia de Rossi isn’t the only person in Hollywood dealing with deep self- doubt and even self-loathing, despite their outward displays of confidence. And I suspect that there are many of us who can relate to her fear of the quiet, who don’t pray on our own because we’re afraid of “the voices” inside our heads.
We’re afraid we’ll only hear the voices of worry and anxiety – the echoes of our own insecurity. Or we’ll simply hear voices of judgment and criticism, like well-preserved audio-tapes from our childhoods. And we can choose to listen to a different voice. This is where knowing some formal prayers or being able to sing a prayer can really help us. The words of others can transport us out of ourselves long enough to hear God speaking, comforting, encouraging, guiding. And what might God say to a son or daughter who comes asking for hope, direction, and courage? Do you think God is going to be critical? Do you think he’s going to say, “Come back when you’ve got your act together.” Of course not.
These are the kinds of things that God says to His children in His Word: You are precious in my sight and honored and I love you. Isaiah 43:4. You are my beloved Child. Matthew 17:5
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You are the apple of my eye. Deuteronomy 32:10 I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and future. Jeremiah 29:11 Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for[I,] the LORD your God, [am] with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
When Elizabeth Gilbert lay crumpled and crying on her bathroom floor, praying to God like she had just been introduced to him at a cocktail party, the life-changing response she got was, “Go back to bed, Liz.” That was it. No burning bush. No great call to save the world. Just some loving words. She went back to bed. Looking back, Elizabeth Gilbert sees that experience not so much as a conversion, but as the beginning of a conversation, “The first words of an open and exploratory dialogue that would, ultimately, bring me very close to God, indeed.” Her spiritual journey took her to Italy, India, Indonesia, and, finally, home. No one but God knows exactly where prayer will take us, but we know that it will always bring us closer to Him.