Setting out on a journey of prayer
May 30, 2015 | My Jottings
As summer approaches and the sun rises so early in the mornings now, often the birdsong wakes me. I looked at the clock this morning after I pried my dry eyes open and was surprised to see the time was 5:51, and the sun was already brightly streaming through my bedroom windows and the birds were singing their praises.
I scuffed to the kitchen in my Acorn slippers, fed Edith and Millie and let them out, began to get breakfasts ready, and sat for a few minutes at the kitchen table to look out toward Lake Superior. I could tell the humidity is lower today because the Lake is a deep, sapphire blue, rather than the silvery grey it appears when moisture hangs in the air. There are lilacs blooming all over our neighborhood, along with apple trees in our yard, and the pinks and purples and whites are so lovely. They make me wish I had a long lane bordered on both sides with blooming trees like in Anne of Green Gables. And I wouldn’t mind riding in a wagon pulled by a slow horse, with Matthew Cuthbert either. What a grace-filled man was Matthew. He reminds me of my Michael.
Things are quiet here this morning. Both of our Fosters are out having fun with friends, bowling, seeing a movie, going out for lunch. Sara is loading my Subaru Outback with dozens of her breathtaking floral creations for a wedding later this afternoon. So, I thought I would sit down and write a little bit about what a gift it is to have some time each day to sit with Jesus. You could call it a quiet time or a prayer time and those would be right, but since Michael has moved to heaven and a few hours in each day have opened up for me, I am asking the Lord to help me fill those hours in a way that will please Him and change me.
I read a book recently that was so encouraging, so inspiring, so practical, I must recommend it to you. It’s called The Book of Not So Common Prayer by Linda McCullough Moore, and I think it’s my favorite book on prayer I’ve ever read. I’ve longed to be a woman of prayer for years and years, and do pray, every day. But not in the life-changing ways I always sensed were possible. Ms. Moore shares her own story of how she longed to pray like Brother Lawrence, communing with God all throughout the day, no matter how menial his tasks or what was going on in his life. Her book is about how transformative her decision was to pray four times a day for fifteen minutes. Obviously one might have to make some changes in order to facilitate this kind of commitment, but her story was so beautiful I knew I wanted to try.
I’m still learning, and there are days when I might only spend one period of time in prayer, much less four. I took hope from the book because the author is so honest about her own struggles with waning prayer times over the years. But she kept coming back, kept wanting to connect with the Lord more than she had been. I appreciate that she emphasizes it’s not the rigid following of rote praying four times a day. It’s a relational meeting with God, bringing one’s self to Him over and over again to give Him praise, ask for His help, tell Him all about our sorrows and joys, to learn to listen for His still, small voice, and to trust Him to help and change us.
I have always had a small pile of things around my comfy bedroom chair for my quiet times, but lately I have a lot. My Bible and a gratitude journal have been part of my time with the Lord for years now. But in the last two or three months, I’m experiencing so much joy and anticipation as I have added some other helps.
Before I tell you about each one, I want to say — I have all these books because I need so much help, not because I’m so good and godly. Quite the contrary, I am often not the woman I long to be, so feel I probably need more assistance and mercy than most people. The sin and destruction in my ancestral family line runs deep and dark, and I have seen the evidence in myself. I ask God frequently to destroy those generational fetters, and show me how to walk in freedom, and to pave new roads of humility and wholeness and joy for my children and grandchildren.
So, the big navy blue book is my Bible, given to me by Michael and my children many years ago. If I could only have one book out of all you see above, it would be this one. I am one of those fringe Christians who believe that the Bible is God’s Holy Word, full of power and very alive to achieve God’s purposes in us. I never knew how to want to study God’s Word until I started attending Community Bible Study in 1998, but since then He has put an anticipation and hunger in my heart for in-depth study and I pray it will be there until the day I die.
The brown book is a lined journal where I write down and number the things I’m thankful for, focusing on how each one is a gift from God to me. I’m in the 4400s now, and this discipline has been one of the most life-changing, happy things I’ve ever done. I am not sure I would be in my right mind if the Lord hadn’t led me to begin an almost-daily practice of giving thanks. Psalm 100:4 tells me I can enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving, and I can step into His courts with praise. Those are places I want to be every day, and I try to picture myself in His magnificent courts as I give Him my thanks and praise. And, yes, I do thank Him more than once for things, and also for seemingly small or insignificant graces.
4098 — A good night’s sleep last night, Lord. Thank you! 4321 — Heat that comes into each room at the touch of a button. 4406 — The way our children honored Michael and honored You at his funeral. 4472 — The baby geese at the cemetery, staying close to their parents and flapping their little underdeveloped wings — you do all things well Lord! Thank you. Such beauty.
The striped book is a daily devotional by Shauna Niequist called Savor. I’m enjoying it very much, and when I’ve gone through this one I’ll choose another.
There’s a book by Phyllis Tickle called The Divine Hours, and the concept of reading already printed prayers is new to me. Catholic and Anglican believers will be more familiar with this practice. I am drawn to this more than I would have thought, because you know what? There are some days when I know I need to pray and just don’t know what to say. I often pray “Help me Lord. Thank you Lord. Help my children Lord. Do something Lord!” and I know that God hears and answers. But I want to say more. I want to pray the Psalms. I want to intentionally, expectantly pray some ancient prayers and make them my own. And often times, up to four times a day, I reach for The Divine Hours and cry out to the Lord with something already on a page.
You can see part of a white book with Michael’s laminated newspaper obituary as its bookmark. Some dear friends recommended The Heidelberg Catechism and spoke of the riches they’re finding there, so I bought my own copy. I am going through it very slowly, and it’s filled with scripture and truths that are strengthening my soul during these weak and grieving days. I may only read a lesson from this book twice a week, but it feeds me.
Can you see the swirly, blue and green paisley book? I write some of my prayers there. Sometimes I cry my prayers, sometimes I read centuries-old prayers and make them personal, sometimes I bow my head and pray silently, and many times I write out my prayers to my heavenly Father. I also use this book to ask the Lord questions, and I might come back to it weeks later and see that He answered me. I love that. I write down who I’ve prayed for and what I’ve asked. Sometimes I write the names of my children down, their spouses, their children, over and over again, and I pray for them as I write those precious names in black and white.
And you might be able to see the dark red book with the gold cross? That’s a hymnal. Often during one of my daily prayer times (usually in the afternoons) I find a hymn, sing it out loud and make it my heartfelt prayer. I’m not a good singer but I can carry a tune (not that the Lord cares about that), and with my bedroom door closed, I look up, tears streaming, and sing out my heart’s cries to Jesus. Some recent hymns have been “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” (while picturing His protection for me and those I love), “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” while believing that He is literally tuning my heart to sing His praise, and this morning’s song was “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.”
I have a new physical malady that has reared its very unwelcome head in the past week, and I hate it. Even though I’ve made a doctor’s appointment, from what I know and have read of it, there are no clear cut answers. It’s not life-threatening, but it’s hard for me to bear. This morning I sang these words, and they ministered to my soul:
“O how sweet to trust in Jesus, just to trust His cleansing blood, just in simple faith to plunge me, ‘neath the healing, cleansing flood!
“Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus, just from sin and self to cease, just from Jesus simply taking life and rest and joy and peace!
“Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!”
And I guess that’s what my journey in prayer is all about. I long to trust Him more and more. I want to bring myself many times a day to His feet, and cease from sin and selfishness, and draw from that deep well of love and grace with my name on it.
What do you think of that idea? That there might be a deep, clear, pure, refreshing, well or pool of grace, strength, and mercy that He has filled for only you? And one for only me? That it’s there each morning for us to jump into, to completely submerge ourselves in, to splash around in, and be cleansed and refreshed? I don’t know about you, but I like that idea. If you were out walking in a beautiful forest with no one else around, and you happened upon a lovely pool with a sign posted on the bank with your name on it, written in handwriting you somehow knew was the Lord’s, would you jump? I’d like to think I would, but in all honesty I do sometimes forget that this is what the Lord offers me each and every day. But on the days when I jump in and splash around? Oh my….
I guess that’s enough for today. The dishes in my kitchen sink are calling my name. A load of laundry awaits.
But I won’t forget that the Lord also is calling my name. And yours!
I’ll be back to my comfy bedroom chair in an hour or two, asking Him to help me and change me, giving Him the thanks and praise He deserves. But only, ever, with His strength alone.
Many blessings on your weekend, dear friends…