Last week, I tweeted this:
I had several people ask me about it, and Courtney graciously allowed me to share her question:
The thing is, I don’t think straight. I am SO easily distracted. I start thinking about cleaning the kitchen but then I remember I need to do laundry and it should run while I clean the kitchen. On the way to the utility room, I see Brynna’s toys and decide I’ll grab them while I’m going upstairs anyway. I finally get upstairs and see the ironing on top of the dryer. Halfway through ironing I realize I never started the washer, the dishes are still in the kitchen sink and it’s time to go pick BG up from school. Awesome. Now, if I write it down, that’s a different story. I can prioritize all the things and usually do more.
Praying is similar. If I do what I learned in 2nd grade Sunday school – “bow my head to show respect and close my eyes to shut out the world” – I end up in trouble. Closed eyes mean the crazy world of my thoughts kick into overdrive, and when a mom bows her head, there better be a pillow nearby. That doesn’t mean I never close my eyes. It doesn’t mean when the pastor says “bow your head” that I refuse. What it means is that if I really want to hear from God, to get help for my hurt or answers to my questions, I have to write it down. Writing my prayers keeps me focused. It makes me pay attention to what I’m saying so I can complete the sentence. When the wandering thoughts invade (because they always do), I can look back at the paragraph, regroup and keep going.
If you’ve never done it, try it. Write down the hurts and questions of your heart. Put them in perspective in black and white. Once you have developed the skill of writing them down, you can see what needs to get better. Like any good recipe, prayer only works when you do it in order. You can’t add the flour until you’ve mixed the eggs…
You have to start by 1) thanking God for what you have. You have to 2) repent for where you’ve messed up. Only then – when you’ve acknowledged that He’s God and you aren’t – can you 3) ask for something. And God is not a genie. He’s not Santa Clause. You don’t get to toss a list at Him and wait for Him to deliver. The process only ends when you 4) listen.
This is where my red pen comes into play. Once I’ve written my prayers in black, I’ve got to leave white space. I’ve got to be quiet. I’ve got to shut up. It’s not a conversation if only one person talks. So I listen. And if I’m quiet long enough, I’ll remember part of a verse I once heard. I’ll understand something that moments before didn’t make sense. I’ll feel a peace that doesn’t quite match the pain of the situation. When that happens, I look up the verse (sometimes that takes awhile…that’s ok), write down the revelation or accept the peace. And I do it in red so I can go back and see what I said vs. what God said. Black, white, red. Black, white, red. Every day. Try it. Black. White. Red.
There are a lot of books on prayer and Bible study and having a “quiet time” with God. I’ve yet to find one better than Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge. It’s not wordy. It’s not hard or complicated. The whole book is barely 200 pages. At times, it almost seems too simple. But if it were easy, everyone would do it.
Try it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
And…please don’t ever feel like Courtney did that you can’t leave a comment or question. We aren’t exactly praying, but a conversation still requires 2 sides. I want to have a discussion. You clearly know everything (and more) about what’s on my mind. I want to know what’s on yours!