Carving out time for prayer
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we are filled with anticipation of spending time with family and friends, and enjoying a feast of delicious food. My husband Ray is usually assigned the role of carving the turkey and his infamous ham (in large pan with ham, throw together half liter of rootbeer, half can of pineapple juice, 1/2 cup brown sugar, jar of blackberry preserves, half can of orange juice, and bake until done – NOT for diabetics!), carefully placing large, juicy slices on a platter for all to enjoy.
The meat carving brings to mind this question: how much time are we carving out each day for prayer?
Our lives today are so hectic and busy, despite all our techno gadgets that are supposed to make modern life easier. (Today I watched a video about doctors now needing to treat “Blackberry thumb,” an injury caused by the frequent use of the thumb texting on the Blackberry cell phone and pressing buttons on other mobile devices. This does make you wonder if modern life really is better!)
In today’s fast-paced, postmodern world, time is a precious commodity, and even 15 minutes of morning devotions can seem too much. But it was Martin Luther who said, “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”
Three hours of prayer every day would be too much for most of us. But we can afford at least five to fifteen minutes in the morning, dedicating the day to God, and then “popcorn” prayers throughout the day.
What is a “popcorn” prayer? Just as kernels of corn pop quickly inside the Jiffy stove top butter popcorn aluminum foil wrapper, we can send up fast prayers throughout the day as the need arises.
I do recommend quieter and more leisurely times of reading God’s word, listening for His voice, and worshipping as your schedule allows, but we don’t need to think we have to pray long-winded prayers for God to hear our voice. In fact, Jesus warned his disciples to not pray like the hypocrites prayed, who loved for other people to notice their long, religious prayers. (Matthew 6:1-15) “Short and sweet” is good with God. Think of how children pray: simple, short prayers of faith. May we learn to do likewise!
Here are a few tips to carve out time for God in your day:
- Before your feet even hit the ground in the morning as soon as you wake up, silently or out loud dedicate the day to God. Thank Him for a new day to serve Him, and for His brand new mercies this morning. He has a fresh batch for you every day. (Lamentations 3:23) Yesterday is past; today is a brand new start! I just love that about God! He never reminds us of what we did wrong yesterday!
- As you are making your coffee, putting on your make-up or showering, getting the kids’ cereal ready, talk to God in your heart. Ask to be filled with His Spirit, His love, His grace – to walk in the fruit of the Spirit today. You might be immediately tested on this as soon as your kids run screaming in the kitchen that their sibling has their hairbrush. (Think of the “Oh, where is my hairbrush?” song on Veggie Tales, if counting to ten doesn’t work.)
- Pray for God’s protection on you and your loved ones. Apply the blood of Jesus over you and your family. (Matthew 26:28, Leviticus 17:11) Ask for God’s guidance and direction throughout your day. You will be amazed at how this small amount of time praying to God can make such a big difference in your day.
- If you have time, read a portion of scripture – a Psalm, a Proverb, one of the gospels or part of a Bible study reading plan – before you go out the door or begin your morning tasks at home. If time doesn’t permit this, schedule time to do this on your DayPlanner or calendar. When you write things down, amazingly they begin to happen. I know from experience this really works! Maybe when the kids are taking a break from homeschooling or a nap, you can go into your bedroom and have some time studying God’s word. Train the children to play quietly in their rooms or read children’s books during your daily quiet time.
- If you have to drive to work, turn off the radio and yes, even the Christian station. Spend a few minutes talking to and listening to God. Seek His wisdom and direction for your day. ((James 1:5) Ask for your marching orders for today as a soldier of Christ. Pour out your heart to Him in those brief few minutes. (Lamentations 2:19) Bless the driver in back of you who is riding your tail or cutting you off in traffic. If applicable, ask forgiveness for your own road rage.
- As you are driving, notice God’s beautiful creation. (Genesis 1:31) The sunrise or sunset. The white clouds and blue sky. The leaves turning beautiful colors in the fall. The white, crunchy snow that makes the landscape look like a picture out of Dickens’ stories. Thank Him that you have eyes to see this beauty, and can enjoy it. Feel the wind on your face, and thank Him for being alive and for His goodness in your life.
- As you are interacting with people throughout the day, really listen to them. People are always letting you know their true heart needs. Offer to pray for them when they share a worry or a pain in their body, and then really pray. (1 Timothy 2:1-5) Don’t wait, but pray right there on the spot for them. You will be amazed at how this touches people, even if they don’t share your Christian faith. They appreciate your kindness.
- As distractions, aggravations, and troubles come your way, stop and send up those popcorn prayers. This is a way of releasing your cares into God’s hands. What good is it going to do you to worry? Let God take care of it. (Hebrews 4:15-16) It’s His job anyway! Trust Him. Learn to let go and give control to Him. Conciously think of what Jesus really would do and say, and then follow His example.
- My meltdown time is usually around 5 or 6 pm, when I am tired, I’ve had a long day, and my family and I are hungry for supper (before it’s ready). Take a few minutes of time to get alone with God and pray for His extra grace and help during times that are usually a little tense (husband’s transition time from work to home, holidays, vacations, sickness in the family, etc.). God’s grace and strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
- In the evening, when taking a bath or shower, putting in the last load of laundry, laying in bed, thank God for today. Wipe the slate clean. Don’t go to bed angry with your spouse or children. (Ephesians 4:27) Meditate on God’s word and other uplifting, positive devotionals that will help you to get a good night’s sleep. Review the day in your mind, and thank God for your victories in Christ today. Ask Him to help you to become more like Him in those areas where you need to improve, seeking His forgiveness for your sins. Pray about concerns you have about your family or friends, your job, your country’s leaders. Thank Him for His mercy, protection, and love for you and your family.
- Ask God for Him to provide more free moments where you can spend time with Him in prayer. God hears your voice, and He will make it possible. (Psalm 5:1-3) You will be blown away at what a difference just a few minutes of prayer can make in yours, and your loved ones’, lives!
“Prayer is my chief work, and it is by means of it that I carry on the rest.” Thomas Hooker, Puritan