I like routine. Structure. Order. Lists. I really like lists. I have a daily “To-do/goals” list on my Mac that I, at some point, transfer to my phone that ultimately gets written down on a Post-it Note next to all of the above. Pointless? Maybe. But it makes me feel better. Like I’m in control.
While I’m pretty good at getting stuff done, being organized, and meeting deadlines, I sometimes cling to regime more than wonder. And awe. Surprise. Chance. Possibility. Without those things, life can get stale. Boring. (yawn, I’m falling asleep already.) Dare I also say, caged?
I find I have the tendency do this with prayer, too. For years (and I admit at times even now), this spiritual discipline fell on the bedrock of the Bible verse that says: “You have not because you ask not.” That’s pretty heavy stuff (especially when it’s plucked out as a sole statement out of context).
So I make sure to ask. For everything I can possibly think of. Usually with my lists. And usually propped up with Bible verses. You know, extra measure to be sure my laundry list of requests is guaranteed the opportunity to be accommodated.
Now, praying for things and praying with lists and using ancient scriptures in prayer are not bad things. They’re great. Important. Good stuff. But for me, this process seems guided to a large part by fear—fear of not receiving a blessing, guidance, or wisdom just because I didn’t ask. It’s like I think God’s saying,
“Looks like you got in that car accident today because you didn’t pray for safety. Sucks to be you, I guess.”
“Missed your kids in your prayer this morning? Yeah, they’ll be smoking crack and in jail when they’re fifteen. When are you going to learn?”
“Did you know that the lady from church who just lost her sister didn’t get an extra ounce of comfort from me because you didn’t mention her name to me this morning? Shame, shame, shame.”
Of course I believe that when we put out our intention and make what we want known, we give God something to work with. But I’m learning that a constant babble fest fueled by fear to cover my bases and put the ball in God’s court gives me ajada. Anxiety. It depletes me. It zaps what’s supposed to be an engaging and deep spiritual experience.
I love what the award-winning poet Kathleen Norris wrote. “Prayer stumbles over modern self-consciousness and self-reliance, a remarkably ingenuous belief in our ability to set goals and attain them as quickly as possible….no wonder we have difficulty with prayer, for which the best “how-to” I know is from Psalm 46: “be still and know that I am God.”
I sense something here—a new direction.
More possibility, less false self-assurance.
More stillness, less talk.
More faith that God’s got my back, less micromanaging from me.
More surrender, less control.
More space, less noise.
The process of being continually recycled is becoming aware of old practices that may need some revisiting. Rethinking. Recreating. I’m not saying praying with lists is getting entirely tossed with the trash, but I’m creating room for a bigger picture. I’m not sure what it looks like yet. I just feel it needs my focus. And for the next few weeks, that’s what I’ll be blogging about.
Recycling prayer. What does that look like for you?