I recently had one of those Aha! moments when the way I’ve been looking at a situation gets completely turned on its head and suddenly I can see clearly past a mental logjam that I wasn’t even aware existed.
I’ve been struggling for a long time to find time to pray. To squeeze prayer in or to carve out a space in my schedule. Then while trying to step back and look at my tendency to want to control everything and thinking about how I can turn things over to God instead I suddenly saw how exactly wrong I’ve been going about this whole prayer thing. I’ve been trying to make it happen instead of asking God to make it happen.
On one level I knew that prayer was a gift from God and not something I do so much as something he does in me. And yet when it came time to find time to pray I so often acted as if it all depended on me. And it didn’t occur to me to just ask for the time that I need.
Then I was thinking about how much I need prayer to nourish me. I am feeling underfed of late, trying to find more ways to squeeze prayer into my days because I know unless I am being fed I cannot in turn nourish my children. Suddenly as I was thinking about it in terms of nourishment in a flash it came to me: Give us this day our daily bread. Give us. Instead of making time or finding time, I can just ask for it. He is the Lord of time. If he wants me to pray, he can find the opportunities. he can make it happen. I just need to turn my day over to him.
Looking back I can see that a handful of times I’ve actually done just that and it has worked amazingly well. (Of course it has.) There have been periods of time when I just started waking up early. Spontaneously without an alarm. Early enough that I could pray the morning office before the kids woke up.
And yet in the past if I have thought to ask for time to pray, I tended to get fixated on a particular kind of prayer and a particular way of finding time and fitting it in. I wanted God to give me what I thought I needed. But give us our daily bread doesn’t get that specific. Rather, it recognizes the basic need of nourishment and then turns it over to God. God will decided how, where, when to feed me. None of that is up to me. My task is to ask and then to be receptive, to receive the gift as it is given to me.
So the other day I tried a radical experiment. When I woke up I prayed: Give us this day our daily bread. Give me time to be with You today. Give me the git of prayer.
And I was given it. Though I sort of had to look to find it.
On Tuesday my sister was feeling so ill with yet another wave of the seven-month migraine that she just couldn’t face going to the farm to pick up our CSA share. So I offered to go. I was going to take Sophie since my sister has been alternating taking one of the girls with her each week; but Sophie was incensed that it was me and not Auntie Tree who was going and her three-year old self couldn’t handle the unexpected change. So she froze and just refused to go. Bella asked to go; but I thought Sophie would be able to handle staying behind better if her big sister was with her, so I encouraged her to stay behind. In the end it was just me and Anthony in the car for more than an hour. Time to think. A peaceful get away from the craziness of life. Time to pray. A gift wrought out of my sister’s pain, true—worse, she ran out to the ER as soon as I got home—but God often writes our straight lines to him using such crooked paths, doesn’t he.
On Wednesday an impossible trip to the playground turned into a visit to Jesus. Again with my resistance I almost missed an opportunity. And yet there it was when I listened to my children and had compassion on them I found that I had opened up a path to so much more than I bargained for.
And then there was today. Today I hit a wall where I thought I’d begun the day asking for daily bread, but it never seemed to come. And perhaps—no I’m pretty sure—there were several moments when I had a choice. I could start a loaf of bread and start the laundry or I could sit down to pray. But I chose the laundry and the bread because we had no bread in the house and I couldn’t leave to get some and we had no clean clothes. I figured when Anthony decided to have breakfast then I’d use that as my prayer break. But when it was nursing time Ben and Sophie descended like locusts and demanded that I read to them. And then window closed without me praying, my iPhone still open to the Lauds page in the iBreviary app but now it was time to get up and do again.
And then by the afternoon I’d just got so frustrated with the whole thing that I surfed the net and caught up on blog reading when I was able to snatch an hour of (mostly uninterrupted) time.
Maybe that was part of learning to let go. Learning that prayer is not on my terms even if it left me feeling empty and frustrated. Maybe that too is part of learning to trust. Living in the hunger that is a desire for prayer that goes unsatisfied. Knowing that tomorrow it may be better satisfied. Tomorrow I may be better able to listen. Tomorrow I may be better able to receive what God is trying to give me. Yes, I’ll definitely ask again tomorrow.