Being Present in Your Prayer Time
I’m a “how” girl.
If you ever take a look at my past Google searches, I’ve typed the word “how” into that search bar more times than I count.
When I sit down with the Bible, I’ll come across a thought that grips me and, in the very next breath, I’ll be asking, But how? How do I do that?
I like instructions and manuals. I like maps that tell me what turn to take next. I want a recipe for getting from point A to point B. I’m often dismayed to figure out (on a daily basis) that most things in life don’t come with a step-by-step guide.
Just the other day, I was reading the Bible and came across a verse about having a pure heart. My first question was: How? How do I obtain that? How do I “get” that? How do I know when I have arrived?
But, as I dug deeper for my satisfactory answers, I started to see that Jesus never laid out a map for how we would get this pure heart. He didn’t give clear instructions with lots of rules and I think there is a reason for that.
If you were to give me a rulebook then I would quickly miss the point. I would focus on the rules.
If you were to lay out a manual, then I would vow to follow the manual perfectly—never missing a step or stumbling out of place.
The more I can keep my eyes on arrival, the less I will focus on the thing that truly matters: God, himself.
I will be the overachiever. I will be the rule follower. I will be the one who gets the right answer. The most studied. The most prepared. The most black-and-white.
If I have learned anything over the years of following God it’s that more grey emerges the longer I wade in deeper. The more questions I have. The more things I wonder about. I used to think grey was a bad thing, that you didn’t want anything but a black-and-white kind of faith. But yet, God allows for so much grey in our lives. Heartbreak. Loss. Illness. Betrayal. Joy in the pit of sadness. Sadness in the middle of the celebration. So much grey in the edges and the crevices and the corners of the pictures we are painting with our lives.
Jesus never does get clear about the things we must do to get that pure, pure heart, but he does place emphasis on one word, one verb that seems to be the key to most things: Abide.
He is all about abiding.
And when it comes to abiding, you only need to break down the word and see its definition to know you don’t need a complicated “how.”
Abide means “to remain.”
Abide means “to wait it out.”
Abide means “to stay close.”
Abide, at its core, means “to continue to be present.”
This last one hits me the hardest because I can so easily wander in my thoughts when my Bible is open and I’m simply trying to meet with God. I can so quickly pick up my phone and begin to scroll. I can cut out early because a few emails I need to reply to are making me anxious. I can check God off a list for the day after a short prayer and a devotional that makes me feel better about myself rather than figure out the good and hard way to just be present with him for little while longer. I can claim “I’m just not feeling it” and close the book.
That word “abide” pops up all over the New Testament as Jesus commissions a group of 72 people to go out into the world and be light and love to people who don’t know light and love.
He tells them to “abide” in the houses where they are staying and being hosted. To eat with the people. Not to wander about town looking for the next best thing. Not to grow anxious or fearful that they could be missing out, but to stay and be present exactly where they are.
A Common Room
As I am writing this, a vision randomly popped into my head. I haven’t thought about it in a long time and so it’s safe to assume it’s meant for this moment.
I had this vision of this retreat center I used to stay at when speaking at a conference in Rome, Georgia. Year after year, I would come back to this conference and always be put in one of these rooms in the retreat where I felt permission to be unplugged, to take a breather from this world and all its expectations.
But the bedroom I would stay in would be attached to another bedroom. The two bedrooms were joined together by a common space. A living room.
What I would learn my first time at that retreat center is that hundreds of couples stay in these rooms to attempt to heal their broken marriages. They are people holding onto threads and a love that faded yesterday.
One would stay in one bedroom. The other would stay in the other bedroom. And when they wanted to talk, to start building the relationship back up, they would meet in the common room. This was the space to say, “I’m here. I’ll remain here. I’m not giving up.”
The vision I have is of that common room, that sacred space. And I immediately asked myself, Well, what if that was the only place you could go to meet with God? What if he was always waiting for you in that room? Do you enter it enough? Do you stay there long enough for real work to be done? Do you get comfortable, or do you sit at the edge of the couch waiting for the chance to move onto the next task of the day?
You keep entering the common room. You keep showing up. You figure out how to wait and be present and not fidget when the real work begins.
This is the how. The “how” of transformation. The “how” of looking different. The “how” of becoming who you said you wanted to be: that more patient, more kind and more forgiving version of you.
It’s not complicated, and yet, it’s just so hard in a world that is constantly pulling us away from God and convincing us we need to see or handle that next thing our phone is offering to us. It’s not there. The answer is not in the scroll.
This is Jesus’ hard yet holy request of us: Stay present with me. Don’t move so quickly. Take a breath in, you’re safe and seen in this place. You don’t have to hustle to the next thing or get back out there to prove your worth to a world that is never satisfied. Just stay here a little while longer and let me show you how to live lighter and freer.
Enter the room.
Let’s have a good chat, he whispers to me.
This article originally appeared on Thinke.org and is reposted here by permission.