Yesterday, I found myself in an unusual situation. It was the first instance in a looooooong while that I had a nice window of time all to myself. Isaac was, of course, at school, and Abby had the happy (yummy) privilege of going to a cookie making class for kids at the YMCA. It took me a while to figure out what to do with this precious and rare "me time."
When my kids used to take naps, I would prioritize how I would spend my time by asking the question: What is the hardest thing to get done with kids around?Whatever it was, it should be done first! By using this as a priority, I tended to focus my "me time" on quiet times reading the bible, napping, or writing, rather than doing laundry or cleaning.
So it was yesterday. I have been feeling a little out of sorts in the past couple weeks and I really felt like it would be the best use of my time to have a date with God. Once decided, I was as excited about planning my time with God as I would be in planning a date night with my husband. How would we spend our time together? Quickly I landed on a morning spent in prayer. I didn't want it to be a morning of begging God to give me what I want in life, but rather some quality time spent together with the Lord. If you're anything like me, the idea of spending more than five minutes in prayer can be pretty daunting, let alone a whole morning at it! As excited as I was for my date with God, I was also nervous. What if I couldn't last for a whole morning? What if I got bored ten minutes into it? I decided to use my time to walk through the ACTS prayer I learned of so long ago:
Adoration: Praising God for who He is
Confession: Asking God's forgiveness for specific sins
Thanksgiving: Thanking God for specific blessings
Supplication: Bringing specific concerns before GodThrough each aspect of prayer I did a little bit of singing, some journaling, some time in prayer, and some time (the hardest part) in just quietly listening. The morning flew by.
A - Adoration. I find that this is the part I tend to skip over most of all in my own private prayer life. It is easy to worship God in the context of singing together with the church in guided praise. For some reason, it is harder for me to praise God in the privacy of my own mind. So, this morning, I spent my workout time on the elliptical machine listening to worship music on my ipod. Normally during my workout I am watching some brainless TV show or other. Not a terrible thing to do, but I must say that the worship felt like a much better use of time. Since my mind is not trained on the art of private worship, I had to several times pray for God's help in focusing my heart on Him and helping me commune with Him through the time spent with Him. Some instrumental songs on my mix allowed me to speak my own words of adoration to God. The lyrics of the other songs led me to worship different aspects of His glory and character. Fernando Ortega's "O Thou in Whose Presence" became a favorite of the morning. These words were particularly powerful to me:
"He looks, and ten thousands of angels rejoice,
And myriads wait for His word;
He speaks and eternity, filled with His voice,
Re-echoes the praise of the Lord."
C - Confession. This tends to be the second most brushed over aspect of prayer in my prayer life. I think that is partly because, in the eyes of the world (and myself), I'm a relatively "good" person. My behavior is usually socially acceptable. But I know that with God, the inward sins I harbor are as significant as the outward sins I refrain from. If you don't believe that, check out Matthew 5:18-48. In those verses, Jesus takes the letter of the law twenty times further by proving that it's what's in the heart that matters, and that, no matter how wonderful we think our actions are, there is always another step toward goodness that we failed to take. In short, godly perfection is impossible. God has even declared what we view as our "righteousnesses" to be like "filthy rags" to Him (Isaiah 64:6). Maybe I am not so "good" after all and the topic deserves some introspection. And so I took some time to confess my repetitive inward sins: pride, selfishness, self indulgence, ambivalence toward God, caring too much for the approval of others (need I go on to prove my point!?). I also confessed some specific sins that I know I have committed lately. Even though God knows all these things about me already, it felt good to be in communication with Him about them. There is nothing withheld or hidden between us.
T - Thanksgiving. Counting my blessings is easy and I love to do it. In my daily prayers I usually sprinkle in the obvious ones: "Thank You for my children, my husband, the financial ability to pay for the good life we live." But it was good to spend some time really dwelling on all the ways God has blessed me and thanking Him for each one. I find it really hard to have a bad attitude or feel sorry for myself when I'm focusing on thankfulness for all of these blessings.
S - Supplication. This is the one that I tend to focus on the most in my private prayer life, so much to the extent that, without the other aspects of prayer, it seems like I'm using God as my own personal vending machine. I hastily pop in my quarter, a quick prayer, a thin slice of time, asking God for something I need. And I expect results. Sadly, I understand how God feels when I treat Him like this, neglecting the other aspects of our relationship and only coming to Him when I want something. There are many instances and many people who treat others this way and I have felt what He must feel like when supplication is the only aspect of prayer which I perform with regularity. However, on this particular day, I had spent time in His presence. I had opened my heart to Him in worship, I had grown closer to Him through the transparency of confession, and I had laughed and smiled with Him in thanks for all that is lovely and good in my life. So then, when I came to Him with my requests, it was as a close friend revealing the desires of her heart to her companion, rather than as a beggar expecting a handout. I'm not sure how He will choose to respond to my desires, but I know He has heard me and His response will be what He knows is best for me.
The whole experience today was wonderful. It did nothing to make me any more holy. It did not earn me brownie points with God or extra treasure in heaven. But, like quality time with someone I love, this time with God has brought me closer to Him and I feel ready to head out into the world again, healthy and filled. Sisters, I pray for you and me that we will find more opportunities in our days to make dates with God!Written by Megan Lagoy
Author of "Faith Works"