In this post I wrote about God's work in my life regarding the management of stress. Specifically, what God is teaching me is to pray first whenever a difficulty arrives, rather than responding with bodily stress that raises my blood pressure and changes my mood, all because I'm trying to deal with the difficulty in my own strength.
Over a full day these stress responses wear me out emotionally and keep me from mothering the way I want to, especially at the end of the day.
In response to that post, a reader wrote: "I have been working on praying first instead of stressing. I cannot believe all the testimonies I have experienced already! The only problem is I still struggle to do it. Why?":)
Well...I might have an answer to that. I've thought about it a lot these last couple weeks.
When I was nursing Beth I had an active prayer life (she nursed 4.5 years total). Three months after she was born my husband lost his job, bringing a great deal of stress in my life. Before long I was praying each time I nursed and even after the intensity of that time passed, my mind kept associating nursing with prayer time. It became automatic and the connection in my mind lasted for the full length of our nursing relationship.
Beth slowly weaned herself over several months so that by June, 2013, she was barely asking to nurse at all. After a three-week break she did ask to nurse suddenly, but the milk diminished enough that she wasn't getting much for her effort. She asked a few more times and then stopped asking altogether, with nary a complaint.
It happened so slowly that it didn't dawn on me right away. The less she nursed, the fewer prayer sessions I enjoyed. See, the nursing sessions were a fixed prayer time for me.
Now that she's weaned, I've had to ask myself the same question you see posted above: "The only problem is I still struggle to do it? Why?"
I can answer this only for myself, but maybe it will help some of you too. In my life it took a fixed prayer time to focus my mind and heart on prayer, so that over time fellowshipping with God became more automatic--less an act of my will. And because I was conversing so often with him, it spilled over into other times of the day. My mind was in tune with God--used to talking with him. It became a habit.
When we sit down for a once-a-day quiet time that's an act of our will. It's wonderful and obedient. But the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. How do we make the transition from praying at our quiet time and before our meals, to praying without ceasing?
1 Thessolonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.…
Developing a prayer habit is the answer. Experts say it takes 21 consecutive days for an act of our will to become a habit. Our minds are too quick to roll through life without thought of God, but a fixed, recurring reminder would solve that dilemma. I believe this is what God is referring to when he instructed us to pray without ceasing. He's saying: Form a habit of putting me first...of making me your first love.
Luke 10:27 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind..."
We begin to love him with all our hearts after we've formed a habit of conversing with Him throughout the day.
What did it take to fall in love with our husbands way back when? We formed a habit of talking on the phone and getting together for fellowship. Gradually, we shared more and more without fear until eventually we had to get married. Being apart wasn't feasible anymore.
That is what God wants from our hearts. That they would be so in tune with his, that being apart becomes unfeasible.
We each need to find something in our lives that will function as a fixed prayer time, whether it's washing dishes the long way three times a day, or doing laundry or preparing meals. Something.
Changing a diaper, maybe?
If nothing else we can set the oven timer three or four times a day, to remind us to pause the regular daily programming and stop for prayer. Our children can participate too, either privately or with the family unit.
Gradually, the prayer relationship will solidify and spill over into other times of the day. We'll respond to difficult situations first with prayer, because prayer will become part of who we are. We'll become a prayer warrior.
Daily Christian life is a battleground; Satan's always ready to fight for our hearts. Our best defense is offense and prayer is that offense.
I believe there really is a way to pray without ceasing. It won't happen overnight and at first it will be an act of our will, but the Holy Spirit will meet us far more than halfway. He will make us succeed if our hearts are sincere.
The work of grace that started when we first believed will prevail.
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
What reminds you to pray throughout the day?