Prayer: Laying Out The Pieces

 

Psalm 5v3Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Lately I’ve been struggling with prayer.

I think it’s something most of us go through from time to time.  Specifically, I’ve been struggling with finding the balance between spontaneity and discipline.

In many ways, I like the idea of a prayer journal- keeping a record of my prayers and God’s answers.  It is encouraging to have something like that to look back on and remember what God has done.  It’s too easy though for praying through a list to become dull and dry- just another thing to do each day.

And sometimes it feels that I am just trying to give God a to-do list, telling him what outcome I would like in a situation: help me with this, heal this person, change these circumstances…

There has to be more to it than that.

But when I dispense with the list and make prayer more spontaneous, it just doesn’t happen often enough.  When I do pray without an agenda, it is better, and it feels more authentic, but distractions crowd in and prevent it from happening as often as I’d like.  I feel that I’m missing out people and situations I should be praying for.  I say I’ll pray for someone and I do- once- but I’d like to be more disciplined in continuing to pray for them.

Finding the balance is not easy.

There was a moment of insight this week though, where God seemed to address my struggle.

Incidentally it came at a prayer meeting of a bunch of people, mostly in their 80s, who had been gathering together for prayer once a month for over 60 years!  That is commitment and faithfulness to prayer!

I had been invited along to share about a ministry I am involved in, and I was blessed so much by listening to them pray.

I was struck by the gratitude and the selflessness that characterised their prayers, and how they seemed to pray and bring their concerns before God in a way that went far beyond just “telling God what to do.”

The real moment of insight though came when one of them read out Psalm 5 from The Message.  A phrase near the beginning grabbed my attention so forcefully that I hardly heard the rest of the Psalm for playing it over in my mind, trying to think about what it meant and how to live it out.

Psalm 5v3

There are so many things I love about this verse.

It captures the discipline of praying every morning, laying out all the pieces of our lives and bringing each one before God, but it also captures the spontaneity in that it’s not at all dry and dull.  It’s not approaching God with a fixed idea of what the outcome should be, or just automatically praying through a list, but it is coming with humility and openness.

I love the image of presenting the pieces of our lives as an offering to God- laying them on the altar, surrendering them- and then watching expectantly to see how he will answer.

It’s a powerful reminder that it’s not our prayers that make the difference but the God we’re praying to.  It’s not about praying our best prayers so that God will bless our relationships and activities.  It’s about surrendering our lives to God and seeing what he will do with them, and it’s important to do that regularly- I know how easy it is to hand situations over to God only to quickly take them back again.

So my challenge for this week, to myself and to you too if you’d like to join me, is to try this approach.

Laying out the pieces, watching for the fire to descend, waiting expectantly to see what God will do.


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29 thoughts on “Prayer: Laying Out The Pieces

  1. What a beautiful verse and the perfect description of what I try to do each morning. I start with a gratitude list, then copy a promise from the Bible into my journal, and then I just chat with God on paper. Sometimes I vent, sometimes I pray specifically for someone, sometimes I just tell him about all I have planned for the day and ask him to guide me.

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  2. I love this! I have had that same struggle. Prayer is talking to my Father, and does that involve a list, I asked myself. But without some structure I tend to drift. I don’t suggest possible ways God could answer much any more – I figure He can work that out. 🙂 I think, too, of that list of people in Hebrews 11, and how some died in faith even though they didn’t receive their answers in their lifetime – yet they still clung to Him in faith. Such a good point that it’s not our faith or the form of our prayers, but the One we’re praying to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Barbara! That’s such a good point that God can figure out how to answer our prayers on his own! And I agree, Hebrews 11 is a great encouragement to keep going even when we don’t see the answers.

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  3. A very powerful verse & such a poignant reminder! That God is the one who controls the fire of our prayers & lives!

    God has a theme going again! You may enjoy my post “Wisdom…from a 10 year old boy?”

    Thank you Lesley!
    Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lesley, that prayer meeting you attended is such a beautiful picture of faithfulness! And the idea of laying out the pieces of our lives on the altar is a great visual too. You’re right–it’s not the format or content of our prayers that make the difference; it’s the God that we’re praying to. I also enjoyed reading the comments above mine; they are all good reminders that we’re all unique people with unique ways of communicating with our heavenly Father! 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Lois! Yes, it’s great to learn from other people’s experiences to find new ideas but also to appreciate that we all connect with God in different ways.

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  5. I love the idea of laying out the pieces and watching what God can do. I go through seasons as well when I’m disciplined to pray through a list and then seasons where I don’t. I’m currently in a more spontaneous season. It’s very freeing, but I’m not sure I’m covering everything without my list. 🙂 I know God knows!

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  6. All of my thoughts seem to be focusing on prayer – and my needy prayer life – lately. This is one more, insightful, piece of wisdom. I agree – finding the balance between spontaneous dialogue and purposeful prayer is a hard one.

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  7. Lesley, yes yes! You’ve put thoughtful words to what many of us struggle with, what prayer looks like in our lives. The less I think of it as a discipline and more of an invitation to relationship, the more I’m compelled to continue the conversation with my Father that started decades ago. It’s often a constant flow these days.

    But oh to pray with great saints. That is always a humbling uplifting experience.

    Thanks for taking us there today, friend …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Linda! Yes, seeing it as an invitation to relationship makes a big difference- and learning from those who have been praying for so many years is such a privilege!

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  8. Good afternoon, Lesley. What a powerful verse to guide us in prayer. Thank you for sharing your struggle too. Just spoke with someone yesterday. We were in awe of how much we change when we commit to prayer. Have a blessed evening, Julie

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  9. I’ve never read Psalm 5 in The Message before, but you are sending me scrambling for my Message Bible. That particular psalm has had special significance for me since I was a young adult, singing it with my fellow college students, and claiming its truth for me.

    I hear you about the struggle with prayer. I waffle back and forth between lists and index cards, spontaneity and structure. Likely, I’m looking for a Method for all Seasons (capitalized like Winnie the Pooh), when what I really need to be looking for is Words for One Day at a Time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Michele! Yes, I think we can try to look for a “magic solution” that is always going to make prayer easy when actually it’s about relationship and so different approaches can be helpful at different times.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this reflection on prayer. I am in the process of trying several new things in my prayer time. Part of the reason is I am re-reading Mark Batterson’s. CircleMaker. Also, I find that God is calling me to just sit in silence with Him before I do anything else. It’s been a work-in-progress for sure.

    These words today really stood out: It’s a powerful reminder that it’s not our prayers that make the difference but the God we’re praying to. Whew! I need to sit and process that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing a bit about your prayer time, Mary! It’s always really interesting to hear about people’s different approaches. Time to sit in silence and just be with God is important, even if it’s not always easy to do!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. “Incidentally it came at a prayer meeting of a bunch of people, mostly in their 80s, who had been gathering together for prayer once a month for over 60 years! That is commitment and faithfulness to prayer!”
    So much wisdom gathered together in prayer. Thank you for mentioning our older saints. I truly value cross-generational fellowship. Also, I love the insight you received from Psalm 5:3 The Message
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh, I just love this verse! Laying the pieces of my life down and waiting expectantly for God to “light the fire” reminds me of the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel, and how he prayed for the Lord to show up in a mighty way–and he sent down fire from heaven and displayed His awesome glory! Thanks for encouraging us to pray with dedication, spontaneity, and with fierce expectation!

    Liked by 1 person

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