Thursday, September 10, 2015

Praying for Busy People: A Response to One of My Readers

Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio
One of my blog readers, E.M., sent me a response to my post "Praying Is Ontologically Antecedent to McPraying."

I have their permission to post it with my thoughts.

E.M. writes:

Dear John,
I haven't commented in a long time however I felt compelled to comment this time. First of all let me say I can appreciate what you are trying to say. I also appreciate that you do not discredit what you have termed "Mcprayer" -cute.

On the whole I think I can agree however I just felt the need to add a little tempering and maybe some of my hopefully complementary thoughts lest some of my friends lose hope altogether.

Just as a marriage goes to different seasons so does our relationship with God I think. 

For instance when a married couple has young children they are not going to have long periods of quiet time together. However they do need some and this is where perhaps many marriages fall apart is that they don't get any during this period. It may just be one date night together once a month or 20 minutes after the children have gone to bed. The couple has to adjust and learn to get the most value out of what little quiet time they have together and the rest of the time learn to be together with their children while doing their necessary tasks. 

I think the same would go for a full-time mother and wife's relationship with the Lord. To ask anymore of her would be to ask the impossible. She can be single-minded in how she cares for her family and worship the Lord has she raises her children to follow his ways. As her children grow up and her responsibilities change she can adjust her time of quiet devotion to both her husband and the Lord accordingly. 

I think you would probably agree but perhaps you don't...?

My other thought is this. Sometimes I actually find it more helpful to occupy my hands with a mindless tasks such as washing the dishes or taking a shower while praying. I actually find it easier to listen. I have heard similar testimony from others including the minister Mark Virkler who specializes in teaching people to hear God's voice. He emphasizes journaling as a method to facilitate listening. One benefit is it gives the hands and mind a focused occupation and therefore we are less likely to wander. 

In the end I still agree with you that some amount of solitude, quietness, and quality time are necessary to nurture and sustain any relationship especially our relationship with the Lord.

I'm open to any thoughts you have on what I have just said. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share.


My thoughts:

Thank you E for sharing this with me. Here are some things I am thinking about this.

1. I agree with you that life brings certain events that make it more difficult to take extended prayer times with God. When one of our sons was in a medical emergency situation that lasted for months it was harder to find alone time with God. Linda and I were constantly in the hospital at our son's side. And of course we prayed a lot while we were there. 

2. In general Linda and I encourage parents to continue to carve out time together, without the kids. This will benefit the kids, since what they most need are a spiritually healthy mom and dad who love each other. Linda and I did this by having a regular Friday night "date," which we have never stopped. I think the same kind of thing can be done with God. I encourage busy people to begin by finding 5-10 minutes a day to get alone with God. If someone does this I believe God will meet them, and will help them break free from any busyness that is unneeded.

3. The antidote to spiritual burnout is time with God. I see pastors burning out who have taken little or no time with God. I see this with busy parents too. My calling is to help people find or recover or rediscover that "quiet place" with God.

4. I encourage "busy people" to step back and evaluate their busyness. Our world system does not promote solitude, and offers us continuous servings of more things to do and more things to buy, all in the name of "happiness." I think many people could find more one-on-one time with God (the kind of time Jesus took) if they looked at their "doing." I believe that, in a Christian's spiritual life, one's "doing" should come out of and be determined by one's "being." First meet with God. Then, do. 

5. Are you familiar with the spiritual classic The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence? In this book B. Lawrence prays while he washes dishes. That is good. But my understanding of this is that B. Lawrence lived in a monastery where there was a foundation of a lot of solitary praying that undergirded and fueled his praying while he was doing tasks. 

6. I am familiar with Mark Virkler. Many years ago we had him for a weekend at our church. I think journaling can, as you say, facilitate listening to God. I know it does for me!

Finally, you write - "In the end I still agree with you that some amount of solitude, quietness, and quality time are necessary to nurture and sustain any relationship especially our relationship with the Lord."

I think we are in basic agreement about this.

Thank you so much E for writing me. I hope these thoughts of mine make sense.

Blessings to you this day as you continue to draw close to Jesus,