I don’t know when exactly I stopped praying. Just that, gradually, in the exhaustion and life changes of new motherhood, I stopped regularly reaching out to God.
I knew I needed God. Boy, did I need him. I was a mess. An exhausted, weepy, milk-leaking time bomb of a woman.
But other than frequently asking God, “Are you sure you meant me to be a mother?Really, really sure?Because I’m not at all convinced that I’m the right one for the job,” I wasn’t managing a whole lot of prayer.
I wanted to have quiet time with God, but many days I couldn’t even seem to find the time to take a shower. At night, during the three seconds between my head hitting the pillow and sleep overtaking me like an oncoming trailer truck, I would think, Oh I didn’t pray today. Again.
Part of the problem was my limited idea of prayer as this hour you spent with God very early in the morning. I constantly felt guilty for not doing this. Praying first thing in the morning is a beautiful way to greet the day, and I know that it works well for many, but at this stage of my life, the thought of getting up earlier than my lark of a baby was daunting, to say the least.
So I was thrilled to discover a prayer ideal for praying at night.
It’s an ancient Ignatian prayer called the Examen, and since it is an examination of your day, it makes the most sense to pray it at nighttime.
First, you reflect on where you felt closest to God in your day.
Second, you think of when and where you felt furthest from God.
Finally, you ask God for forgiveness for any ways in which you strayed and ask for help in doing better.
I love this prayer. Often I go through the three steps fairly quickly and then fall asleep. Other times I find myself lingering with God in thanks for something or working through a time when I messed up. It is so joyful to reflect about those times in which I feel close to God, which for me usually come when I am with my children or in fellowship. And I find that I don’t even dread thinking about those times when I have gotten angry (usually also with my children) or otherwise erred because I am asking forgiveness and resolving to do better. I actually find myself looking forward to these nightly strategy sessions with God.
Yes, I am still exhausted when I fall into bed at the end of the day, but having this agendafor my prayer makes it so much easier to do it rather than just feel guilty about it. (How much time do we waste feeling guilty about NOT praying?)
When it comes to prayer, I don’t think God cares much whether we do it at night or in the morning, just that we do it.
I still pray the Examen at night before I fall asleep, and I still get to be woken up in the morning by my early-rising boys leaping into my bed and snuggling into my arms. And that is a beautiful way to greet the day.
In the comments please share your tips or favorite way to pray. We will choose THREE winners to receive a copy of Julia’s book Mom Seeks God. You have until Friday, April 7. Or you can purchase Mom Seeks God today.
Julia Roller is the author of Mom Seeks God, the story of her journey to reconnect with God through ten essential spiritual practices that she did her best to fit into the chaotic life of a mom with small children. She lives in San Diego with her husband, two sons, and miniature dachshund.
Today: Check in with God with some concentrated prayer and meditation. (Talking to God, and then listening to Him.) Even if it is just for 10 minutes, get quite with God listen for His direction when it comes to your goal.
My husband Roger and I had just landed at Tampa International Airport. While the purpose of our travel was to visit Roger’s parents, we decided to sneak in some “couple’s time” before heading to the family reunion.
Roger had booked a romantic hotel on the beach only two miles from the airport. Since airlines do not provide meals anymore, our combined food intake for the cross-country journey from California consisted of three bags of peanuts and a half a box of Altoids I rescued from the bottom of my bag. We were anxious to stow our suitcases at the hotel and head out for our beach-side dinner.
As we picked up our rental car, I was eager to try out the new navigational system Roger just bought me. You see, I have a tendency to get lost while I am driving… even in areas I have been to several times. Roger said he bought the new GPS system for my safety. Really, I think he got tired of guiding me in like an air traffic controller every time I was more than three miles from the house.
I love my new mapping device – with one tiny exception. When you first turn on the display, Maggie (our pet-name for our electronic guide) needs about 15 seconds to figure out where the satellite is. This process goes much faster if you stay put. If you start to drive, it could take up to whole two minutes for her to figure out where you are.
I have never been known as a patient woman. Even 15 seconds is about 14 seconds too long. Growing weary of waiting I asked Roger, “Can’t we just get going and it will catch up with us.” Roger knew the general direction of the hotel, so we hit the road. Our destination was only a couple of miles away. What could go wrong?
After a few minutes, and a turn on to an onramp, Maggie, finally came blinking to life with directions and distance … 22.2 miles!
How did our “couple of miles away” hotel turn into a 22 mile trek? That is when I discovered something I had never experienced in California called a “causeway.”
A causeway is a road that goes over a body of water. Like the body of water between the Tampa International Airport and St. Petersburg, Florida. Because there tends not to be a convenient place to turn around while traveling over water, and the fact our car was not Herbie the Love Bug with the ability to float, we were stuck going the whole distance over the causeway. And back – 22.2 miles round trip.
If we had only taken the 14 extra seconds to wait for directions – instead of going off on our own – we would have saved time, aggravation and grief.
Soon after our ill-fated trip, I was doing my morning devotionals and this verse popped out at me: It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. – Proverbs 19:2
Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
Traveling with Maggie is a lot like figuring out the path God wants you to follow for your life and for your goals. The parallels show up for me almost every time I get lost. OK, almost every time I leave the house.
Gifts of the Maggie #1 You will be much better off if you wait for directions.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. – Proverbs 16:3
As women, we don’t have an excess of time or energy to be heading off in the wrong direction while chasing after our dreams. We need a much simpler, direct route. Time and commitment spent up-front praying and listening to God for direction will always be rewarded down the road.
Sometimes in my enthusiasm to get closer to my goals, I have an “Act Now, Pray Later” attitude. I get impatient and want to get going with all the plans and dreams I have for my life – now. When I act out of desire, enthusiasm, or trying to simply check things off my list, I usually end up wasting time, energy and emotion.
Like Maggie, God has a lot of rewards for those who wait on direction from Him. When I pray before I act, I may not have clear direction all at once. What I can be sure of is the fact that I have put my plans before God. I am honoring Him first in everything I do, every plan I make.
Gifts of the Maggie #2 You don’t need to know every turn that is coming up – you just need to know what your next step is.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34 Don’t ever try to give me directions over the phone. I am good for about two turns and then my brain starts to think about the Discovery Channel special I saw last night, or tries to figure out when the cute pink bag I saw at the mall might go on sale. When I get directions all at once, trying to hold everything in my head about the next eight turns I need to make it is almost always a guarantee I am going to get hopelessly lost, confused, frustrated and off-track. The beauty of Maggie is that she only gives you the next turn you have to make.
As busy women, we can get bogged down by the magnitude of all we have to do. If we start to look too closely at all is involved in having a rewarding career or raising great kids and pursuing our dream, it would be very easy to get completely overwhelmed.
A better approach is to take each day as it comes. Planning for the future is great. Worrying about it will get you nowhere. Keep your final destination in mind, and concern yourself with the turn just ahead of you. God is the only one who can see around the corner.
The other benefit of just focusing on the turn right in front of you, and not worrying about the next seven that are coming up, is getting to enjoy the ride. When you have a dream that is bigger than yourself, there are many opportunities to step out in faith and see God’s hand working in your life.
I tend to miss the miracles in the moment when I am worrying about what has to happen next month. Just concentrate on the next turn and enjoy the ride.
Gifts of the Maggie #3 Trust the directions- even if they are different than what you expect. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21
Sometimes for fun, I will check out Maggie’s directions to a familiar place, just to see if she has a different way of getting there. Often times, she will have a shortcut I didn’t know about, or there is a new road I had yet to discover. I have learned a lot by going in different directions than I originally thought.
Today, I just want you to spend some time checking in with God. Am I going in the right direction? Do you want me to press forward on something, or wait? Learning to be sensitive to God’s leading is a skill we can develop. Tell us in the comments below how you are going to stop and spend time with God today and everyday. Is it a coffe date alone, during the kids nap time, getting up earlier, or during a lunch break? If you feel led to do so share with me what God is directing you to do, press on, wait or be still.
What do you want from me? Knowing God’s Will for all the parts of your life
Today: Spend time reflecting on the ways you have sensed God’s direction pursuing your goal. Your project for today is to write down all the ways that God has confirmed you working on this particular goal.
Whether it’s cleaning out a closet or walking a 10K for clean water in Africa, you have been nudged to put this goal “out there”. For me, the exercising 5x a week is easy – I want to finally figure out how to honor this body God gave me.
Maybe yours is simply wanting to bring order to your life. There was no big flash from the clouds, you are just longing for peace. Whatever it is, get a notebook and write it down.
Here are just some of the ways that God may be confirming this goal for you:
Other people you respect have told you to pursue it
You feel peace as you give up other activities in order to work on this goal.
Other people recognize this talent in you and want you to use it.
You everyday you have the same sense of wanting a change in this area.
You start to see “divine appointments” show up in your life. Meeting a friend of a friend who is looking for an apprentice in the field you are exploring. Just when you need a certain piece of equipment, your friend posts on your homeschooling loop that they are getting rid of said piece of equipment.
As you do your regular bible study, God keeps whacking you over the head with verses that support what you have been praying about.
Here is where I want you to spend just a few minutes writing down all the ways that God has used your past, your present, your friends, your family, your prayers and His word in order to confirm this goal: If you don’t believe you have received confirmation stop working and start praying.
Keep your notebook in your purse or on your cell phone and when confirmation comes along write it down.
What does confirmation look like for you? I asked my friend, Katie what that confirmation, that leading, looked like for her as decided to do a year-long mission to a war-torn country in 2004. Here are some of the steps that led her from a safe day-to-day job as a nurse practitioner in San Jose, CA, to traveling a world away working in a Muslim country doing relief work and church planting:
1. The seed of a thought is planted – Katie attended Urbana 2000, a mission’s conference in Urbana Illinois. At that conference she heard a missionary speak about evangelizing to the Muslim community. Until that point, Katie had always considered Muslim society closed to the thought of Christianity.
2. Paying Attention – Katie had always been interested in missions, but didn’t know what her next move should be. I love the advice that one of her friends gave her about sensing God’s direction: “Pay attention to the things you’re noticing because that is often how God speaks.”
Katie started to notice that more and more, the Muslim world stated to collide with Katie’s world. Between missionary’s letter home to the evening news, Katie couldn’t turn around without noticing her heart growing more tender toward the Muslim people.
3. Holy Curiosity – Katie said, “It was at that point I developed a holy curiosity,” I love that. She knew it was more than a coincidence – she knew that God was steering her in a certain direction and that she better pay attention.
4. Making the First Step – Katie attended a conference in Indiana in 2003 that was focused on evangelizing to Muslims.
5. Making the Decision – When Katie received a forward e-mail from a friend about the opportunity to serve overseas for a year, she was prepared. She had followed God’s leading all along the way and she was ready to take on that adventure with Him.
Most of you are not making such a long distance decision. But even those little decisions can lead to HUGE life change. Committing to family dinners three times a week can change the course of your family. Organizing your paperwork can lead to financial freedom. Don’t take lightly the “small” things that God is asking you to tend to. Those small things are the stepping stones to the big things He is preparing us for.
Oh – and for just a little more motivation, I love a good, printable calendar to dream on, and these from TomKat Studios are just gorgeous!!!
Tell us in the comments below one way that you have felt confirmed or recognized that God’s opened a door about this goal. You could win Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To