After the 40 days
Last year I had a wonderful journey with God during my forty days of lenten prayer. I wrote a bit about it here. When I re-read that I feel so moved once again – God is so very good. Sadly, after lent was over last year I let any semblance of a chunk of prayer time totally fall aside. I prayed more than I did before lent, while washing dishes or driving or laying down with the kiddos – but nothing like what I had experienced during lent despite my best intentions and despite God repeatedly and persistently calling to me to come back to that intimacy with him.
This year as lent drew near I knew I wanted to do the 40 days of prayer again…
I approach my first morning of prayer with some trepidation. I have been away from this so long – a year – I am nervous about how my time will go. Will I hear God? (Oh I have no doubt He speaks but tons of doubt about my ability to hear Him.) Will our conversation be distant, awkward and stilted, like friends who have gone too long without talking? Will the time drag on endlessly like it did at the beginning of last year? I am feeling very distracted with all my concerns. I finally decide to jump right in, like a swimmer out for the first swim of the spring, wanting to get the icy plunge over with quickly, anticipating instead the peace of gliding under the water with only the sensations of water all around, the cold forgotten. The hour passes quickly as I talk to God about my husband, my kids, other loved ones. As my children wake up and I need to start our day, I feel content.
As the forty days progress, my prayer list grows – God is stretching me beyond any type of prayer I have prayed before – asking me to pray for my enemies, those I find hard to love, for those situations in which I would normally have very little mental peace. He is calling me to a different sort of prayer like at no other time in my life. He is calling me to prayer before action and this is a giant lesson for my action oriented self. God is teaching me self-regulation through prayer. Without my prayer time, I would be drowning in a sea of self-inflicted conflict, doubt and anger. On days when I am too distracted or wrapped up in my own faults and want to just ignore my prayer time and sit and stew instead, God directs me to pray the psalms. His words change my stroke from flailing all about self-distructivly, to smoothly treading water for the day. I am hearing God – experiencing peace in all the little and bigger things happening right now in my life and in the life of those I love when I hand them over to God in prayer. God is teaching me that one way I can love others simply by praying for them. I suspect this has as much to do with my own heart, as it does about the people I am praying for. The verses God directed me toward at the beginning of lent have truly become a living word in my life right now:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4: 6-7
As lent wraps up, I find myself continuing my quiet prayer time quite naturally and for this I am feeling so blessed beyond words that God’s spirit is working in me. My mind is blown over and over during this season that God actually wants anything to do with me, that He loves me so much He cares about changing my heart and life and that He wants a relationship with me – not a dictatorship but a loving friendship.
We celebrate Easter with a big party at church and at home. Jesus is alive! The miracle of it feels so huge this year. I am brought to tears of joy more than once. Then in the days just after Easter there is so much sadness – I am coping only via prayer as my heart is absolutely aching for others in excruciating circumstances – a stillborn baby, the very unexpected loss of a loved one, a serious accident among others. When I feel beyond helpless and upset and angry about the world we live in – I at least feel confident in approaching the father for those with broken hearts and broken lives. I know that He will be faithful to them because He loves us more than we can ever imagine.
For after all that is the Easter promise.