Soul Food

So far in writing about the art of self-care, I have mentioned the importance of both rest and nourishment. Today I am going to write about an even more important kind of rest and nourishment.

Prayer.

Rest for our souls and nourishment to our spirits.

But before I get started, I need to tell you a few things.

This is not going to be a blog post where you will hear about an early morning quiet time with a cup of tea, a Bible, and a prayer journal. I am not going to recommend devotionals and prayer calendars and worship music. I am not going to tell you scriptures that you should pray over your husbands and your children. I am not going to lead you into thinking that I have this beautiful prayer life.

Because I don’t.

Prayer is something that I really struggle with.

It’s not that I do not feel like prayer is important. On the contrary, I think it is the most important, meaningful, and productive thing that I can do each day.

I struggle with prayer because I never feel like I do it right.

You see, I come from a church background where praying out loud is a big deal. A church where, at any given moment, it is possible you will be handed a microphone and be asked to pray in front of a group. And when you pray for someone, you do it face to face or at least loud enough that they can hear you. For a quiet and introverted person like myself, this makes me a nervous wreck. And to make things worse, I’m a pastor’s wife! So I feel a lot of pressure and expectation to be able to pray eloquent, bold, powerful, and authoritative prayers.

But when it comes to praying out loud, I usually have this type of conversation with God in my head first.

“Moses said to the Lord, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’ But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Exodus 4:10-13

So what does this have to do with my personal prayer life. Well, I think that because I do not have much confidence in my abilities to pray aloud with eloquence, I carry those same insecurities with me to my personal time with the Lord. And it’s not just insecurities about praying the right words, I have insecurities about doing all of it right. Remember that whole perfectionist thing I struggle with? Oh, it’s very real my friends!

The perfectionist in me approaches prayer much the same way I approach other items on my daily to do list. I come armed with prayer calendars and devotionals, scriptures and lists in my efforts to organize my prayer life and I suppose to make up for my lack of verbal expression. My prayer topics are organized by the days of the week, and I try to pray through several calendars a day as well. It all soon becomes very routine and mechanical and then I get burnt out on my over-organized prayer life and I stop having quiet time for a while. Then I feel guilty about not having quiet time, and start it all over again, promising myself and God that I will “do better” this time.

But I never seem to get it right. I try and I fail and I try and I fail, and I, like Adam and Eve want to hide from God in my shame.

My shame of not being good enough at prayer.

I wonder how many times we hide from God while we try to fix ourselves up, so that when we enter His presence, we can make Him proud. But the reality is, we can’t fix ourselves. We can’t make ourselves better. And we really can’t even make Him proud because the Bible says that even our righteousness is as filthy rags. The only way we can ever grow in Him is by spending time with Him in prayer. Not by praying beautiful prayers and impressing Him with our words, but by coming before Him with humility, bringing the whole mess of who we are and laying it at His feet. All of our insecurities, our failures, our shortcomings, our mistakes, our weaknesses; giving it all to Him every single day and allowing His grace to wash over us, His perfect love to consume us, and His power to strengthen us.

In The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning tells the story of a young child who colors a picture for her father. She has colored the sun black, the grass purple, and the sky green. Later at the office, the father shares with his staff his daughter’s first artistic effort and makes veiled references to the early work of Van Gogh.

Then Brennan Manning wrote something that will forever change the way I think about prayer.

“A little child cannot do a bad coloring, nor can a child of God do bad prayer.”

That, my friends, is all the grace we need.

Cultivating Intention:

  • Do you struggle with making prayer a daily priority? If so, why do you think that is?
  • In trying to be more intentional about prayer, do you set high and unrealistic expectations of what a “good” prayer life should look like, and then feel like yours never measures up?
  • If you have a strong prayer life, please share in the comments some lessons you have learned and things that have helped you along the way.

Cultivating Grace:

 “A little child cannot do a bad coloring, nor can a child of God do bad prayer.”

Think about this statement. Let it truly sink in. Then make it a priority to find rest for your soul and nourishment for your spirit by simply sitting at the feet of your heavenly Father. He doesn’t want your fancy words. You can’t impress Him. He just wants to spend time with His daughter.

Always,

Amanda

This post is Day 6 of the 31 day series I am writing on cultivating a life of intention and grace. For a complete index of posts in this series, click here. To read more 31 Days series, please visit The Nester.

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Comments

  1. My daily prayer life is a big struggle for me even though I know when I make the time for it I am a better mother, wife, and friend. I don’t feel like I’m good at it and I get distracted easily which makes it hard for me to be still. I love the quote you referenced about there being no bad prayer because we are children of God. It’s still hard to get past the faults that always come to the forefront during a good prayer time. I know I’m going to be challenged in some area and I am like a child in that I’m stubborn at times and I don’t want to change.

    • Amanda Medlin says:

      I just finished the book that I referenced by Brennan Manning called The Ragamuffin Gospel. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The last couple of chapters really spoke to me regarding this very issue in my own life.

  2. Hello I am visiting via the Nester’s 31 days series. Your series is so inspirational and leaves me with such happiness.

    I too am participating in the series. My topic is “Decor To Adore~ finding your style”. I would like to invite you to stop by anytime.

    Have a beautiful day and a wonderful fall season.

  3. Oh my goodness! I wrote a post on this exact topic for my 31 day challenge last night!! Reading your thoughts was like reading my own! Thank you so much for sharing!!! Have a great Sunday!

  4. latoya @ a peaceful crib says:

    I can so relate and I often times find myself just kneeling and not saying anything because I can’t even come up with the words. I even tell God that “you know what I want to say, I just don’t know how to put it”. Then I remembered the scripture Romans 8:26-27 and it comforts me because it says that I don’t have to worry about what to say because the holy spirit will intercede on my behalf. I take comfort in knowing that even when I don’t know what to say that if I just as much as moan that my prayer is still heard.

    • Beautifully written Latoya!! I love this, “I take comfort in knowing that even when I don’t know what to say that if I just as much as moan that my prayer is still heard.” Definitely something that I think will stick with me! Have a great week! 😀

    • Amanda Medlin says:

      I agree with Melony! Well said my friend! It is so encouraging to me that I am not the only ones who struggles with this, but that many of God’s children come before Him without words and that He welcomes us just the same!

  5. Amanda, I can relate to this so much! I never feel like I’m doing it right… or maybe it’s more that I just don’t do it often enough?? I’m talking like shamefully un-often… :/ I love Jesus with all my heart and I know all the “right answers”, having been a pastor’s kid, and educated at a Christian university… but for whatever reason actually talking to Him is SO difficult! I think I WAY over-think things… I wonder why I should pray when He already knows what I’m thinking before I think it. Why go through the motion of saying it out loud/in my head… it seems strange. I love the quote you shared though… good food for thought.

    • Amanda Medlin says:

      “I wonder why I should pray when He already knows what I’m thinking before I think it. Why go through the motion of saying it out loud/in my head…” I feel this way so often too!

  6. I’m crying my way through your 31 days series this Sunday afternoon. Thank you for your openness and honesty here, friend.

  7. I really struggle with prayer feeling like a duty or something to check off the list, rather than a conversation or talking to my father.

    I think lately that sometimes as I write I am praying… as I sing I am praying. And most of the time it’s not words or full coherent thoughts. It’s just me coming to God…to be with him, even if there are no full words or sentences involved. And that’s enough for now. It can’t be “bad prayer” right?

    • Amanda Medlin says:

      Sometimes I think there are no words that can express what we are feeling. Just as my son crawls up into my lap just to spend time with me, I think prayer is anytime or way that we come to the Father just to spend time with Him.

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