August 11, 2010...10:39 pm

Making Room for God

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This afternoon during August’s nap time I read Psalm 10 while I curled up under a sweatshirt blanket feeling sorry for myself. I haven’t been feeling great lately. Today I was sick to my stomach and whiney, at least to myself. (August doesn’t really care if I’m whining, so I’ve given up on trying to get compassion from him.)

I don’t know what Psalms the Benedicts were reading this afternoon in their noontime prayers, but as I lay on the couch under my blanket, I imagined their voices chanting the words my eyes ran through on the page. My eyes stopped where they always stop at Psalm 10, on verse 4. “…In all their thoughts there is no room for God.”

Why do I read this verse over and over, the tenth of every month, feeling conviction that those words are for me, yet fail to make a shift in my thoughts? Why do I consistently fail to make room for God in my daily life? How is it that I find myself lying on the couch at 2 in the afternoon and realize I’ve barely thought of God throughout my morning of worrying about August’s croupy cough, helping him make biscuits, worrying about my sick grandmother-in-law, throwing up in the bathroom while August brings me his blankey, and reading Thomas and the School Trip. Not one moment of thanks came through my mind this morning. There were brief prayers for Chris’ grandmother, little snippets of words flicked through my mind. But did I recognize God’s goodness? Did I pray for August’s cough or my nausea or thank God for biscuit mix? I didn’t make room.

I’m learning that as much as I read books about prayer, work to integrate spiritual practices into my life, and BLOG about those things, the only thing that’s really going to change my prayer life is a conscious, moment by moment effort to live slowly, to make room in my mind for Jesus. The practices may show me how to make that room but first, I have to live slowly enough to stop and say “Thank you,” to stop and say “I believe in you,” or “I recognize you right now,” or “I love you.”

So, what I need is for you all to teach me this one thing: How do you live slowly enough to make room in your thoughts for God? Is anyone out there just a little further down that path than I am? Can you point a little light on the empty spots in my clogged brain?

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  • great thoughts.
    my only response would be to set a watch or timer to ALARM you every so often and remind you to stop and think. once that quits alarming you, create something else…and continue doing this until you become unconsciously competent in this area. i haven’t done this, but it sounds good.
    thanks for your post.

  • I think it’s really helpful to associate a plan to pray with specific, mundane rituals in your day. For a while, because my work computer was so slow to boot up, I tried to use that minute or so of “wait” time to pray for a pastor friend working in India. More recently, both because I can get aggressive and snappish on my bike ride to BART after work, but also because my thoughts can just really wander to places they shouldn’t go, I’ve been trying to focus on something specific to pray about for those 10 minutes. I’ve also found that it’s good to connect prayer to a small chore in which I’m struggling with obedience. So, a while back, handwashing dishes each night was a time when I did some praying.

    The other thing that sometimes helps, just when I’m feeling DRY and uninspired to pray is to:

    A) Go through my day, or the time since I last prayed, and specifically thank God for each thing that I’m grateful for, even if it’s really small stuff like, caught my train, didn’t get hit by that truck, remembered this thing I needed to do, had a good conversation with So-and-So, was generally fairly cheerful today and not too consumed with things I can obsess about.

    B) Pray the Lord’s prayer, especially focusing on the sort of “postures” associated with each part. Sometimes I’ll do this regarding a specific aspect of my life (like writing), spending time on son/daughtership, worship, evangelism, generosity and content, mercy and justice, reconciliation and spiritual warfare (as I THINK I once heard it broken down).

  • Sounds to me like you do make room Micha! If by 2 pm you were reading the Bible - what a gift! Receive His grace and mercy. For me it becomes striving to realize that it is more about surrender than strife. When I admit my weakness and as frequently as a do - I turn to Him. I cannot get out of bed in the morning without saying the Lord’s prayer, partly because I know the swirl of reality I am about to enter that will take over - so I begin with Him and maybe it leaves less room for the swirl to invade! Blessings, T

  • I (and Kelly, Tammy and Taylor) recently read “Sacred Rhythms” by Ruth Haley Barton, and I loved the part in Ch 4 which talked about finding a breath prayer. The prayer that you pray with every breath. She says it is different for every person, and it is there because we know we connect with God in silence. Beyond words. Breath prayer, she says, “is powerful because it is an expression of our heart’s deepest yearning coupled with the name of God that is most meaningful and intimate for us at this time. ”

    To discover it (you don’t think your way into it) you listen to your deepest longings and desires in God’s presence. She writes much more, but one of my favorite things she says is, “The more I have prayed this prayer consciously, connecting is with my breathing, the more it has begun to pray itself in me before I have given it conscious thought.”

    I’ve tried, since reading this book, to have my breath prayer pray itself within me during my day. It is amazing…

    (And I highly recommend that book!)

  • Micha, this post ties in perfectly with a book I just started reading, “In The Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice” by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore. This book reminds me of you on just about every page! :) The basic premise is that we have been taught for centuries that silence and solitude are the best (only?) ways to practice intimacy with God, and we often see anything that creates noise and ‘distraction’ as pulling us away from the spiritual realm. Miller-McLemore affirms silence/solitude as good, biblically based practices, but also offers another perspective specifically geared toward those whose lives are noisy, messy, and crowded because they are the primary caregivers for children (Oh, and did I mention she gives St. Benedict some major love in the opening chapter?). :) I’m only through the first couple of chapters, but so far I am *loving* her insights about spirituality and caring for children. In the intro she says “This book is about practicing the presence of God, not through a prayer discipline that sustains a peaceful inner life, but rather through practices that invoke, evoke, and form faith in our outward lives.” Here are the chapter titles/practices she takes on: sanctifying the ordinary, pondering, taking children seriously, giving, doing justice, playing, reading, blessing, and letting go. Again, I am not very far into it, but so far it seems right in line with the idea of “ora labora” / prayer is our work and our work is prayer…

    To get back to your post, I have 2 responses:

    1. Oh man, can I relate! Hence, my being drawn to aforementioned book. :)

    2. When you look back over your day and see that your mind has been mostly devoid of God-focused thoughts, do you also see that your hands have been doing all sorts of God-focused work (and I use the word ‘work’ in its best sense here)? Sometimes I wonder how much my consciousness matters. I mean, I know it does matter. But maybe it matters less than I think it does, if that makes any sense. Grace and peace to you sister.

    • Haley,
      Just noticed your reply right after I posted below…Thank you! That book looks like the mother manual I’ve been longing for. You’re going to have to do a guest post book review once you’re finished reading it. Love the chapter titles. Blessings, friend.

  • Ah, friends. Thanks for your encouragement to receive mercy (Tracy!) and all of your thoughts on how you remind yourselves of God’s presence. I like the idea of mundane rituals reminding us to pray and I also love what you had to say, Andrea, about breath prayers. I’m putting Sacred Rhythms on my wish list.

    Thanks everybody!

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