Praying in Circles

I look up at my ceiling. The lights are off; the fan hums but I don't hear it; only my bedside lamp glows dimly as it waits for me to finish my five lines. 

Just five lines. A whole day of events, thoughts, and emotions to be crammed into five short lines. Some days those lines are lists of things done, one after each comma. Some days, though, a thought from the day takes a line and then a plead fills the next four, a prayer gets scribbled into the margins. 

Each day above the five lines are sets of five more lines from the same day the previous year. Some in pencil, some in black ink, but most in purple ink. Has it really been two years, starting the third? It's funny how the things the year before that consumed my day are still working their ways out. Or sometimes, with a year later to look back on them, they were insignificant.

Eventually I'll stop thumbing through and reading the weeks ahead, spoiling the leasure-look-back for the next night. But tonight I'm reading. I'm not putting my pen down and picking up my Bible to continue through Isaiah. I don't really want to read another chapter of this back and forth relationship between God and different nations. Sometimes they listen. A lot of times they don't. 

Typically, five lines later the purple pen is placed back on the nightstand. The journal replaces the Bible in the stack of books and I open up to where is next. Reading for a bit. My mind will wander. My eyes will scan to the other side of the room where my phone sits charging for the night. Wonder if she is okay? Wonder if he has gotten back to me? I'll pull myself back in, making the text my prayer, seeking to understand something new, something different. Maybe a note in the margin, maybe an underlined segment. And all the while, my days are wishing that I would grow. That I would dive into the Word and be consumed by it. That my thoughts would be His thoughts and my ways His ways.

Closing the bible, slipping it on top of the journal, the alarm is turned on, and the light twisted off. 

I'll stare at the ceiling and begin to pray. If I just keep my eyes open then I'll know it's sincere. 

Some nights the guilt of just laying there and recounting my thoughts forces me to sit up & get off of my bed in order to focus. I start but cannot figure out where to stop. One need brings another, one praise prompts another thought. I want to sleep. But God, the Lord of all things, my Savior for goodness sake...does He not deserve more?

Is He not worthy of more? Of my bests?

I've tried different things, different times of day, different priorities. There are periods of highs where the pursuit and desire is strong. Only to be followed eventually with these slips of lagging efforts. What is this prayer anyways? I know it's real, I've felt it beyond just a feeling and I've seen its power work in so many ways, calming the storms and shining light in darkened spaces.

But how do we pray? Jesus gave us so many examples. He warns against going on and on like the Pharisees. And then we see him spend entire nights on His knees before the Father. We are given His outline

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever.

We are surrounded with specific needs to pray for. Within our own hearts and on a global scale. Persecution faces our brothers and sisters and we are called to pray for the sick, the hurting, those in prison. But my prayers echo an internal focus, a me-complex, as thoughts circle back to myself, my loved ones, my enemies, my people. My knees aren't usually found buckled for ISIS, begging for their eyes to be opened and to know the real peace of God. Or laboriously pleading before the throne for the Africans with Ebola. Or sighs of praise when at last a family is able to flee Eastern Ukraine and find refuge westward, to be followed with earnest petitions before my God because this family should break my heart as they enter a new land leaving everything behind. 

Shouldn't I identify with that before the cross? Shouldn't these things be my constant prayer? How do I balance taking care of/addressing myself and my needs within the context of something so much greater than all of that? We cannot simply neglect our hearts or we will fail to see the planks in our eyes.

Our life, our daily happenings and thoughts are all part of something so much greater than us and more grand than we allow ourselves to see. Five lines everyday are just feeder creeks at the top of a mighty river than swifts for miles, getting wider and more powerful as it goes down, eventually emptying itself into an ocean far deeper and vaster than its beginnings. 

How then should I pray when my life is a feeder creek into something so much more powerful?


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