on willingness and a prayer project

Posted: November 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

A few years ago around this time of year, a coworker challenged some of us to finish the year out with a very intentional prayer project, guided by a book called “Give Me 40 Days” by Freeda Bowers.  I jumped right on that one, and have repeated the same most years since then.

The premise of the book is, “Prayer is more important.”  More important than what?  More important than activity, more important than plans, more important than we make it.  Here’s how it works:

  • There are about 50 pages of introductory material that help with the mindset.
  • Then you make a list of things you are asking from Him for yourself – this is not a “Santa, please give me a pony for Christmas” deal, but the fruit of a prayerfully considered conversation with Him.
  • And you make a list of things you are praying for others – not just any old thing that pops into your head, but again, it comes from conversation with Him.
  • The above is all pre-work, done BEFORE the 40 days start.
  • Then there are daily readings, which always start with scripture.  You guessed it…40 of them.
  • Along with the readings, you make a commitment to pray 40 minutes a day for 40 days (with the author strongly encouraging that it be the FIRST 40 minutes of the day.)

The way it was told to me, before I did it the first time, was that I was to more or less put the “prayers for myself” list to the side during the 40 days, and focus on praying for others.  I noticed as I did my pre-reading this time that I don’t see that as a directive in the book itself.  Still, when I’ve done it that way in the past, it has been amazing to see how He works on that list while I’m not paying it any mind – while I’m busy with the business of praying for others.  So it’s my intention again to not focus a lot of attention during the 40 days on how that part of the list is going, other than to record answers as they come in.

My coworker likes to use the book to finish a year strong, and if you’ve been around my blog for long, you know how I love the intentional marking off of years and specific anniversaries and such.  So, following his lead, I did the pre-reading for the last 5 days, and this morning was day 1…all of which will lead to doing day 40 on the first day in 2016.  This journey will shape my approach to the coming year, and help me to enter it intentionally and not just stumble into it.

Every time I do the book, I note that the 40 minutes per day thing is no small commitment.  While I am a praying person, setting aside such concentrated blocks of time is not my everyday default setting.  Every time I go through this exercise, I remember again how good it is to do it, though – worth even the discipline it requires of me.

(And I note, as I write, that I just used both the words INTENTION and DISCIPLINE, which were the 2 words I was given for 2015 – guess even though my attention has wavered on those, God’s still all about ’em!)

Though G’s longterm schedule for work will have him starting at 9:30 AM, he’s still in the “cross training” part of his journey in the new position, so he’s still starting most days at 5 AM.  What my commitment to this prayer project means is that when he rises at 3 AM to head for the shower, I won’t be rolling back over to sleep another hour before sitting with him for devotional and prayer.  Instead, I’ll be sitting up in bed to put in that first-thing 40 minutes, for as long as the 5 AM starts continue, or for the duration of the 40 days, if the training continues that long.

That was no small thing to consider.  I am truly NOT a morning person, and 3 AM makes my belly ache, literally.  Coping with his schedule has meant we are in bed by 8 most every evening, other than the nights we give up and turn in at 7.  The occasional and necessary 8:30 evening feels like the middle of the night.  Last night, anticipating 3 AM with dread, I asked if we could turn in at 6:30…and we did.

The key here is willingness.  I will pursue Him with all my might, even where it means 3 AM belly aches, even where it means going to bed so early in the evening that I’m kind of angry about it.  I worked on that “kind of angry” thing as I turned in last night, and He met me there, and it was really okay.  That’s what willingness looks like, at least for me – not some easy, smiling, extra-cheery compliance, but fighting against my own resistant nature, my irritation, my frustration at not getting to do things my own way, and just deciding to do what I know to do anyway.  It’s not “pretty,” but it is beautiful in His eyes.

This morning, then, came the day 1 scriptures, which just confirmed that fighting through the resistance is good.  “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) And then the business of “seeking His face” (Psalm 27:8) and the truth that as I love Him, I say continually, “…let God be magnified” (Psalm 70:4).  Then there’s a promise that my mind always grapples to grasp: that all of His promises “are yes, and in Him amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

I am reminded that I’m better at trying to “do things His way” than I am at “seeking His face.”  The one, I can do pretty quickly.  The other takes time, requires intention, doesn’t happen without my waiting, looking, and being still.  I used to be better at being still than I am now.  As I age, I find myself increasingly compelled to activity.  This is not a good development.  While it means I’m a “getting stuff done” kind of lady, it also means I throw away opportunities to draw near to God…which only leads to operating by my own wits and depending on my own understanding.

My own wits and my own understanding are always less-than and lower than what comes from time spent in His presence.  That never varies.  Funny, then, how often I have to be reminded of this truth and brought back around.

This morning I’m grateful for the coworker who first brought this prayer project to my attention.

I’m grateful that it IS possible to make and keep the 40 day commitment, if I will just bring my willingness.

I’m grateful for the way those scriptures speak to me, and certainty that as I continue to meditate on them throughout today, I will understand them differently and more deeply at bedtime tonight than I do at this pre-dawn hour.

I’m grateful that He loves me enough to continue to call me back into intimacy with Him, no matter how many times I veer off into being “busy for Him.”

I’m grateful for this business of “yes and amen,” which is the point on which I am most curious, as I ponder those scriptures this morning.

And I’m grateful to be seeing 2015 off with DISCIPLINE and INTENTION – grateful that God didn’t quit talking about that, even though I tuned out of listening for awhile.

I’m filled with wonder, as I ponder it all.

May He fill you with your own wonder as you bring Him your willingness.

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