that “prayers bouncing off the ceiling” thing

Posted: January 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

I love the times when I come to this keyboard with a story running over the rim of my cup.  When all the words are banging around in my head, making so much noise that I can scarcely think of another thing, and all I have to do is get them lined up in some sort of orderly fashion, writing is nearly effortless for me.  The great “aha” of a myriad of stories, phrases, and ideas all smashing together for one glorious picture is what keeps me coming back to write again and again.

But it’s not always like that.  Sometimes, like this morning, I open my Chromebook, find the WordPress drafting page, and stare at the blank screen.  And stare.  And stare some more.  There are no words banging around in my head – not even lightly pinging.  I feel around inside my brain, poking at various recent events, looking for something – ANYTHING – that I can massage into something more.

Usually I find something, but sometimes I just don’t.  Sometimes I stare at the screen for 40 minutes and then get up and get on with my day.  When that happens, while I might poke around in the sermon notes I keep on my iPhone to be used as writing prompts, I am careful not to open Facebook or any other distraction.  I stay here in the writing zone.  I invite the words to come.  I wrestle for them.  I don’t settle for substitutes.

When I’ve done that, even when not a single word ends up on the page, I know I’ve done well at the end of my allotted time.  I have shown up.  If I had more time available, I’d stay until actual words came out – that’s what productive writers do, I think.  But with my limited window, sometimes I have to walk away without an end product.  Still, I’ve honored the process, I’ve made the effort, and even these little rounds of struggle are an important part of being a faithful writer.

I think spending time with God is like that.  Sometimes we are open, ready, willing, and full of worshipful words and surrendered attitudes.  Sometimes being with Him and knowing He’s really there is natural to us.  Sometimes prayer is an easy-flowing conversation – we talk, we listen, we are fully engaged.

But other times, not so much.  Other times are like my “blank-screen” struggles.  We come with cold hearts, and can’t seem to warm them up.  We come distracted, with minds full of stuff we think He really should have taken care of already and/or differently.  A mood has both its hands around our throat, and we can’t get enough air to breathe Him in.  Or maybe nothing seems to be “wrong” at all, but we just can’t find a connection that will verify for us that He is really there, really listening, really talking.

Sometimes our efforts to spend time with God are like my days of no words.  We come and try, seemingly to no avail, and maybe we run out of time and need to get on to the next thing, forcing us to move along before we feel like we accomplished anything with Him.

Just like I don’t think my failure to put words on a page is any real failure, I don’t think these times of not achieving perceived connection are failures either.

Coming to Him isn’t always or only about fuzzy feelings.  If we come to Him only for the rush of wonder that we can sometimes experience, are we really seeking to know Him?  Or just for the high He can give us?  Are we offering ourselves to Him, or are we just using Him like a drug – all for the hit and the rush?

I think He is GLAD when we show up, even when we don’t perceive a connection with Him.  I think when we don’t quit just because it doesn’t seem to be “working,” we are actually growing in faithfulness.  I think He gives us opportunity to know both ourselves and Him better through these frustrating “empty” prayers.  I think we are honoring the process of prayer – and honoring HIM – when we show up anyway.

And I know for sure none of is alone in this struggle.  I hope you know it, too.


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