I'm a Human Doing. Thoughts on Prayer.

(long one. no apologies.)
If you've come across me here before or know me in "real" life...you'll know my battle with being a performance-oriented do-er. It's one thing to struggle with that in the day-to-day life, but what about when it permeates my spiritual walk, too? God and I have had some talks about this need to mine to produce and be affirmed...constantly.

On one particular occassion a few years back, I was scurrying around preparing for a youth service at the church where I worked. I had done a good job on this night of delegating to volunteers--so good a job, in fact, that I worked myself right into having not a task to accomplish as the service began. What an odd feeling it was. Just the freedom to BE in the service and not worry about what needed to happen next. But my reaction to this freedom was the problem. The music began, and I started churning about what I might have forgotten, what else could be done...when God hit me upside the head with a thought just as clear as day. "Be a worshipper, Shelley." He didn't want me to engage with anything but HIM at that moment.

I tend to find this is the case. We want to know what we can do FOR Him, BECAUSE OF Him, or IN HIS NAME...instead of just being near to Him and letting Him move us to doing. The "being" needs to come well before the "doing."

So, our church had a week of 24/7 prayer last week. We all signed up for an hour-long slot and were asked to go to a particular prayer center in downtown Charlotte. Can do. Sign me up! I do very well with clear expectations. Jerod and I signed up for an hour each, in back-to-back time slots between 8 - 10 pm. We're there.

I expected a cold, dark room with a pillow...maybe a candle...and just some quiet for the Lord to reveal all His great and wonderful plans to me. I expected maybe to sing Hallelujah while doing arms gestures the moment I walked in the door. Instant epiphanies! I don't know what all I expected...but those were darn near close.

As we entered the space, we were greeted by a familiar couple coming off a two-three hour stint in the center. They explained a bit of what was there, and left us to it. There were stations, information, cozy chairs...there was dim lighting, beautiful decor...a shabby-chic, thrift-store, well-worn secret spot feeling...like "The Secret Garden," but with candles and ottomans instead of flowers. There were cubbies and DVD's, paints, paper, and Bibles, post it notes to write down secrets and names and prayer requests...and then there was me. Very overwhelmed. Here I expected to have a pillow and Jesus...and here is all this stuff...TO DO!!!!! I didn't know whether to cry or cheer. "But I didn't come here to DO!" I thought. "I came here to PRAY!"

I immediately set about going through the cubbies, putting on headphones for DVD's on various topics, such as discipleship, forgiveness, etc. I found myself at odds with the whole experience at first. I didn't come to listen to a person! I came to listen to GOD!!!! These quotes and photos and books and videos are all very cool, but they make me think about how I could re-create such a thing...that's a great font...where did they find that picture?...I love this chair...it was all becoming a project for me somehow.

God at this point is probably just chuckling at my denseness.

After being somewhat annoyed and trying to figure out how to open myself up to this prayer process, I finally ended up in a corner cubby. Most of what I remember about it is that the one word, "SUBMIT" was taped to the wall there. And there was a journal, filled with handwritten prayers/thoughts/quotes/verses and magazine clippings...like someone had emptied thoughts from his/her creative brain onto paper and gathered them all in a book. "What the heck...let's look at that. I'm not getting much else out of this yet..."

And, forty minutes into my first hour...I finally realized I had yet to PRAY (at the prayer center...I know!). As I pored through the journal, the Lord FINALLY was able to get through to me. The first thing that jumped off the page: "How can you lead others by still waters when you are in perpetual motion?" OK. Time to get serious. I continued to read, prayerfully now...asking the Lord to speak. Of course He did. He always will when we get still and quiet our brains and bodies and ask Him to.

Thankfully, Jerod and I chose to combine our hour slots and be in the space at the same time...so I had another hour and some change to get myself in the right frame of mind. Prayer can be so difficult for do-ers because it insists on your BEING first. You can't switch the two. You can't come into His presence with a to-do list and expect to get anything DONE. You have to come to him empty-handed. He does the work. That's why He says "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." He does the heavy lifting if we let Him!!! And that, my friends, is why RESTING in HIM and PRAYING is the best doing we can do. Start there, and the other stuff will make more sense. What He asks us to do will be more effective and less frustrating and just less...busy.

So, I've been singing this song lately...especially at the beginning of my prayer time:

Breathe in Your presence...Breathe out my prayers

A Holy Reunion

You whisper in my ear.

I long to see Your face,

I long to hear Your voice,

Wrap me in Your presence, Oh Lord.

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