The other day, as we were headed out the door for school, my daughter remembered that she needed shorts for her PE class. Black shorts and only black shorts. It was a Monday morning so our weekend laundry piles were still teetering on the dryer in the basement. We searched and searched like maniacs for a few minutes but she ultimately had to settle on some shorts that were actually mine (can you imagine anything worse as a teenager?). As we were running throughout the house, I mentioned, in a not-so-patient tone, that it would have been ideal if she would have thought of this the night before rather than as we were walking out the door for school. Naturally, she was grateful for my astute insight.
As I sat in a study group a few days later, discussing different modes of prayer, I had a flashback to that Monday morning mania. Basically, the reality of the practice of prayer is often vague and open for much interpretation. And while there is no recipe for “right” praying, there are definitely some ways to go about it that will benefit us and God differently. And thinking about the emergency of the misplaced shorts, I can see some similar issues related to prayer. Is it wrong that my daughter couldn’t find her shorts and had to search frantically for them? Not really. Annoying? Yes. Stressful? Yes. Effective? Not so much. But, we did find something she could use until we could look for her own shorts after school, when we had more time. Regarding prayer: is it WRONG that we throw out emergency one-liners to God? Does He still listen? Does He still answer? Here’s what I believe about it; No. It’s certainly not wrong when we do it and Yes, He hears and answers. However, there is something to be said for the daily-ness of it. How would our life look different if we were intentional with God on a regular basis. And by “regular” I mean as often as we can every moment of the day. If we put our clothes away as we folded them so they could be easily located when needed AND we prepared ahead of time what we needed to take to school in the morning? Get it? Less stress and chaos. Same with prayer. Maybe if we were intentional about the minute by minute, hour by hour time that we talk with God and listen back, our emergency prayers would be less necessary. Because we wouldn’t create our own emergencies by ignoring our “laundry” that has been building and building. If we can maintain a constant, steady stream of conversational prayer and times of leaning in to his Still small voice, we may not need to throw out those cries for help about what to do and how to do it. At least not as often or as a result of neglecting to be in regular communication with Him. If we daily align our will with God’s through His word and meditation and surrender, the answers that used to stump us will be a natural part of who we are; what we want and how we think. The “desires of our heart” will match up with His.
So once in awhile, it’s ok to forget about your PE shorts until the last minute. But if that becomes a habit, it might be time to slow down and think ahead and maybe keep on top of that pile of clothes that threatens to create a black-short emergency. In spiritual terms, praying without ceasing will put you in a position to hear and be heard by God. The serenity that comes with that way of life is what makes His yoke easy and His burden light.