“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” Abraham Lincoln
I had my first experience in the mission field about three years or so after I had begun my earnest walk with God. I was in Cluj, Romania with a team from my church in California (shout out to Community Presbyterian Church, Danville!). During that trip we had delivered food and clothes to poor families, helped paint a church, minister to gypsy families and street kids, encouraged the local pastor(s) and I even had the chance to preach in a little village church (with a translator). During all of these activities there was one thing we never stopped doing….we prayed. The flow was constant. Morning, noon and night we continued to lift everything up in prayer. I remember sitting on the back porch of the house we were staying in and literally feeling spiritually fatigued. If there is such a thing as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in the spiritual realm, I most definitely had it. Physically I was fine. Mentally and spiritually it was another story. I had never prayed this much and I distinctly remember thinking that this felt like a “spiritual workout.” Looking back I think it was more like a spiritual boot camp…. In this sense, this was my introduction to the grind.
Growing up Roman Catholic, prayer was usually something we tended to do in a formal sense. We would pray before meals or recite words during a Sunday liturgy or sacrament. While often times the words spoken during those prayers were “good,” (the “Lord’s Prayer” for example) by their repetitive nature, year after year, this type of praying can potentially lack a deep connection to the heart. I see it as akin to learning to swim but never leaving the shallow end of the pool. It lays a good foundation but if that is the extent of our prayer life….it is not where we want to stay without ever going deeper.
Now, you might be thinking “prayer shouldn’t be a grind…how could you say that?” The ultimate goal of the grind in this context is not to leave you broken down but to make you better able to do something than you were previously able to do. It’s about applying the discipline to an area of your life in order to allow you to be refined, sharpened and ultimately strengthened by God. To become even more fit for His service. Our ultimate example is Jesus Himself….
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark; Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35
A couple of verses prior we see why: “The whole town gathered at the door and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He drove out many demons….” (Mark 1:33 & 34a)
He wasn’t going off to procrastinate. He was going out to spend time and speak with His Father. He was being briefed and prepped for His mission that day.
Much like our busy world today, His world was also teeming with activity. In His wisdom, He recognized the need to separate Himself from the constant flow of activity in order to pray. He built His day around this meeting with the Father. Notice how he departed early to go to a solitary place. This is so counterintuitive for us. We feel that if we’re not busy then it means we aren’t being productive. As we can see by Jesus’ example, this is not the case. The enemy of your soul wants you to stay too busy to pray because he can then move more freely in your life and the life of your family.
As we get started, I would challenge you with this: Wherever you are in your prayer life, ask God to help you grow (be ready as He then gives you things you need to be praying about). If you don’t know where to begin, start with finding a quiet (solitary) place, and read the “Lord’s Prayer” (found in Matthew 6:9-13) out loud, every day, for a week. Pause after each line in order to let the Holy Spirit help you begin to grasp the depth, concepts and meaning behind the words. Don’t allow familiarity to breed indifference.
Also begin to include small, unscripted, conversational moments with God throughout your day. For example, every morning when I would wake up I would say (out loud) some variation of, “Good morning, Lord. I love You.” These little habits can start to shape and dig out the deep end of the pool in our spiritual lives.
Just like beginning a new workout routine, this may not feel natural at first and even feel forced. Remember how tough those first two weeks of a workout are? The same applies here. Don’t give in. Persevere and rise to the challenge and it will go from something foreign to becoming a habit and ultimately, a lifestyle.
See you in Part 3.
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Bruce Lee