Prayer Log: Day 328
I just finished another one of those Christian blogger weird experiment in loving Jesus books - you know, where the American woman says, "Hey, I think I'll learn about consumerism by only eating seven kinds of food for a month and research global hunger issues" and then has some good Jesus growth. It was the second one in as many weeks, and I was well into the thought, "Hey, I could do some kind of challenge and write about it," before I realized I'm already in the midst of a sort of epic growth experiment. You see, interspersed with the blogger books, I read five new books on prayer in the past week. I lost count after twenty books that are either specifically on prayer or practical theology with portions devoted to prayer that I've read in the past year.
Earlier this week, after I spent the day with a friend leaving for the summer, her parting words to me were a compliment about how I'm a role model to her because of the determination I have when it comes to prayer. She's seen me at my worst at the start of this journey, so I'm grateful for the visible work of the Holy Spirit in the past ten and a half months. It was that same night that it struck me that I was creeping up on the one year mark of God prompting me to pray for the same specific person each day. I quickly pulled out my phone and counted the number - it was 41 days until the one year mark. The book I'd read the day before was about commitments to prayer by the author who wrote a companion book subtitled "The 40 Day Prayer Challenge" which I read at the start of this adventure. I quickly texted my mentor, my cousin, a good friend, and two students who've been super close to me on this journey. It's an eclectic group, but it's five people who I know are prayer warriors too. "So tomorrow marks 40 days before the one year mark of praying... I have grown a lot, but I also still don’t understand a lot about this. What I do know is prayer matters, and this person needs deep healing. Would you pray with me specifically for their healing?" Weird text to send; weird text to receive... but I asked these people to join with me praying by name for this other person each day over the next 40 days. The almost immediate responses came with an "Absolutely!" and a "YES & AMEN," so I'm confident moving forward in this venture.
I'm confident the Lord will show up. I'm not confident in what that looks like. I can't tell you how many conversations that has come up in over the past year. I'll always invite the Holy Spirit, and I'm always ready for a miracle. Sometimes the miracle is the presence of God in a new way rather than me physically standing up and walking; still worth it, and my faith is only strengthened. I'm praying someone else will open their eyes, step into peace, and obey the Holy Spirit. All of those are vague metaphorical phrases that have real life implications in someone else's life. I may never see that fruit, but I have seen incredible peace show up in my life. More Gelassenheit has shown up in my life, if you will. Confidence in who I am, and serenity in my obedience to pray for others.
It's also been around 18 months that I've had an alarm on my phone to pray for a specific student who I used to mentor. Anyone who's interacted with me at 8pm any day in the past year and a half has heard my silly ringtone go off with the note "Pray for Child" on my phone. (Anyone who's read the dedication in my poetry book knows that alarm isn't turning off anytime soon.) Initially, I would excuse myself for ten minutes and pray for this child the whole time. After a year, I began to adjust course and make this a mental reminder for a short prayer and spend time intentionally praying before bed if I happened to be out with friends or have company over when the alarm went off. The reminder is still there, and my commitment to pray for this child is unwavering.
Just as the commitment to pray for my peer is as well. Even after this 40 days tides me over to the 365th day of prayer with unknown results. I'm really grateful for the peace this has brought to my life - though anyone close to me knows it didn't start out easy. However, I anticipate the next 365 days of prayer will bring a lot more joy into my life. I'm using this 40 day stretch to anchor myself in the peace as I look ahead in faith to the joy of obedience to the Holy Spirit. Joy unspeakable.
My friend Veronica was downsizing before leaving for totalization for the year, and she passed this amazing shirt on to me. For whatever reason, the Lord has called me to pray, and it's the center of how I live my days now. This year has shaped me, and I slay. I never would have expected all of the peace and other goodness that has come, but now recognizing how close I am to the year mark, I see that God is doing a life long work in me regarding my attitude and practice of prayer.
One of my students who visits my picnic table frequently recently asked whether I'd actually learned anything about prayer after reading so many books. I was quick to say yes, but I also felt unable to give a concise lesson on what I've learned. Some books are more helpful than others, but all of them have taught me something about the importance of prayer, the mystery of prayer, and the absolute beauty of a God who became incarnate and taught us about prayer. The most valuable thing in all these books, is that I live closer to the God of the universe when I live a life that prays. Inhale grace; exhale peace. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Father in Heaven, Holy One, You are above me; send your good into this world, and let me be your agent of justice as I represent you in humility.
One of the most convicting lessons on prayer this week was in Osheta Moore's contribution to the book Rhythm of Prayer entitled "Reconciliation Soup." My prayers for people have been alongside prayers for an "avalanche of reconciliation" this past year, and this beautiful reflection on homemade chicken noodle soup was incredible nourishment for my soul. She writes a prayer with each added ingredient, and the chopped celery cut right to my heart: "I don't understand celery, Lord. Its punchy, sharp, bitter taste seems too much for this soup. Too bold. Overpowering. But simmered with the other ingredients, it helps create a healing broth. Lord, my anger feels like celery. I don't understand it; it's too much. I ask you to take it, turn it into something useful. Let it simmer mixed in with your love and wisdom until it creates something life giving. Every recipe for chicken noodle soup calls for the celery, so I'll use it. Every act of reconciliation calls for a safe space for sharp words and hard truths, so I'll use them and trust they will transform relationships like celery transforms the soup" (53). That last sentence is underlined and starred in my copy of the book. I want to be bold in how I act, but I know this year of prayer has kept me from spouting off unnecessary hurtful words. Instead, I take them to Jesus and discover my anger matters, but I need to prepare my words well to advance good things. The last line of the recipe reads, "Simmer until the aroma of peace fills your kitchen and serve" (54). What a beautiful result.
I step into peace.
I use that line in prayer a lot. Specifically, I usually talk about the "chacos of peace" based on an image that's guided a lot of my prayers the past year. When I read the armor of God in Ephesians 6, I always think of chacos when Paul instructs us to put on the "sandals" of peace. Surely he was talking about chacos not flip flops. Let's be clear in our prayers. One of the first books books I read on prayer which I found quite valuable had a chapter per item in Ephesians 6. I especially liked the chapter on the chacos of peace, but I can't quote any for you because, ironically, back in September I lent my copy to the person I'm praying for and can't bring myself to ask for it back based on the incredibly awkward interaction when we talked about the book... I've resorted to inhabiting the lessons and living them out as I put on the armor of God each day.
I invite you to join with me: Lord Jesus Christ, open our eyes, give us courage to step into the chacos of peace and to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit.