Yesterday I joined dozens of other women on the 3rd Annual Prayer Walk at my church. It's a time to hear some words of inspiration, then visit a number of stations throughout the church assembled to create places to search our hearts, reflect, pray, surrender, and fellowship with God.
The Walk is something I've looked forward to for awhile. You see, the busyness of outreach during the holidays and the holidays themselves kept me, well, busy. Then after burning the candle at both ends, running my body down and being surrounded by sickies, I succumbed to a bad cold. And it wasn't pretty. 12 days later, I'm just starting to feel better. Pretty sure last week's vision of no makeup on my puffy face, swollen eyes, and red nose is something my office mates pray they never have to see again! Anyway, I'm ashamed to say my time with God has been limited at best these past few weeks.
From the beginning of the Walk, it was obvious that God was speaking to me. The first speaker got up and told a story of a woman who shared with a friend that she needed to sit down to a meal with God. Her friend encouraged her that sometimes, it's okay when life is crazy, to at least grab 'snacks' along the way. I believe it was also this speaker who said, "take the time you can, and always shoot for more."
I hadn't had so much as a cereal bar in days. I think sometimes when we desire that meal, we don't take advantage of the snacks because we adopt an 'all or nothing' mindset. I had been feeling too tired to sit up and read my Bible let alone spend a concentrated time in prayer, so instead of reading a verse, or even a minute-long devotional, I'd done nothing but stare at a TV screen in between cough medicine induced nap times.
As a friend and I discussed speaker content last night, I found myself saying "yeah, if you even take the time to read that devotional or verse, at least you have a morsel to gnaw on throughout the day...something to meditate on and gain strength from as you have time." I've got 20/20 hindsight. Of course, I'm sure the situation will present itself again, so I need to remember my own wisdom!
The second speaker talked about praying in the now. Not saying "I'll pray for you" knowing full well life will get busy and, even if you have the best intentions, you're likely to forget that request by bedtime. So she suggested doing something that has been a habit of mine for awhile...when someone asks for prayer, don't say you will, stop and do it. Right then. As she put it, it doesn't have to be of the depth and length of an Oswald Chambers writing, but it shows the person that you care enough about them to carve out a few minutes in your day for them. Another suggestion which I also subscribe to is to type out that prayer. I've done it on chat screens on Facebook, through text or via email. I simply type what I'd say out loud. Now that person has something they can go back to and draw strength from too.
The last speaker spoke of a man who wrote about hitting a dry spell. He went to a counselor and confessed one of the problems he experienced was that he often grew tired as he was praying, sometimes nodding off. The counselor suggested that he was looking at prayer as a 'need to' and not a 'want to' and told him not to deliberately go to prayer for a week, but rather, do things that he enjoyed and invite Jesus along. As that man walked along the shoreline, he suddenly realized he was having discussions with God about what he saw and things that came to mind - he called them walking prayers. There were other 'types' of prayers too, like 'paper prayers'. When he hit a sermon roadblock, received an unkind email, anything like that, he'd spread the papers out before God and pray over them asking for guidance.
After the speakers shared, we set out. With a visual using a map and Lego blocks, the first station encouraged us to excel in the gifts God has given us to build each other up.
The second station contained 3 part instructions. The first was to read Matthew 7:23-27 which is the story of the wise man who built his house on the rock, and the foolish man who built his on sand. When the storms came, the house on the rock stood firm while the house on the sand fell "and great was its fall."
We were told to ask God where our foundation with him was faulty and how it needed to be fixed. We then took a stone, wrote those faults, and surrendered them to God as we lay the stone in a sand pit.
The second part was to read 2 Samuel 22:3 "My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my Savior - from violent men you save me." We were to reflect on how God has shown His strength in our life. We took a small rock with us to remind us to build our house on Him.
The third part was to read Psalm 127:1 "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." This one was really convicting...the directions said 'just because God is the foundation, doesn't give us the right to build our 'house' (our life) to look however we want it to. Often we start to draw our own blueprint of expectations, dreams, and desires. Pray about what those things are in your life. What have you started to build on your own?' We took a piece of blueprint paper, folded it in half and wrote on one side, all that we had planned, dreamt and desired for our house, and on the other side, the things we believed God was calling us to do - his plans for our house. We then needed to compare to see where they matched and where there were differences - then surrender our blueprint to God.
Those who know me best, know for the last two years, there has been a word that has come to me over and over...one I sometimes wish was struck from the English language. Surrender. Why is it so hard to take our hands off things? Even after we've messed things up? Even when we know surrender brings peace and the lack thereof brings pain? Yes, I'm saying 'we' and not 'me' because I know I'm not alone in this, am I.
The third station was based on Ephesians 6 - putting on the full armor of God. A worksheet encouraged us to think of a recent situation that had challenged us and how we could apply each of the pieces of armor to it as well as create a 'personal shield of armor' that contained a scripture about God's protection, things in our life that we wanted protection for and from, and an image or symbol to think of when we need protecting.
The fourth and final station was our Worship Center. There was praise music playing, people to pray with you if you had a specific request, and a table at which to take communion. There is something incredibly moving as you see people carve out a private place to speak with God. Some on their knees, some bowed in prayer in their seats, some prostrate at the alter. It is holy ground.
Once I left these ‘snack stations’ I was really hungry for that meal. It’s been weeks since it’s been warm enough to brave a walk by the lake, but yesterday was perfect – warm and in the mid 60's. I headed there as quickly as I could. For the next hour, I gloried in the warmth of the sunshine. Now that the leaves were all gone, I noticed things in the woods surrounding the lake that had been obscured when the foliage was full. Even during this 'barren' season, there was beauty when I took the time to see it. I haven't made a New Year's resolution in a long time, usually responding to the question of what mine are with "I can't break what I don't make." But, I think this year I'll make an exception. I will 'snack' every day. I will live and operate and pray in the now. I will invite Jesus along everywhere I go. I will sit down to full meals with Him...extended times of prayer and study...at least once a month, and always shoot for more. I will make a concentrated effort to build others up and not tear them down, I will keep an eye on my foundation and check it often to make sure my blueprint stays true to the original by the Master Builder. I will dress in armor (I'm sure my fashionista daughter can help me accessorize!) and keep my knees close to the floor.