The primary goal in my “relationship with God” category was to “cultivate confident dependence on God by establishing a vibrant prayer life”. I resolved to do this by 1) establishing daily times of prayer, 2) establishing a method for recording prayer requests and answers to prayer, 3) experimenting with prayer “styles”, and 4) reading books on prayer.
I was helped along greatly in this goal by our Tuesday morning women’s Bible study, which happened to be going through D.A. Carson’s Praying with Paul during the spring semester. Having my “public” Bible study and teaching correspond with my current spiritual goals kept me focused and provided both tips and accountability. For example, my Bible study discussion leader mentioned the “PrayerMate” app, which I looked up and found to be helpful for objective 2, which was “to establish a method for recording prayer requests and answers to prayer.” Also, although I wasn’t required to, I read Carson’s book (rather than just the discussion guide) along with our study – allowing me to complete just one book on prayer this year (objective 4).*
So Tuesday Connection helped me with objectives 2 and 4 – but what about objectives 1 and 3?
I never did end up doing anything with objective 3, unless you count using Paul’s prayers as a model for prayer. I didn’t do any prayer walking or praying published prayers or following specific formats (Adoration – Confession – Thanksgiving – Supplication, for example). It just didn’t seem to fit this year. And that’s just fine.
Objective 1, to “establish daily times of prayer”, got off to a good start. I resolved to pray consistently with Tirzah Mae before our meals and snacks and before her bedtime, to pray during my personal time in the word, and to pray while doing dishes. At the beginning of the year, Tirzah Mae and I were eating 3 meals and 2 snacks daily (pregnancy while breastfeeding is a doozy!), affording me plenty of opportunity to pray. Dishes were a convenient “peg” to hang prayer on – they’re something I have to do daily and they’re a rather mindless activity, which allows me plenty of opportunity to pray.
But then Tirzah Mae got older and started “helping” with dishes. What was once a relatively solitary and mindless activity (for me) became a busy activity, requiring all sorts of brain work as I attempt to keep Tirzah Mae from dumping all the dishwater on the floor or from putting dirty dishes in my rinse water or from transferring muck from the dirty dishes onto the clean dishes drip drying in the drying rack. That prayer time, where I had been making most of my petitions and praying over the requests (recorded in PrayerMate), disappeared. It took me most of the second half of the year to find a new rhythm – and this year I’m picking up my intercessory prayer during my after-breakfast and after-lunch cleaning times (Tirzah Mae only helps with segments, allowing a little more time for prayer!)
So what is the state of my goal to “cultivate confident dependence on God by establishing a vibrant prayer life?” I certainly wouldn’t say that my prayer life is vibrant at this point. But I also wouldn’t say that all has been lost. Establishing the habit of prayer (even though part of it, daily petitions and intercession, fell by the wayside for a significant portion of the year) has indeed served to help me cultivate confident dependence of God.
One of the reasons I chose prayer as my spiritual goal for the year was because I was noticing in myself a significant tendency towards self-reliance. I felt that I could do things on my own – and, when I couldn’t, I despaired. That wasn’t what I wanted though. I wanted, and still want, to live a life of dependence on God – a life that recognizes my need for Him and hopes in Him. Last year’s focus on prayer has helped in that. Where once I went to my phone to text my husband in despair or to Facebook to write a frustrated post or where I once gritted my teeth and cleaned the house/parented/pounded out the letter/whatever with a bad attitude, I find myself more and more turning to God, breathing those little Nehemiah prayers “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 2:4b ESV).
By the grace of God, this was a good goal – with a good outcome. I pray God would help me continue to grow – both in dependence and in prayer.
*While D.A. Carson’s Praying with Paul was the only book on prayer I completed last year, I did read about half of Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare and was greatly encouraged by Spurgeon’s reflections.