Parachutes and Prayers

 

“Lord, teach us to pray.” – Luke 11:1 NIV

 “Do not have your concert first and tune your instruments afterward. Begin the day with God.”

For years, I wrote these words of the late missionary Hudson Taylor on the front of my daily devotional booklet, which I received monthly in the mail. The back of the cover at that time was blank, and I used it to list prayer needs. I kept it with my Bible near my prayer chair.

Nowadays I receive the daily devotional readings via email. I thought it would save them the cost of printing and mailing, but I miss the old way. It was simple. And it was physical – a visual reminder to tune myself up before launching into the day.

When we visited the North Cascades Smokejumper base in Winthrop, Washington, this past summer, we learned about the difference between round and rectangular parachutes. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but the main thing about a parachute is that, for everyone but smokejumpers and skydivers, a parachute is an emergency piece of equipment. It’s there, but you hope you never have to use it.

My prayer life, without the visual reminders and the discipline to take the time, morphs into a parachute mode: There for emergencies only.

Many are the books and articles written on prayer, but let’s focus on Jesus’s attitude toward prayer, as shown through His answer to the disciples’ request, “Teach us to pray,” and through His own prayer life.

First, prayer is private. “When you pray,” Jesus instructed His disciples, “go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private” (Matthew 6:6). And He set the example: “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). You’ll find Jesus often going off by Himself to a mountaintop or a remote place to spend time with the Father.

Which brings us to the second point I want to make: Prayer is a relationship, not a religious activity (Henry Blackaby). Note the words “pray to your Father.”

Relationships involve regular communication, involving both speaking and listening: “A man prayed and at first thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized prayer is listening.” (Søren Kierkegaard)

Third, prayer is concise. “When you pray,” Jesus said, “don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!” (Matthew 6:7–8)

In the words of C. H. Spurgeon, “True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer than a fine oration of great length.”

And finally, prayer is constant. You don’t contact those you love only when you need something. You want to spend every minute you can with them. So it is with God.

Prayer is our line of communication, time carved out of a busy schedule to talk and listen, to get to know our Father and His Son better.

Prayer is not a parachute, to be used only in times of emergency.

In the words of George Herbert, “Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.”

Lord, teach me to pray. Amen.

Read and meditate on Matthew 6:5–13

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Cabin Fever Woes

winter scene 3-19-17
View from the front deck of our driveway on March 19, 2017

 

Do everything without kvetching. –Philippians 2:14 CJB

“Quit your kvetching,” my mother often told me.

She used that Yiddish word whenever I complained about something, like when I’d gripe that my nose didn’t look right on my face.

“Imagine what you’d look like without a nose,” she’d say.

No sympathy. At all.

But she knew there were things in life I’d have to deal with – things I couldn’t change and things I could (like my attitude), but I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Pity parties may be good to air bottled-up emotions, but they don’t remedy the situation.

My friend Rebecca is a lot like my mother in that way. I have to admit, sometimes I don’t appreciate her words. All I want is a little sympathy. I don’t get it. Instead I receive a verbal boot in my feeling-sorry-for-myself attitude.

Take, for example, my grumbling on Facebook this past week about being cooped up during this messy winter with its manic weather and the resulting cabin fever. Every time I plan to make the 12-mile drive down the mountain to town to get my hair cut, precipitation is forecast. I don’t drive on roads that may freeze up in the blink of an eye or if there’s even an inkling of the possibility of freezing rain. I’ve rescheduled my appointment three times. And from the looks of Tuesday’s forecast, it’ll be four.

“I find if I get cabin fever,” Rebecca wrote, “it usually means I have too much time on my hands.”

Too much time on my hands? I resented that. I have a schedule packed with things to do: prepare services and sermons, write my weekly column, schedule my blog, work on my novel, do laundry, make meals, clean up after the cats.

Oh, did I mention I’m kitty-sitting my grandkids’ two cats? And vacuuming up hair (they’re big, fuzzy cats) and cleaning up you-know-what because one of them won’t use the litter box.

But there I go, kvetching again.

Rebecca was right. Although I have items on the to-do list, I wasn’t doing them. “I don’t feel like it,” I’d tell myself. Or give myself some other lame excuse.

Instead of centering down and focusing on being productive, I’ve been wandering cyberspace, chasing rabbit trails, accomplishing nothing – and making myself more depressed.

Rebecca says I can regain my focus, motivation, and momentum by getting busy. And she suggested some activities:

  • Cooking/baking for an elderly friend or neighbor;
  • Putting together little packages for moms at a homeless shelter;
  • Rearranging or redecorating a room in your home that you have wanted to do for a while;
  • Start a new Pinterest board or web page;
  • Make a craft and do a video of making the craft and post it online so others can try it out too.

Her suggestions go right along with what Paul wrote to the Philippian church: “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:4 NLT).

Cabin fever? Focus on doing one item on your to-do list at a time and find ways to help others. Getting your eyes off yourself will pull you out of the pit of self-pity.

And it’s a sure cure for kvetching.

 Take this winter day, O Lord, and fill it with Your peace. Show me someone I can help and make my grumbling cease. Amen.

 Read and meditate on Philippians 2:1–18

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.