When prayer becomes just another thing on the to-do-list.

It’s the beginning of a new term for me, and my final year at uni has begun. Already I find myself tired, drained and in a continuum of low level stress. Each year of growing up brings extra dimensions of life into the picture, more people to care about, an ever nearing future to figure out, more responsibilities to manage and more experiences and holdbacks that accumulate over time. To stop in the midst of an ever quickening pace of life can be so hard (I don’t even have all the bills and a family to think about yet!).

In the pressure cooker of life, I can find myself internalising more and more the little things that  bother me, not wanting to burden others with it, and too confused to take it to God in prayer. I hurry through a bible reading in the morning, to tick it off my list, and barely meditate on the life giving words right in front of me. I sing worship songs in church and find myself distracted by the time or the people around me, so much so that I forget that this is a chance to worship and sing to the lover of my soul and my father in heaven.

When I acknowledge that I need to stop and rest and reconnect with God, I often find myself giving him the worst parts of my day; either squeezing in an extra 5 minutes of prayer in the morning (whilst completely distracted by what to wear that day or where my reading notes are for my lecture), or last thing at night (in an attempt to clear my conscience, when all I really should do is sleep.). In any other relationship I would not expect anything fruitful or intimate to thrive in these circumstances. If my boyfriend only ever saw me first thing in the morning (a frightful sight!) or last thing at night (a tired version of me is not to be messed with!), I would not be surprised if he got nothing out of it and found better ways to spend his time. Likewise, how can I aspire to rekindle an intimate relationship with God, one where we communicate with each other (not just one way) and one where I learn more about him, if I’m only ever offering tokens of my time.

I appreciate that there will be seasons throughout my life where busyness may legitimately mean that one-to-one time with God is temporarily not an option, or a very rare one; but if I’m honest with myself, I’m not in that situation right now.

As a student I do find myself in a non-stop culture, where rest and sleep are attributed to laziness and a lack of ambition; but I also find myself with an incredibly flexible schedule and one which I have the most permission to prioritise what I do and when. It’s up to me to begin the discipline of cutting out real chunks of time with the God I want to know more, the God I want to hear from, the God I want to read about and the God I want to partner with as I journey on in my life.

You may find yourself resonating with this in someway, maybe you’re busy too, maybe even my scenario sounds blissfully serene compared to your average day. So often the demands of friends, family, work, relaxation etc etc etc can demand so much from us, that we forget that our relationship with God needs just as much sacrifice as any other relationship we have.

When I meet with God passively and throw a desperate prayer his way every now and then, I burn out. I dry up. I lose connection with the powerful words I sing on a Sunday, about a God who knows me so well, and is so near to me. I lose my peace and carry far more than I should on my own two shoulders, forgetting the partnership God calls me into.

This blog is as much written to myself as it is written for anyone else who can relate. And I guess the challenge I’m faced with is this:

Am I willing to come to God, putting aside my time (which so many other parts of my life would demand) trusting he will show up and meet me?

Do I trust he won’t confront me with conviction and anger for the times I’ve ran on without him, regardless of all he’s taught me and regardless of how much he loves me?

Am i willing to come to him in repentance for my passivity and to be truly vulnerable in his presence?

Am I willing to let him in again?

In Isaiah 54 there’s this great prophecy (when someone receives an image or story from God) in which God is described as welcoming back a wife who has walked away. He is said to be welcoming us back with open arms and everlasting love; this is my God. No matter how many times I mess up, forget about him, loose my awe in seeking more of him or think I can do better – time and time again he will welcome me back. Back into his presence. Back into that place where we meet in the quiet, where we share our hearts and where I am refreshed by his presence and his love for me.

My favourite verse is 1 John 4:19 (I mention it whenever I can slot it in!), and it mentions how we love one another because God loved us first. I can’t expect to keep going, keeping caring and giving more of myself if I forget where my fuel comes from. If I forget the love that first flows into me, to overflow to those around me, I burn out. Simple. And giving God back my time is one way of re-realising this. Maybe it’s similar for you. Maybe for you, it’s a case of remembering what you’re rooted in and whose you are before you can wholehearted have the strength to continue, and not just to continue as before but to be even greater in your capabilities, refilled with the presence and strength of God.

The way I see it is God is still a part of my life, we’re still in the same house together (if you like), but when we spend no time together it’s like we’re in separate rooms. I’m not sure what he’s up to. I hide away when I’m feeling fragile. I can try and avoid conversation, but he’s ultimately a part of my life, and hasn’t forgotten that we’ve chosen to do this life together. To come into the same room as one another can feel awkward, uncomfortable even, but this is the God that nothing can be hidden from. He knows exactly how I feel and how I think and he’s still chosen me anyway.

Who knows what will happen when we hand God a special piece of our time just to meet with him – but I know one thing, if we want him to, he’ll show up.



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