When I stop to refocus on God, He holds my gaze.
At the age of two, our son Brian feels the need to repeat everything he says to make sure that he was clear. He also uses this tactic to stall when he is at a loss for other words. “Because… because… because… because I need to.” I should tell you that this works well for him because the way he actually sounds is adorable. His “because” actually comes out phonetically as “pecuz”. My daughter Kate, on the other hand, seems to constantly repeat words because she wants to make sure that she is being heard. “Mommy, mommy, Mommy, Mommy, umm, Mommy”…, “Yes darling”, I patiently respond. Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, etc…, I answer, “Yes”, and then she replies, “I don’t remember”. A couple of minutes will pass and then, “Hey Mommy!” And it keeps up constant and unending until I contemplate banging my head into the wall. Wait, was that out loud?
Children tell stories in a roundabout way that involves repetition and painstaking attention to detail, painstaking. I can identify because I don’t think I ever grew out of this stage. Sometimes, especially when Kate is trying to tell me something, it is literally all that I can do to listen. She wants my complete attention for a 15 minute story about the last time she fell, went to the bathroom, or brushed her teeth. Quite frankly, I love her but this is one of the hardest things I need to do for her – listen. I am working on making sure that I maintain eye contact for the duration of the story, and that I am engaged in it, no matter how uneventful, because it is important to her. This could one day kill me. Sometimes that child will take 5 minutes to find the right word, but I am learning not to supply them for her. This only serves to annoy her and make her forget her spot. It is excruciating to wait patiently even when I know what she is trying to say.
Psalm 71:2&3 records the psalmists request of God, “incline your ear to me Rock of refuge to which I may continually come.” I love how the message phrases it, “put your ear to the ground and listen …you said your door was always open.” I love the picture of God with his ear pressed and listening, giving his complete attention. Unlike my struggle with my children, God can bear the weight of all the things I have to say. Even when the weight of the words are too much for me, and I can’t quite pick the right ones the spirit intercedes for me with groans too great for words. Unlike Kate, I realize I need the help. God knows that our language is limited; He provides for the times that I don’t even have the words. Romans 8:26 shows how God made provision for this with the Holy Spirit, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” When I can’t find the words or simply don’t even know what I really mean; I don’t have to. Verse 27 goes on to state that, “he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” God is able to search my heart and know its meaning. When I cannot make myself clear to anyone else, I am clear and understood to God. I have his complete understanding. According to John 14:26, this Holy Spirit God gave us is also a gift of memory. “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit can remind us of the truth of God that we already know. He brings to remembrance the truth when it is needed for encouragement or instruction.
I take great comfort in knowing that we serve a personal God who gives personal attention to our prayers. When I take the time as a mother to get on Kate’s level and look her in the eye, she will sometimes stop repeating and stuttering. Though I sometimes lack patience to understand the heart of the matter, God never misunderstands us. He is always ready to put his ear to our level and He is willing to stop and make eye contact with us for as long as it takes, or just as long as we want. Don’t miss that great gift because you feel that your prayers should be elegant and wordy. That prayer is not for God, but for man. Don’t miss this gift because you think you need to be in the right place to pray. We are to pray continually, giving thanks. This seems like an insurmountable task until we realize that prayer is simply opening a direct line for us to be infused with the Spirit. When we pray, we acknowledge that we don’t have an answer or more simply that God is the answer. “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”(Proverbs 3:6) Prayer put simply is acknowledgement of God. It is giving thanks for who He is and what He does for us. He sustains us moment by moment. Constant prayer is moment by moment recognizing that He is there sustaining us. It is giving thanks. It is a refocusing of our gaze off of ourselves to something greater. When I stop to refocus on God, he holds my gaze. Each time I do, he holds my attention a little longer and a little longer and it becomes habit. Constant prayer is training the mind to think on God and not on this world. It releases us to see God instead of the illusion of control that we were holding. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2) We are to be watchful in prayer with thanksgiving. Watch for ways to thank God, acknowledge that he sustains you. Watch for how He communicates to our hearts. Tune in and pay close attention. There is nothing more important. It is thanking God that He is. Being steadfast in prayer releases us to live in faith minute by minute and rest. It allows us to rest because it affirms that we are not in control, but someone greater is. Children have a firm grasp on who is in control of their days. They may sometimes push for their own control, but they know where to go for help. They know that we as parents are there, and we will seek to understand them.
Prayer is reaching our hands to God and saying I am not big enough. I am not big enough to make sense of the world or even my day. Prayer is to be constant and unending, giving my thoughts to God and letting him re-shape them. He reshapes them when I listen. I want my communication with God to be constant and unending. Even when it sounds like the unending and uneventful story of a child, the fact that I want to share it with Him is what makes it special. I know that He is patient and the more I talk the more He alters my words. Because He knows the thoughts and intentions of my heart, I can never be misunderstood. The next time my children come to me with a story or just a thought, I want to remember how patiently God listens to me.
Father I need you moment by moment. I try on my own efforts and I only fail. I thank you that you always listen, and that you can interpret my heart. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who not only intercedes for us, but calls to mind the truth when we need it. Thank you that your presence with us is a gift whenever we draw near to you. Thank you that you give us this gift out of love for us. You want for us to experience life with you moment by moment and you intended peace for us. Thank you that Jesus died to give us that peace. When the world and all its cares threaten to sweep us away help us to hold steadfastly to you, the anchor for our souls. (Hebrews 6:19) Thank you that there is never a time that you are too busy for us. You don’t even sleep. We have complete access to you because of Jesus. Let us not take that for granted.