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Get Rid of the Chatter

Prayer That Doesn’t Ask for Anything

Ieronthumbnail.jpgBy Julie-Allyson Ieron

Most days my life is pure chaos. Running a small business in this topsy-turvy economy and caring for my aging parents has me in essence balancing two 24-7 jobs in one block of 24-7 hours. When chaos is happening, I suppose it’s natural that I have only enough emotional and physical energy to be concerned about the most basic essentials.

Conversation, what there is of it, is pragmatic—and brief. Get to the point, and get on with it. No niceties. No chit-chat. No time to just “be” with anyone else.

Even with God.

               

Stop the Chatter Experiment

Then, just about a year ago, I had the great opportunity to step out of the chaos for ten whole days. To top that off, I was able to enjoy those days basking in the February breezes of the garden isle, Kauai—having escaped a major Chicago blizzard by mere hours.

I quickly discovered that funny things happen when you slow down abruptly. First, you don’t know what to do with yourself. And second, your heart finally can adjust its tuner to God’s frequency. In hearing Him, I came face to face with the reminder of all I’d been missing in relationship with Him in all those months that I’d allowed my chatter at Him to become a sort of daily briefing.

It was time for me to revisit a key life question: Why do I pray? Why do I ask, day after day, for a personal audience with God? Is it so our conversation, His and mine, can be all about what I want, what I need, or what I think ought to be going on in this big, old world? Is it, at the end of the day, all about me?               

I can’t imagine sustaining any personal relationship with a peer on that basis. Even a loving parent, sibling, or spouse eventually will tire of hearing every sentence begin and end with me. Hey, even I tire of hearing myself yammering on about all my complaints.

What would happen, I wondered, if I took myself out of the equation for a while? Surely God had heard enough of my complaints to last a good, long time. So, what would happen if I did an experiment in prayer where I didn’t ask for anything at all—if I allowed my conversation with God to be all about what He’s doing, what He values, what He plans to accomplish in this big, old world?

In short, what would happen if my prayer life became all about Him?

 

Realizing Something’s Missing

While I am truly grateful that God doesn’t tire of me (even when I’m at my most self-centered best), I suspect He does experience something akin to disappointment when my conversation with Him spends an inordinate amount of time all wrapped up in me. This was my first realization from this prayer-is-about-Him experiment.

My Bible reading that week (sitting on the lanai of my friend’s condo, enjoying the brilliant sunrise over the Pacific) took me to the opening chapters of Revelation, to Christ’s messages to the churches. It occurred to me—as I prayed and read and prayed some more— that I was hearing in these words what was on His heart for our relationship.

When I reached chapter 3, the words “I stand at the door and knock” (v. 20), took on new meaning. In all my rushing, all my fretting, all my daily duties, there my faithful Master stands, knocking. He’s live and in person, waiting for our moments together.

But what do I do most days? Instead of opening the door and inviting Him in, I shoot back a cryptic text message: Need help. No time 2 talk. Do something about this mess, would U?

Something was missing in my prayer life: Him. If only I’d let Him in. What a difference it would make to our conversation and to my circumstances. In holding a true, face-to-face conversation with my Lord, I’d be refreshed, redirected, reenergized. But in holding Him a door’s-width away, I was losing all those beautiful benefits and allowing chaos to continue reigning in my world.

 

Leaning Into Him

Something else I observed in my upside-down (or was it right-side-up?) prayer times on Kauai was the absolute trustworthiness of Christ. There I was 4,300 miles away from home, while someone else (Mom) was administering Dad’s meds, giving his shots, monitoring his daily test numbers, schlepping him off to doctor’s appointments. I couldn’t control anything from that distance. Of course I was available by phone or email, but I wasn’t there with them.

God was. He knew everything going on.

 Everything.

How could I be sure? In His messages to the churches, Christ pinpointed with divine accuracy all the sources of distress (“I know your afflictions,” Rev. 2:9), all the need for correction (“repent and do the things you did at first,” Rev. 2:5), and all the moments where His people were desperate for even a kernel of reassurance (“I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance,” Rev. 2:19).

I took this as a message personally from the Lord’s heart to mine: He knows. All of it. And while He does offer me the privilege in prayer of carrying my concerns to Him, He isn’t hearing about them for the first time when I do. This wasn’t new information. But I was in desperate need of the reminder.

I found spiritual vitality in this reassurance. My daily desperation prayers, while heard, are never a surprise to my Lord. This prompted me, in my request-less experiment, to simply lean into Him—to express my dependence on Him by trusting His wisdom and creativity instead of trying to coerce Him into resolving things my way.

When I stemmed my flow of demands, I found He was already at work in those crises that were of greatest concern to me. I also found that my relationship with Him was finding new depth and breadth as I learned to entrust to Him all those people and needs that were so close to my heart.

 

Restoring My Love for Him

But by far the biggest realization from my prayer time that week came when I wasn’t even sitting with the Word open before me. I was on a deserted beach standing ankle deep in sand. Camera in one hand. Fresh seashell in the other. Accompanying the crescendo of sparkling waves by raising my little voice in an old hymn. At that moment when I was asking nothing, but instead worshipping Him, into my heart dropped piercing words I’d read earlier that morning, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4).

I suppose I wouldn’t have been ready for this major course correction before learning the previous two lessons. And I certainly wouldn’t have heard it if I hadn’t slowed down to listen.

How had I abandoned my love for Christ? I prayed hard as I dug into the passage later at the condo. Abandoned, the Greek word Christ used, means sent away and replaced with something else. This chilled me to the core.

So, I prayed again. I guess I broke my own rule, because this was a request—albeit a different kind of request than I typically made. Oh Lord, forgive me for replacing my love for You with duty, resentment, apathy, disappointment, selfishness. I’ve been so much about doing for You, that I’ve pushed aside being with You. Thank You for this sharp correction. It’s painful. But I’m grateful You cared enough to give it. Help me return to the love for You I had at first.

 

Forever Changed

Ten days go quickly, especially when you’re in a place as close to paradise as this world can offer. You wouldn’t expect me to say I stuck to the request-less prayer pattern indefinitely. But I can tell you this: My prayer life is forever changed. I have established a pattern of making fewer self-serving requests. I do now make a priority of inviting Him all the way in, of trusting Him without demanding answers, and of nurturing relationship with Him daily.

As always, He does care what’s on my heart. But in my refreshed love for Him, I now care a little bit more about what’s on His heart. It’s a start.

Julie-Allyson Ieron is a conference speaker and author of 27 books, including Praying Like Jesus, which rereleased recently with a companion Bible study. She also is the creator of a women’s product for WordSearch Bible software, The Julie-Allyson Ieron Bible Reference Collection. Julie’s website is joymediaservices.com.

(C) 2012 Prayer Connect magazine. To subscribe to Prayer Connect, click here.

 

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