As many can relate, last week was the first week back at school for our family – a time that is eagerly anticipated yet somehow completely dreaded at the same time. My husband is a teacher, so he is back full time and I have to say good-bye to a stay-at-home parent/chef/laundry folder/house cleaner/(insert any household or family chore here).
And new this year, my son has started kindergarten! We are adjusting – or readjusting – to new schedules, waking up early, remembering how to get out of bed the first time the alarm goes off, coordinating soccer practice and church meetings, and on-and-on.
I miss summer already…
So, this past Thursday night – we are nearing the end of this tiring first week, and it is the end of a very long day. My daughter was in bed, so my husband and I put our son to bed together. He was cuddled up in his bed, and we all started to say his bedtime prayer.
As I’m speaking this prayer I hear myself say the word “food.” Well – that confused me. I think to myself, why did I just say the word food at bedtime? I’m processing this in my mind, all the while continuing to spew out this “bedtime prayer” we were saying together. All of a sudden I stop and realize that we were nearly to the end of our mealtime prayer – not our bedtime prayer – and not one of the three of us had noticed!
I tried to search the Bible for a verse to help define where we had gone wrong, and I couldn’t find anything – at least not related to prayer. I think that is because what we did wasn’t really prayer. Prayer is defined as a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship. I can’t speak for my son or husband, but my mind, my heart, was NOT in prayer. Instead, I was likely plotting how I would complete the tasks on my list for that evening and still get to bed at a reasonable time.
How often we just go through the motions; we speak the words and do not truly live the things we proclaim or consider what we are actually asking of our God in prayer.
I know – this is normal; human nature. I think it stems from our inability to focus; our culture’s view that multitasking is good; or maybe sometimes just our lack of sleep.
But the title of this writing poses the question – how can I avoid these moments when I just “go through the motions?!?” I don’t have a great answer. But I think it takes constant intention and daily, deliberate time with God – much more than just a routine bedtime prayer.
And when I need more than my own intentional thought and focus, I found this inspiring song of praise from Psalm 63:1-4.
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
Now THAT is a prayer with some feeling behind it! Oh, that I could lift those words up to God each day! I yearn for deep relationship with my God. And through prayer – constant, deep, personal, true prayer – I find God; God’s presence, peace and truth. Now that is worth living for and not just going through the motions!!