In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Lately, I’ve been feeling humbled regarding the quality of my prayer life. I pray “help me” pretty much all day, but as far as what to pray past that, I have been feeling a little deflated. And tired. And, in truth, a little lazy. Recently, God put it on my heart that not only should I pray for specific things, but that I should humble myself to pray that He would open my eyes to what those things are. I’d like to think most of the time that I am in control and can ask for what I need, but I am so thankful I serve a God who daily shows me how wrong that thinking is and who opens my eyes to how sovereign, big, and amazing He is. A God who not only wants good things for me as His daughter, but who is willing to speak to me in prayer and show me what He wants for my life. Willing to take out the guessing about whether what I am praying for is what He might do and, instead, show me what He wants me to ask Him to do.
Lance and I (and our sweet baby, Naomi) recently visited southern Illinois for a conference for the network of churches our church in St Louis is a part of. It was a slow paced three days filled with worship, powerful teachings, and downtime to fellowship with friends and each other. In one of the first sessions, we worshiped to the song “It Is Well with My Soul.” This wasn’t the first time I had heard the song; I grew up attending a small church with my grandma and granddad, and I still remember singing that song from the dark red, almost maroon colored hymnals we sang out of weekly. This time felt different, though. This time, God spoke softly to my heart, revealing clearly the longing that I had been struggling to name lately.
As a mom to two VERY independent three year olds and a barely four month old, my prayers have felt beyond scattered lately. Mostly, my prayers are filled with “help me” in times of exhausted, impatient desperation and an assortment of requests. Requests for wisdom on how to discipline rightly and with patience. Lots of patience. I spend most days training toddlers, nursing and changing diapers, making meals then cleaning them up off of faces and floors and walls, and attempting to keep a happy, cleanish house. By the end of the day (and if I’m honest, most days by 9am) I am tired and praying I would love my husband and my littles more. Praying that God would show me how to love them in a way that takes away my selfish desire to ignore the constant demands of motherhood: the “Mom, can I …,” the need for a bed time routine, and the request for just one more story. Show me how to love them past their tantrums and bad moods. Love them when our budget seems impossible and when the idea of the marriage the movies promise seems more like the fairy tales I spend my days reading out loud. Love and discipline them rightly when the hardness of family tragedy strikes again and again. When I want to curl up in a ball and mourn a baby lost way too soon, and when hard “days” turn into hard “months” that turn into hard “years.” Love my sweet littles with right training and discipline that requires the patience I know I can only muster up by putting my yoke on Jesus. Thankful in Matthew 11:28-30 He calls, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Remembering that while I am at work attempting to show love by giving healthy discipline, I am also in a constant season of receiving it from a Father who loves me too much to leave me where I am. Reminded in Hebrews 12:11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Most of all, I pray for the power and wisdom to love them with what the Bible describes as a “gentle and quiet spirit” in 1 Peter. Those words have really been on my heart since my big girls started demanding more discipline and training. I love 1 Peter. Especially just 4 months postpartum, Peter’s call for wives to, “not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious,” really resonates with me. I pray that my Father would see me as “very precious” and that my house of girls would grow to value hearts and their walk with Jesus above worldly beauty. Yes, please. Am I the only one who has to pray against fear daily that I am messing this up? I spend a lot of time seeing my sin and praying that my three little disciples have a mom who is a model with a gentle and quiet spirit, and not a mom with crazy hair yelling about things that, in the long run, have zero significance. And then I move on to thankfulness that I am NOT in control, for His abundant grace, and that as Lamentations 3:22-24 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”
I feel like these are important things that the Lord has put on my heart to pray about at this time in my life. I wonder if I would have thought to pray for these things had I not been diligently asking God to show me what to pray. So, as much as I can, I follow Jesus’ call for me to ask, seek, and knock in my prayer life. Some days I feel like, despite all my prayers, I am a mess. A grumpy, tired, angry mess. Not praying enough and not glorifying God with my impatient actions. Other days, I go to bed thankful for the smiles and lack of abundant crazy that fills most days.
These scattered thoughts and prayers filled my head that night at the conference while we worshiped, singing:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
And in that moment, I was filled with that feeling you have when God reveals something to you. A mix of thankfulness and curiosity that you weren’t sooner able to see something that now seems so obvious. I still pray and have hope for specific areas of growth in my life. However, in that moment God opened my eyes to the great value in praying that whether I have a day that ends feeling like a success or one that was filled with the hardness of life, God would teach me to say and feel that either way it would be well with my soul. That I would feel peace, joy, and true contentment in the face of mothering littles, family struggles, miscarriage, and loss. That I wouldn’t just put on a happy face, but that it would truly be well with my soul in a way that is only possible with the love of God.