The past couple of weeks have been beyond ridiculous for my schedule. We have a word for when something is beyond ridiculous: ridonkulous. This week especially I have felt the power of ridonkulous in my schedule. Wednesday looked something like this:
- Up at 5. Check in with my news and Facebook, have coffee, read and pray a little.
- Run at 6. 4.3 miles.
- Shower and get ready for the day at 7.
- Mentorship meeting at 8.
- Teach Acts-Revelation from 9-noon
- Lunch meeting 12-1
- Teach Capstone 1-3:30
- Drive to church
- Marital mentorship with a couple 4-5
- Premarital mentorship 5-5:30
- Family night at church starts with dinner at 5:45, cleanup at 6:30, teach class 7-8.
- Go home, get the kids to bed, CRASH on the couch at 9.
I got a whack upside the head from one of my mentors this week when I told him that I am trying to mentor 5 marriages in crisis, do all my other pastoral duties, teach 4 classes, yada yada yada. He asked about my daily routine, so I shared and he got concerned. He started really getting after me about my schedule and whether I was being the husband and father that I need to be.
More importantly, he reminded me, I need to make sure that my relationship with Christ is strong and vibrant and growing. When it is me who is doing everything all kinds of stuff can go wrong. When it is Christ doing the work through me, then life is smooth. So he really asked me about my prayer life and devotions and whether I was living for me or for Christ. It is so easy to get so busy with life that we don’t make time for God and make a concerted effort to allow Him to be the center of our existence that we can quickly and easily lose sight of Him in the busyness. (as a side note, this is why mentorship is critical. Mentors give us insight into who we are and how we’re doing in love)
That really, really hit me when I sat at my desk on Thursday afternoon. I have a big white board across from my desk that has a list of weekly prayer items, arranged by day. On Monday I am reminded to pray for my staff, for our worship team, for my sermon prep, and for my wife. Tuesday I pray for our college group, for an ESL school that meets in our facilities, for our homebound, and for Elizabeth. The list continues through the week. On Thursday I realized that I had not prayed AT ALL for my list this week. How quickly these good habits can slip away!!
I felt really bad about that when I noticed it. I mean, if the pastor can’t keep his prayer life in order then who can? Is this indicative that my devotional life is out of whack? Am I neglecting my soul or my family? It was time for a little soul searching.
Funny enough what helped me more than anything was looking through my bonkers week. For my devotions I read through Galatians twice this week, asking God to show me His face and help me see the text to teach it. Laura and I talked about Galatians a couple of times for a Bible study she is doing. I got to pray with Laura several days this week, and over the marriages in crisis at least twice. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night I got to pray with and for my kids as they headed to bed. I got good reminders from the Lord as I prepare for this Sunday’s message about the necessity of persistent and humble prayer from Luke 18:1-14.
1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,
2 saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.
3 “There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’
4 “For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man,
5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ ”
6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said;
7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?
8 “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be 1merciful to me, the sinner!’
14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
That passage says nothing about the length of prayer, just that it needs to be humble and persistent. It doesn’t say that I have to spend an hour of continual prayer for God to hear me. I just need to keep coming and come humbly. (there’s lots in this text to discuss, but I don’t want to steal God’s thunder for Sunday’s message!)
I think that prepping for this Sunday’s message made me really lament my failure to follow my prayer schedule this week, but then made me come back to the heart of following Christ and praying. There were so many other places where I am having an opportunity to pray other than my office time (which has been very limited) that I was encouraged rather than discouraged. I focused at first on the places where I am struggling to find time for God, but then saw the places where He was allowing me to pray significantly and openly:
- I’m getting good time to pray with Laura on a consistent basis, and praying for her needs and having her pray for mine really builds my marriage.
- I’m getting good prayer with the kids on a regular basis.
- Devotionally I am getting a chance to read large sections of Scripture, usually in the early morning and for discussion in class.
- I’m getting to pray with the couples I am mentoring, too.
At this point you may be reading and thinking, “Okay great John. You’re getting prayer time and some devotions through a crazy schedule. So what? Why do I care? Is your blog turning into a typical narcissistic gab fest?” (let’s hope not) The point in me sharing all this is not to toot my own horn in any way; in fact, you’d be right to chide me for a lack of balance in my life. (that’s another post)
Rather, the point is that I bet that you’re almost as busy or as busy as I am. I bet that you’re running to and fro in your life as well. You’re too busy to have 15 continuous minutes a day to pray over your regular stuff, too busy to have big chunks of time for God. So find the little bits of time for Him!
- Find the 2 minutes you can spare from your internet time in the morning.
- Make the kids come and pray before they head to bed and open your heart to God with them.
- Put your Bible where you can get it when you’re idle. For me (GROSS ALERT!! SKIP IF YOU’RE SENSITIVE!!) that means having a Bible in the bathroom. Hey, it’s a guaranteed 5 minutes every day, right? (don’t even go there that this is inappropriate…one of my favorite blogs seems to revolve around poop!)
- Have a friend or coworker who knows Christ to pray with. Taking time in your appointments to address God for even a few seconds of focused time adds up in a hurry.
- Redeem your everyday life. If you’re in a place that you can, take the opportunities that present themselves for 5 minutes or whatever of focused time with God.
- Make meal times more than meal time prayers. Take another 60 seconds and pray for someone in your family or a friend.
For me, I need to get back to praying my weekly prayers. If I can find all of these nooks and crannies I can certainly find time to pray over these as well. After all there is time for stuff like blogging, isn’t there? Likewise, finding time for Bible reading, for mentoring, for the Spirit to change me this week will mean redeeming the small spaces between appointments rather than having long periods of solitude.
So redeem the week along with me. I’d love to hear how you find those moments and redeem them to make them count in your growth in Christ.