Today’s post is the last of a 3-part post mini-series. If you haven’t yet, go check out Day 1: I treat God like a friend I never talk to and Day 2: I use other people’s suggestions as the rule. Today, I wanted to share that I sometimes don’t feel like spending time with God because …
3. I am a prayer hoarder
If you could search the recesses of my brain (yikes) and go to the little house that says “prayer” on the mailbox, I’m pretty sure you could take a video and send it off to Hoarders. I imagine prayer notebooks from 2001 stacked up, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, from the basement to the attic. I imagine little, tiny, dirty scraps of paper with mental notes about an acquaintance’s struggles scribbled on them and strewn all over the house. Prayers for missionaries that I heard speak one time at my church, every little detail of every single friend’s life, all the things I’m supposed to pray for my family, my husband, myself, my church.
I can’t let any of it go. If I hear a need, I think I have to pray for it. I never do, so instead of taking time, stopping, praying and giving it to God, I store it up. I replace prayer with guilt over the fact that I haven’t prayed. When I do pray for something, I feel like one time is not good enough. So I stash that need somewhere in the house, sure I’ll need to find it again someday.
This guilt is toxic to what my communication with God could be right now. I don’t feel the freedom to just come to Him and talk … or listen. I feel like when I come to Him, I have a backlog of 10 year’s worth of prayers. I feel like I’m lugging around all those prayer journals everywhere I go. And I can’t actually pray for the things that are really important to me: my husband, the ministries I’m involved in day in and day out, my family and friends, my church, because I am so busy obsessing over my hoarded prayers.
That’s why I haven’t wanted to pray. Because I feel like praying means picking up that load again, carrying it to the throne room, and holding it up just long enough to spew out all my needs to the King. Then I put it on my back again and leave. Who wants that kind of life?
But that’s not what prayer is. I’m just kind of starting to get that.
Every day I am learning more and more about all this. Every day, God is helping me to finally put all these puzzle pieces together. Every day, I am peeling back more and more layers of guilt — tons of dead weight in guilt that I’ve been carrying around for God knows how long.
I have not laid it all down. I don’t think I’ve laid any of it down, but I’m starting to see that I have to. That it’s toxic to my relationship with God. If I ever want to be healthy, and maybe a little bit, free I’ve got to lay it down.
I have a feeling that you may be exactly where I am right now. Maybe you just now realized it. Maybe you had this vague dread of spending time with God but, like me, you were too ashamed to admit it. But I want to get rid of my baggage, and I feel like if I do, having a relationship with God will be refreshing and joyful for me again.
So, I’m in the middle of an experiment and I’m not laying this out as one of those rules I’ve already talked about. I don’t want anyone to feel like it’s the right thing to do or anything, because I honestly don’t know if it’s the right thing to do.
But I had to change something.
So I did. I set an amount of time — a very small and completely reasonable amount of time for me — and I said this was going to be the amount of time I spent consistently in a focused time with God. I know it seems like another rule, but it’s actually been completely freeing. This time limit constantly looks my guilt in the face and tells it to shut up already. I know that I’m going to spend this much time and I’m not going to guilt myself into anything else that God’s not calling me to.
I don’t pray for anyone else in that time. I don’t even pray for my ministries or my personal life or anything that’s weighing me down. I just talk and I try to listen. I read God’s word like He’s actually trying to tell me something. And that is all I do. And when that amount of time is up, I stop.
I’m not limiting God here. If He continued speaking to me, I would continue to listen. What I’m limiting is myself and my guilt. I’m limiting my hoarder tendencies and that giant rule book I can’t seem to put down. I am setting healthy boundaries for myself, because right now, I am my own worst Spiritual enemy.
Throughout the day, I pray for whatever comes to my attention, whatever I feel led toward. But after I pray for something once, I let it go until God, not myself, brings it up again.
Like I said, this isn’t a rule, and I don’t plan on it being like this for the rest of my life, but I had to change something up. I had to detox from the voices of guilt and rules and schedules.
I’m not necessarily encouraging you to try this (although I wouldn’t discourage it either). What I am encouraging is to realize whether this might be you. If you, like me, may be letting your mound of guilt and rule books and schedules suffocate the Holy Spirit. If maybe Jesus is calling to you from somewhere in that house called Prayer, but you dread going to look for Him because you’ll have to dig and dig and dig to find your way through those prayer journals.
That’s me. That is absolutely me. And I’m ready to start chunking some of that old, dead, dirty mess out the window. I’m ready to open the windows and breathe in some fresh air. I’m ready to just sit and talk with Jesus without any of the clutter in the way.