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clock

 

“We live in the midst of alarms; anxiety beclouds the future; we expect some new disaster with each newspaper we read.”
― Abraham Lincoln

When I moved into my humble home some twenty years ago, the previous owners had cleared out all of their belongings except for a clock over the refrigerator. It doesn’t keep time properly and I wanted to get rid of it, but the cord had been built into the trim in the kitchen. So if I want to get rid of the clock, I’d have to take apart the kitchen molding. I kept thinking I’d eventually take care of it when we renovated the kitchen, but that didn’t happen. Meanwhile, that clock has been running all these years, showing the wrong time.

Sometimes I’d look at that clock and it would loom large over my head, even though it’s a small object. It would bother me that I couldn’t get rid of the darn thing. That would lead me to worry about all the other little annoying things in need of repair around the house. Before I knew it, I’d spent hours thinking of things I couldn’t resolve and it had left me in an agitated state. Certainly not in a place of peace.

So often, we wear ourselves out working on things that don’t serve us. The way I see it, anxiety is a full-time job for most of us. It’s like running in place. We expend a lot of energy and end up getting nowhere.

In a previous post, I wrote about a spiritual writer named Bhagavan Das, who said, “Worrying is praying for what you don’t want.”

In a spiritual sense, prayer is a panacea. It covers everything and opens the door to God’s grace when a situation has been concerning you.

But on a practical level, I believe that prayer is a team effort. A two-part process.  We ask, then we act. If there’s a goal that’s important to us, we know God gave us two feet for a reason: to walk toward it, and to the best of our ability, to get it done.

Maybe it’s actually three parts, now that I think about it. The last part is the hardest. It’s… letting go.

Once we’ve prayed about a problem and done everything we can to make it better, that’s when it’s time to release it into God’s hands. Ask for what you want. Act to make it happen. The only thing left to do is to release it and send it on its way with a hearty, heartfelt: Amen.

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One of my favorite t.v. shows was The West Wing, and in one scene, the staff is trying to map out a plan to enable the lead character, President Josiah Bartlet, to re-gain popular favor after an insider’s memo regarding his ineffectiveness is leaked. The advisers bicker back and forth, talking about how to please the various constituencies, and it seems to involve capitulating to public opinion on matters of policy and even conscience. Finally, the senior adviser writes his suggestion on a coaster and it becomes clear what must be done:

Let Bartlet be Bartlet.

My personal mantra is simple.  Plan A:  Trust God.  There’s no Plan B.

Another of my favorite phrases is “let go and let God.” Another way to say it is “divest and deify.”

You might say deify?  God doesn’t need me to tell Him He’s God!

But, judging by the way I hold onto my troubles even after I’ve prayed about them, it might seem like I’m forgetting who’s actually in charge here.  I have to remember to let God be God.

After I prayed this morning, I said, “Well, it’s in God’s hands.”  Of course, I know everything is anyway, but this time I acknowledged it and left it there.

So often as I say my morning prayers, I’ll say in my mind, “This is too big for me to bear, so I’ve entrusted it to God.” The problem is that even though I know it’s now officially in God’s hands, I still agonize about it, strategize in case God doesn’t address it, and rationalize that I have to work hard to fix it just in case a solution doesn’t show up right away.

So often I invest in the pain of a thing I can’t figure out or solve. I assume that I have something to learn from those dark nights of the soul, and it’s almost as if I set down roots in that hardship. I figure that this is some kind of life lesson that only comes through suffering. The thing is that it may well be that it’s temporary, if only I’d let go of it. Most of the time, I plow my energies into formulating a Plan B before I even let Plan A (trusting God) take  effect.

When trouble comes, you can’t fix it or force it. You can’t fudge it or fake it. It has to be sincere and specific when you lift up your troubles in prayer.  Do what you can do and – here’s the tricky part – really, resolutely, leave the rest up to God.

When something is too hard to deal with, think of it this way:  it’s just another juncture of trust.  A great opportunity to let God lead and know in your bones that there is an answer, even if you can’t see it right now. Even though you may well have something to learn from pain and lack, it’s also possible to learn from relief and abundance. Maybe if we get out of the habit of expecting so little from God, it opens an unanticipated avenue of blessing. You might be amazed at the good things that come your way when you divest and deify.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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