Making Space for God: Prayer

MAKING SPACE FOR GOD

THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE: PRAYER

Meredith and I were sitting on the couch, one of us with a diet coke and the other with a cup of tea, when she pulled the throw pillow up into her lap. She looked at her coke and started, “I’ve been so eager to tell you about that lesson I heard on the podcast the other day! It really got my attention! He told a story of a time when he was on a trip to Israel with a group, in the desert of Paran.  The leader of the group was a Bible teacher. The teacher told the group that in the creation story, God created the space. And then He told the people, ‘You fill it. Go, be fruitful and multiply.’ He went on to say that the people who filled the space God had created messed that story up – as we all know – and the world descended into evil and chaos. The teacher continued, telling the group that later, as God speaks to His chosen people that He has just delivered out of Egypt, God tells them to build a tabernacle. God basically says – this time I want you to create a space and this time, will fill it.”

Meredith and I agreed, that this message is not exactly in Scripture, but the principle is there. It might even be argued that there’s an indirect promise for us — that if we will create the space for God, God will fill it.

She continued, “As I thought about that lesson over the next few days, it kept churning in the back of my mind. The thought wouldn’t go away. And I just happened to read Psalm 119:164, which states, ‘Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, LORD, and I follow your commands.'”

“So, I committed.”

“You committed what?” I queried.

“I committed to making space for God seven times a day,” she answered.

I took a sip of tea and started this conversation with myself in my head: “Seven times a day? She isn’t making a space. She is carving out a cavern! That’s so cool. Wow! Can I do that? Should I do that? What if I did that too? I probably wouldn’t keep up with it. But, what if I did it for a little while? Wouldn’t even a little while be better than not even doing it at all?”

I probed. “How do you do that — seven times a day?”

She adjusted the pillow in her lap and sat her coke on the coaster on the table beside us. She reached in her back pocket and pulled out her phone. “I set alarms on my phone and every time it goes off, I pray. Oh, my! It’s been so good!”

There they were. Seven alarms. Each alarm with a little notation to pray.

It was so easy. Why hadn’t I ever thought of doing something like that? I was inspired by Meredith’s idea, and I told her so. She said she had only been doing it for about a week, but that it was really causing her to turn her thoughts toward God and godly things. She was so enthusiastic! It was contagious! I wanted to try it.

As we talked, one of her alarms went off. And she looked over at me and held out her hand. I took it, and we prayed together. It was the first time we had prayed together outside of mealtime or some special happening. It was good. No, it was very good.

I asked Meredith if I could see her alarms again so I could set similar alarms of my own. And after she left that day, I set my own alarms and made my own little notations to pray.

Baker Heights prayer space

THE IDEA

While I could have thought of this idea on my own, I did not think of it on my own. Even though I have read several books about spiritual disciplines. It was not until someone shared her fervor for the idea that I was spurred to join in. It just overflowed from her, and I wanted that in my life, too.

Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

This was true. Her light was shining. I saw it. And I glorified God for what I saw in her.

THE IMPACT – MY STRUGGLE

Prayer alarmsEager to enter into my day with intervals established for prayer time, I was surprised to find that, when my prayer alarm rang while I was working at my desk, I was annoyed. How could this be? Annoyance was not a feeling I expected when I started on this journey! Why was I annoyed?

I had to admit it to myself and confess to God that I was annoyed because it had interrupted me. Then, I had to admit to myself that it was due to selfishness or worldliness or some other thing that I didn’t know exactly how to label. But I knew I didn’t want it in my life.

I wanted to pray, but not when God was interrupting me. (Ouch!) So I repented and recommitted to make a conscious choice to choose God. You see, I work from home and, as my own boss, I could choose to stop my work and devote a few minutes to God just about any time I wanted. But in the first few days of my prayer alarms, my “want-er” was not being a good “choose-er.”

1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”

I wanted to be devoted to God more than I wanted to be devoted to things of this world. This prayer practice was a timely reminder that I still have some growing to do in that regard.

THE IMPACT – MY PRAYERS

At first, when I was learning to pray so frequently, I had trouble knowing what to pray. I know that may sound odd, but it seemed like I was asking for the same few things every time I bowed before Him. So, I decided to make my alarms into a sort of topical list. During each prayer time, I prayed for a different theme. Here are the themes I started with:

  • Glory to God
  • Gratitude
  • Family and friends
  • The church. Our nation.
  • Those in need: the lost, the sick, the weary, the alien, the orphan, and the widow.
  • Humility and repentance.
  • Trusting God

Over the days, I expanded my themes to include scriptures on each of the themes. Many times, I would pray the verses as my prayer, giving God’s message back to Him as my message. This is one way I began to pray more for God’s will and less for my own desires. I believe my prayers will continue to change and grow.

1 Timothy 4:8: “For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life, and also for the life to come.”

THE IMPACT – MY PRAYERS, PART 2

I found that even though I was being more disciplined in praying during my work day, it was sometimes difficult to turn off the mental list of responsibilities and tasks on my mind and focus on prayer. To combat this, I employed a few tactics.

    1. I would leave my desk and go to the guest room. This way I could close the door to “work.” I could sit in the chair or kneel by the footstool. It was a quiet place with no distractions.
    2. I would often start the prayer time with a song. I now keep a songbook by my chair.
    3. I would write out a scripture and sometimes would pray that scripture as my prayer – savoring each word, and each line, making them my own.
    4. Finally, I learned that if I prayed aloud, that I could focus my mind on God much more easily than if I prayed silently.

Luke 11:1: One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

I had found my “certain place” in my little corner of the guest room where God is teaching me to pray.

THE IMPACT – ON MY SPOUSE

It did not take but a couple of days for my husband, who also works from home, to notice my alarms and my retreats into the back room. So when he asked what it was all about, I overflowed with what I had been doing, and how it had challenged me and strengthened me.

“I found that Bible study was something that I loved because it was tangible. I could see it and measure it,” I said. “But prayer… prayer has been different. I think prayer is a bigger act of faith for me. It is a statement that I believe in the living God, whom I cannot see. And my prayer time is an expression that I love Him and trust Him. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been good.”

That very day, he said, “I want to do this too.” He stepped away to make his own certain place at the window seat in our bedroom.

Now, months later, we are both still committed to our daily prayers. Sometimes we pray together, especially at the 9 p.m. time. It is a very special time we share when we come together and make space for God at the end of our day. But mostly we pray in our own certain places. It has brought us closer to God, as we have drawn near to Him, and it has brought us closer to each other as we value each others’ faith and devotion.

THE IMPACT – FILLING THE SPACE

When I first heard about the idea of setting the alarms, it was an example of one spiritual discipline that a person could choose to adopt. There is nothing magical or mystical about this discipline over other spiritual practices like solitude, fasting, Bible study, meditation, or serving. But what this prayer practice did for me was give me a structure in which I could carve out a time in my day and in my heart to turn my attention to God.

Because the scripture impetus for this exercise was the verse in Psalm 119:64 – to praise God seven times a day – I have daily filled the spaces of my day by dwelling on many of the attributes and actions of God – His love, mercy, justice, righteousness, patience, majesty, and eternal being. He has filled the space that I created for Him each time the alarm went off.

What I did not expect is how my heart would be transformed outside those designated times of prayer. I found that I did not pick up my phone as frequently to scroll through X or play a game. I began to listen to more Christian podcasts, and read more Christian books, and study the Bible more. I was more hungry to fill my free time with things that reminded me of Him and taught me more about Him.

Lastly, I noticed that my prayer to “love others as myself” was opening my eyes to the needs of those around me. My prayers became less about me and more filled with prayers of intercession for others.

God truly did fill the space that I created for Him.

multiple cells phone prayer alarms

THE IMPACT – ON OTHERS WHO ARE NEAR

In wrapping up, I have to admit that it is fun to watch how one person’s commitment to praise God each day is spreading to more and more people. It has been like that old song we used to sing, “It Only Takes a Spark.” And that is true. I cannot help but share this with others. Many who have heard of the prayer alarms have joined in the practice. But not everyone has found it to be a discipline they wanted to adopt.

Last month, we had some friends over for dinner. There were about a dozen of us in the house. At 9 p.m., seven different phone alarms went off at the same time. I wish, oh I wish, I had had my phone recording running and had captured the sounds. Seven different phones. Seven different ringtones, all declaring that it was time to make space for God so He could fill it. It was glorious!

Prayer alarmsOf note – I’d like to point out that it is not the specific prayer(s) that is the key here. And, it is not the number of times per day that is important. What is important is the choice to regularly include God in your day. So, as an example, here is a screenshot of one of the phones that rang that night at our house. She made the prayer times focused on things that had meaning for her spiritual life.

In addition to that, just knowing the impact this practice has had on others brings a realization to me that when I am praying alone in my little corner, there are other brothers and sisters, faithful believers who are in their chairs, on their beds, or on their knees, praising God, praying and interceding for others. While God is glorified, I am encouraged and strengthened.

THE IMPACT – ON OTHERS FARTHER AWAY

My last little story starts with kind of a downer, but it has a happy ending. On a recent vacation, my husband and I went on a cruise. And I had to wrestle with my self again. Back home, when I started the prayer alarm practice, I had found a way to overcome being annoyed when the alarm went off. But now, I caught myself hitting the “snooze” repeatedly on my alarms while I was on vacation. Several times I was not too busy. I was not involved in an activity where I couldn’t be interrupted. But I had to wrestle with letting my leisure taking priority.

Another opportunity for me to recognize it. Confess it. And grow.

Now, to the happy ending. On this cruise ship, the cruise’s activity schedule included a “Bible Study (unhosted).” (Can you believe that a cruise ship provided a room and a window of time for a daily Bible Study?) I chose to go to the study location every day. It was a small way I could make space for God in the midst of my leisure.

The small group gathered in the wedding chapel on the top floor of the ship. We informally studied and discussed things of faith and discipleship. Mid-week, we talked about things that strengthened our faith when we were at home. I briefly shared the prayer alarm idea. The group seemed to appreciate the recommendation.

[Below is a  view of the “Ship Study”]

Prayer alarms JapaneseOne of the ladies at the Bible study lived in Texas, but was from Japan. We made a friendly connection during the daily studies. After I got home, she wanted to share with me that she had started the spiritual discipline of daily praying. She sent me a text with a screenshot of her alarms and her notations to pray. They were in Japanese! It reminded me of one of my favorite Scriptures:

“… by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God…” Revelation 5:9-10

 

THE IMPACT – ON YOU

Maybe this idea has caused you to start a conversation with yourself in your own mind. “Can I do that? Should I do that? What if I did that too? I probably wouldn’t keep up with it. But, what if I did it for a little while? Wouldn’t even a little while be better than not even doing it at all?”

Who knows how the kingdom of God may be shaped and enlarged if more of us spend time on our knees in a space created for God. It is fun to think about.

I hope, and pray, that you will. It only takes a spark.

Kit Mullins - Author
Kit Mullins
Baker Heights Member

Kit has been a Bible student since she was in her mid-twenties. Passionate about the need for Christians to be “people of the Book,” Kit encourages others to wrestle with the text. One of her hobbies is managing a website called Living as Disciples. By trade, Kit and her husband Jesse are co-owners of a digital marketing agency in Abilene, Texas.

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