16 Mar 2008

Focus, Fatigue and Prayer

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Nearly a year ago I made my first post on this site and noted that two issues repeatedly are voiced by people regarding prayer: finding the time and being able to focus. Those two issues have been difficult hurdles for me during my Lenten journey. On those days when I have allowed the demands of life to shove my hour of prayer literally to the eleven hour, I have found myself torn between sleep and prayer. At times, I found myself nodding while speaking prayers out loud. I wonder if this is the experience the disciples had in the garden of Gethsemane moments before Jesus fateful arrest. His words to them come to me, “Couldn’t you just sit with me one hour?” Apparently I can’t always. I would like to say the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I think though the harsh reality is that the spirit is weak many hours earlier when what shouldn’t be difficult choices are poorly made. The choice to stay up late watching some mindless movie the night before or the choice to process a few e-mails during a lunch break when I could get a short nap.

I am realizing just how intimately my spiritual and physical lives are one in the same. Last April I spoke about how using a prayer form can help you focus and offered an A.C.T.S. prayer as one simple model. A.C.T.S. stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. It’s a great prayer form that can really expand your vocabulary and it can also help you focus…But…the best tool in the world is only marginally helpful if it is wielded by a fatigued operator. During Lent for half of my prayer time I use The Book of Common Worship. It’s a clean clear structure for a well rounded time of prayer. It’s a great guide but when weariness frequently settled upon me because I found myself still enough in prayer for it to grab me, my attentiveness would stagger. My mind would lumber about in awkward lurches from one thought, to no thought, to prayer and then back again in moments.

I now find myself after several weeks of experiencing this far too often, saying, “God, I love you too much to give you such a compromised gift of my attention.” I find my internal dialogue shifting to, “I need to get to bed earlier tonight so I can pray more clearly and enjoy my time with You rather than fight for focus.” And when I fail to get to bed early, I earnestly feel that I have failed in some way.

I yearn now for Jesus to be able to raise his head up in the garden and find me fervently in prayer for him and compassionately intertwined with the agony of his spirit, not removed and dozing. I hope for him to be able to look up at me and instead of saying, “Couldn’t you stay awake with me for but one hour?”, he says with light in his eyes and a fatherly pride in his voice, “Thank you for walking with me in this hour. You are servant with servant’s heart.” That will not happen though unless I seek first His kingdom.

To be continued…… because guess what. It’s about 12:30 a.m. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I lost sleep and found myself dragging tomorrow because I stayed up far too late writing about the need to get rest so we can give God our best. Nitey nite and blessings from The Practical Disciple

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