24 Apr 2018

The Wrestling Match in My Prayer Closet [Episode 39]




There is a wrestling match going on in my prayer closet that would rival any bout of the World Wide Wrestling Federation. I really want to be writing a post about how my prayer closet catapulted me into deeper intimacy with God, wonderful epiphanies, and a touch of that peace that surpasses all understanding. No such luck. Unfortunately, my prayer closet has mostly been a gruesome clash of forces.

If you could watch the spiritual reality of what goes on in my prayer closet I think you would find yourself ringside watching me wrestle myself. God is patiently sitting in the ring repeatedly saying, “When you get tired of doing that I would really love to spend some time with you. Perhaps, you could stop and we could go have lunch.”

The truth is I am actually fighting multiple versions of me that keep tag teaming one another. One version of me is “Mr. Overcommitment.” Mr. O tries to force me to the floor before I even enter the closet. He grabs hold of me and says, “Not now! You HAVE this, this and this to do.” I yield and keep delaying getting into the ring. Sometimes my morning desire for prayer doesn’t get realized until bed time. Then weary and whooped from the day I hop into the ring and find…

The Phantom of Fatigue. I really hate this guy. This horrible nemesis grabs hold of me and puts me in the dreaded sleeper hold. Seated still with eyes closed, I am a nap waiting to happen. Involuntary head nods alert me back to the reality of, “Oh, yeah, I am praying.”

On a good day, I get a decent night of sleep and jump into my prayer closet while the kids are getting ready for school. Yehaw! I have just thwarted Mr. O and the Phantom. Don’t get too excited though, two very capable opponents await me in the ring.

One is Renegade Restlessness. I have been training him for years. Countless sets and repetitions of texting, internet surfing, facebook status lines and tweets have made me a master of mental movement. Restlessness jerks me all of over the ring. Sometimes mentally. Sometimes physically. I use to be able to sit still for an hour without so much as twitching. Now it is a battle to go 5 or 10 minutes without shuffling my posture, even worse are my thoughts. They have forgotten how to linger, meditate, relax, ponder or just be quiet and open. They run rampant.

My rampant thoughts have a cheerleader. Her name is “Open Loops.” She stands at the side lines shouting all of the incomplete tasks and commitments I have. David Allen, named her “Open Loops” in his books, How to Get Things Done. He describes every unfinished task as an open loop. Each open loop tugs at your attention and drains your energy. I have found that “Open Loops” are beyond a shadow of doubt the greatest provoker of a peaceless mind. Everything I haven’t finished starts calling my name when I try to quiet my mind before God. Some open loops whisper softly and just remind me they are there. Others are brash, loud and irrepressible.


There is good news though. Now that I know who they are, they are all getting fired.   I am ready to go have lunch with God.

  • Mr. O’s– You are going down. I am going to introduce you to “Mr No.” There isn’t a commitment that “No” cannot defeat.
  • The Phantom of Fatigue–You’re fired. I have had two good nights of sleep in a row. You are almost completely shoved out of the ring.
  • Renegade Restless–Get use to setting still. You got where you are because I relentlessly trained you. I am going to let you atrophy and die while a new trainer, The Holy Spirit, takes charge.
  • Open Loops–One by one, I am completing you. I am setting specific deadlines and goals so I know when I need to work on you and when I don’t. That way I won’t have to always be thinking about you. Scream all you want, but I will only be listening to you by appointment.



Dear God, let’s have lunch. I am fed up with the wrestling match. If any of these fools who have been coming between us try to sit down at the table, I would really like your help in dismissing them. If there is nothing else I have learned in my prayer closet, it is that right now I am very inadequate for the battle and need your help. Part of me is proud for being unrelenting. The rest of me knows I am not faring very well in the ring. Help. I would much rather be enjoying a banquet with you than engaging in a battle with me. See you in the closet.


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(This post is revised and updated from a post originally published April 19, 2011)

6 Responses

  1. Angie Southard

    I wish this one didn’t hit home with me but it does. Thanks for the post. Helps me to know I am not the only facing the same issues. Last night I went for a run and spent the entire time praying and saying I was sorry for not spending enough quality time on my 20 minutes of centering prayer.

  2. Sarah Hammond

    “When you get tired of doing that I would really love to spend some time with you.”

    This pierces my heart with a thousand daggers. The truth is, I am so tired of “doing that”. I have lost those “multiple versions of me” that are there to combat Mr O and Open Loops. With every negative me there is a positive me in here somewhere, waiting to be tagged to get back in the ring and fight these losers. Yes, they need to lose 20 pounds, go back to Yoga, and start weightlifting again.

    I would love to hear about your rivals to Mr. O and the gang.

  3. admin

    Sarah, thanks for commenting. This post seems to resonate with a lot of people. I probably need to do a follow-up but in an effort not to overcommit during one of my absolute busiest times I am going to share a couple of links from some prior posts that strike on this same subject.


    More later. Again thank you for commenting. Count on a follow-up post, but I need to get the other side of Easter before I can give it the time it deserves.

  4. John, thank you so much for inviting me to this blog about prayer and asking me to read and see if I identified. Simple answer: YES! You commented on my blog http://www.joancwebbblog.com/2011/11/relaxes-muscles-and-centering-prayer and I appreciated it and wanted to come over and read your thoughts about CP and your Prayer Closet, but Mr. O, the Phantom, and Open Loops were meeting with me at the time. Actually, they still are! I’m asking them to sit down and let me be, however. It will take some time. But I’m committed to hushing them.

  5. Allison

    Wow, John, you are just so on point with these prayer posts. This one was spot on with me, I tell you. The wandering thoughts is a real problem for me and sometimes I have to consciously pull myself back into the present of what I’m doing and apologize to God for straying. It’s hard.

  6. Patty Minga

    Thanks John good msg. I have struggled with this off and on. I am learning to allow the Holy Spirit to quite the chatter in my mind. I desire a more initmate relationship with Christ and I know this is a hurdle I have to overcome. blessings to you.

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