Monday, June 27, 2016
The ABC's of Prayer
When my children were very young, I began using the ABC's as a tool to guide them in Scripture memorization. For example, "A" would stand for Anger: "A wise man controls his temper" (Proverbs 14:29). "B" -- Bad Words: "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies" (Psalm 34:13). For "C" I chose the word Choosing: "Where is the man who fears the Lord? God will teach him how to choose the best" (Psalm 25:12). And on and on we'd go until we had made our way through the alphabet and then we'd begin again with new words corresponding to each letter. (I must inject here that I used money as an incentive. Back then, I think I paid them a quarter at the end of each week for the verse committed to memory. You may judge me, if you like, but, hey, it worked.)
There was a period of time where our middle child would get up in the middle of night with some type of anxiety, pacing the floor on his toes. As his mother, I would pull him into bed with me, wrap my arms around him, and say, "A." He would respond with, "A wise man controls his temper."
Then I would say, "B."
He'd reply, "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies."
And on I would go with each letter, with him responding with the corresponding verse until he finally settled down and drifted off to sleep way before we made it to "Z." And as I recall, none of those verses had anything to do with anxiety or fear. They had more to do with just life in general.
"D" - Doing: "Whatever you do, do well" (Eccl. 9:10).
"E" - Example: "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).
"F" - Friends: "Do not be mislead: bad company corrupts good character" (1 Cor. 15:33).
After several rotations of ABC character-building verses, I moved to selecting scriptures that had to do with God and His character. How many of those verses through those years took root and produced good fruit? Only God knows. But for that season of restless nights, the ABC's were less about Scripture memory and more about prayer and connecting to the true Word of God.
Many, many years have passed since those days of drawing my child close and saying the ABC's in order to calm him down. Many books have since been read on prayer, and many techniques have been employed. Does anyone truly believe they have arrived when it comes to praying? Certainly not I. Recently I came upon a story that J. David Muyskens relates in his book, Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God. I offer it to you here.
The story is told of a Jewish peasant who became so absorbed in his work in the field that he did not notice that the sun had gone down. It was the eve of Passover, and he was not allowed to travel after sunset. So he spent the night in the field. At sunrise his rabbi came walking through the field and said to the peasant, "Your family missed you last night." With a sigh the peasant explained what had happened.
"Well," said the rabbi, "I hope you at least said the appointed prayers."
"No," the peasant replied, "that's the worst of it. I was so upset that I could not remember the words."
"Then how did you pass the holy evening?" asked the rabbi.
"I recited my alphabet," said the peasant, "and trusted God to form the words."
Sometimes life can get just get overwhelming. Whether it be the chaos in the world, the chaos in our own personal life, or the chaos within our heart, during those times, we can find that it's difficult to know what to pray. Or how to pray. It's times like that when we can trust God to form the words. After all, He knows the world's troubles; He knows our personal circumstances; He knows our hearts -- our desires, our needs, our sorrows, our rejections. And sometimes there just are no words.
So should you hear me singing in the night season, listen closely, I just may be reciting my ABC's while God draws me close in His arms.
Just an ordinary moment...