By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
When life gets chaotic, prayer is often the first thing to go out the window. Yet it’s the one thing we need to hold onto the most.
Prayer is our path to peace. It’s the only way to lay our worries, anxieties, and outright chaos at the feet of Jesus and receive His peace in exchange. Philippians 4:6-7 tell us, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV). That’s especially good advice when life seems to be falling apart around you or your schedule is crazy or one storm after another rocks your boat.
So that you don’t neglect your true source of hope, strength, and peace, here are six ways to keep your prayer habits when life gets chaotic:
1. Keep Prayer First
I have found if I prioritize prayer, and make it the first thing I do before rolling out of bed in the morning, I am much more focused and centered on God, rather than myself or my circumstances. Set the tone for your day (especially if the days have been chaotic), by talking to God first before anyone else, and surrendering yourself to His Spirit’s control before your feet even hit the floor. Better yet, stay in bed until you’ve spent some time praying or you may be too distracted once you get out of bed and aim to start solving the world’s problems or putting out the fires at home or work.
The Psalmists set this example of prioritizing prayer by seeking God first thing in the morning (Psalms 5 and Psalms 130, just to name a couple). The Psalmist, David, whose life was chaotic at times – when he was running from his enemies or just juggling the responsibilities of king, Israel’s spiritual leader, husband, and father (of some children who were quite dysfunctional!) – still found time to pray to God early in the morning. In Psalm 5:3, he prays: “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” David’s reference to watching implies he was listening for God’s direction during that time of prayer, too – something we all need to do, especially when life gets chaotic. As busy and chaotic as David’s life was at times, if he could find time to pray to God in the morning, so can you and I.
2. Find a Place and Take a Time-Out
Everybody needs a quiet place to center their hearts on God and pray. When chaos comes, it’s difficult to find that place on the fly, so be prepared. Even when you take the time to start your day with prayer, there are still times you’ll need to retreat to a quiet place and listen for God.
Getting away from the chaos by going into a quiet room (like a closet, perhaps?) and closing the door can do wonders to still the chaos, even if just momentarily. There’s a reason God instructed us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Another translation says “Stop striving and know that I am God” (NASB, emphasis added). Once we get still, once we stop the striving, we can sense His presence and discern His still small voice guiding and directing us through the chaos or just urging us to come to Him, lay our burdens at His feet and receive His rest (Matthew 11:28-30).
If you have a regular place to go to get quiet and pray – your car during your lunch break at work, your living room chair by the window once the house is empty, or your bedroom closet – then you can actually train your heart and mind to be still and listen for God’s whisper whenever you go to that place. Find your quiet place and go there often to spend time with God in the midst of the chaos.
3. Pray through Scripture
There are many prayers in the Word of God. And because the Bible is “God-breathed” (1 Timothy 3:16) and “living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12), it is an excellent prayer manual. We can pray, according to God’s will and in His Spirit, by praying His Word – the actual prayers in the Bible, or other portions of Scripture.
I suggest praying through Psalms 145 by reading each verse aloud and then praying it back to God as you’re prompted by applying that verse to your circumstances in the form of a prayer. When you do that, you are interacting with God’s Word but also using His Word as a guide for how to pray. The Bible assures us “that if we as anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15 NASB). One sure way to pray “according to His will” is to pray according to His Word.
4. Get Outdoors
Just getting outdoors and in touch with nature can sometimes slow the heart rate and calm your stress. Get out of the brick building and off the concrete and walk in the grass or on a dirt path. Feel the breeze, watch the rain or snowfall, or enjoy the warmth of the sun on your face. Listen for bird songs or look for colors in nature. As you do, you can’t help but connect with your Creator. By welcoming a change of pace, or a return to nature, you are allowing your heart the rest and breathing time it needs to get quiet, focus, and talk to God again. Try it, it’s free therapy, and it works.
5. Sing Your Praise
Do you realize prayers can be sung? In fact, the entire book of Psalms is a songbook and each Psalm contains lyrics that were originally set to music. I often sing a Psalm to God, guessing the tune or recognizing one that’s already been put to music by contemporary songwriters. Or, make up your own song of praise and adoration to God. Praise is a form of prayer – it’s just focused on God and not us and our needs. One who can sing can lighten his or her load. When you lift up your voice you can lessen your burden. When you sing, it’s a sign of surrender.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 commands us “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (NASB). I’ve paraphrased that into a simple reminder: “In all things, sing.” That saying reminds me to be thankful and to praise God in every circumstance, whether I feel like it or not. That’s especially helpful in getting through the chaos. If you start out by praising God, He will change your perspective and make your prayers God-focused rather than self-focused.
6. Write it Out
If you are one who processes life through writing or simply find writing easy, go ahead and write out your prayers. That’s a great way to stay focused, so your mind doesn’t constantly wander as you’re talking to God, then switching back to your thoughts, then getting carried away with the “what ifs.”
As you write out your prayers, you can also go back and re-read what you prayed and record an answer or insight next to that prayer request, which gives you a record of how God came through. Even when we don’t see immediate answers (or remember to record them), when we see what we prayed a week ago, a month ago, or five years ago, we can trace our spiritual growth and gain insight as to what God was doing in our lives in the midst of the chaos or how He has refined us since. What better way to see evidence of Romans 8:28 in your prayer journal of how God caused “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”? Write it out and remember it. You’ll be glad later that you did.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker, Bible teacher, and the author of 17 books, including When Women Walk Alone (150,000 copies sold), When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, Drama Free, and When Couples Walk Together, which she co-authored with her husband of 32 years. Find out more about her speaking ministry, coaching services for writers, and books to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, at www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.