The other day, I took my three year old to do a little shopping. We were in a larger city, so when you’re there, you have to make the trip count. On this particular trip, we went to Ulta and Home Goods, probably two of the worst stores to take a three year old boy to.
In Ulta, I was quick. I knew what I needed, and I managed to keep my little guy’s fingers out of the sample eye shadow and his mouth away from the lipstick testers. We smelled some perfumes, and then we hit the register. It was fine.
In Home Goods, my hyper, mom-sense level of alertness was put to the test. Oh, there are so many breakable things in that store! And of course, my son refused to ride in the cart. He is a “big boy” after all. We wandered down the aisles while I kept repeating, “Look with your eyes. Don’t touch that!” I also manhandled the cart so Max wouldn’t push it into the shelves while riding on the side. To make it worse, I picked up a new 5’x7′ rug I had to maneuver through the remaining part of the store. By the time I paid, I was exhausted and drove myself straight to the nearest Starbucks.
Being a mother on alert is no joke.
Even if you’re not a mother, or if you never take your kids to Home Goods because you’re smarter than me, the Bible tells us to be alert a number of times. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us to, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (NLT). This verse is a great warning, but it’s not the one I want to focus on today.
Since it is a new year, I came up with a new word and verse. I’ve been doing this for 4 years now, and it is just so remarkable to see how God uses that word and that verse to teach me and mature me over the course of a year. Well, this year my word is Pray. And my verse is as follows:
“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” – Colossians 4:2, NLT
It was several years ago that I first felt the call to a deeper prayer life. God used that time in my life to change my perspective and to grow my trust in Him. This year, the call to be devoted to prayer comes with God’s call to dream big and step out in faith. I have some huge, God-given dreams and desires. How else can I achieve them if I’m not on my knees about them?
The call to go deeper with God is a call to a deeper prayer life.
I’m reminded of the story in Mark 9, where Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy after His disciples tried to and failed. After the disciples were alone with Jesus, they questioned Him about this. “They asked Him, ‘Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?’ Jesus replied, ‘This kind can be cast out only by prayer'” (Mark 9:28-29, NLT).
Some things are so big that only prayer can accomplish them. And prayer is powerful.
Since I love worship music, my mind often associates songs with phrases and Bible verses. Thinking about going deeper, I can’t help but sing “Oceans” by Hillsong. The song begins like this: “You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail.”
God calls each one of us deeper in relationship with Him. Whether He gives you dreams and desires to serve Him in new ways, or if He calls you to Himself for greater intimacy, God is calling you. It’s scary, don’t get me wrong. Anytime we face “the great unknown,” it is scary. But as the pastor of my church always says, “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.”
God calls us to step out in faith, to follow Him deeper, but He doesn’t leave us hanging. The next line of “Oceans” says, “And there I find you in the mystery.” God walks with us when we step out in faith, and there we find more of Him.
Since we can’t see God face-to-face, the place where we meet God is in prayer. This mysterious, beautiful conversation, where we get to speak to our maker, the creator of the universe, is the place we encounter God.
“Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” – Psalm 116:2, NLT
God always hears us when we pray. He attentively listens; He’s on alert to hear us.
So how do we pray in response to a God who calls us, who listens for us on high alert? We must pray with alert minds and thankful hearts. (We’ll talk about the thankful part another time.)
Practically speaking, I have to be purposeful and intentional when I pray, or I cannot be alert. If I try to pray before bed, I fall asleep. If I try to pray as I’m doing chores, I get distracted and my mind wanders.
I have found what works for me, what keeps my mind alert. I get up before my children, and I journal my prayers. When I’m up before everyone else, I’m not distracted by their noise. When I journal, it keeps my mind focused on my part of the conversation, plus it gives me a way I can look back and see how God has faithfully answered my prayers. That’s what works for me, but you have to find what works for you!
Having an alert mind in prayer gives God the respect He deserves. As a mom, I can honestly say that sometimes my kids don’t get my full attention. Sometimes they tell me a story, and I let my mind wander. (I mean, how many times can you really hear about a Pokemon battle?) My mind is not on alert, taking in everything they have to say. I’d say I’m half-listening.
What if God wants to speak to you and you’re not alert? What word from Him might you miss? Remember, we have a God who bends down to listen to us. He is inclining His ear to listen to our prayers. Let’s be alert for Him.