But here is the thing. For some reason I don't do really well with staying focused on being the hands and feet of God when I'm on the beach enjoying an amazing sunrise with the sound of the surf in my ears, but standing on that same breach and wondering if the oil spill will come this far and wreck destruction that will take decades if not centuries to restore? This provides focus! See, this is my problem -- I'm less fervent in my thanking than in my pleading and all of that works better than my listening.
Yet prayer is about all that -- thanking, asking, responding, because prayer is a discussion with God. Now don't get worried: as much as I would appreciate an email or text message that I could trust to be from God, there would still be a thousand questions to clarify and 10,000 reasons I don't wanna do whatever it is it says I should do or I am all passionate about doing whatever it says I'm supposed to refrain from doing.
This communication with God thing is confusing, especially because most of us are taught at least as some level that asking for what we want is the point of prayer. Prayer is really about sharing our heart with God in a trusting and honest way (more on that in a minute) and opening our minds and hearts to how God is shaping us. God is not a bully or a stalker so God does not demand of us; but God is a loving creator who knows us so much better than we know ourselves, loves us passionately, and has both the commitment and ability to help us become our best selves....the self we were created to be.
And there may be some amazing people out there who get that early on, but for most of us it is about baby steps: "God I'm reading here in the Bible that I'm supposed to be kind to my enemies. Can that be right? I don't see how I can do that because my enemies have been really evil and I don't think I even WANT to try to do that because they are scary and if I choose to forgive or serve or even just let go of the fear I'm afraid all the bad stuff will come again! So, what do I do with this idea, God? Is this really what you want me to do? Is this even possible? OK, I guess if You think this is important I'll give it a try, but I'm not optimistic! AMEN" Then at some point in the not too distant future I notice the damage someone else's grudge or fear or bitterness has caused someone I barely know, but it all seems really bad and scary and then the thought comes to my mind that maybe that is what my anger and fear look like from the outside looking in and I begin to think maybe there might be a better way. And this leads to more discussions with God and more awareness of the lessons God sends. There may be some backsliding. There maybe some new fear that insists I built a monument to its demands. But this time I pause a bit before I start to build or early in the building process I begin to ask if this is really as good an idea as it seems and decide a little discussion with my God might shed a little light, and it does! And one day I realize I have let a little of the fear or judgement or bitterness go and in its place has sprouted a bit more of the good stuff -- joy, hope, contentment, purpose, love and the like.
This is why the praying without ceasing thing in the 5th chapter of Thessalonians (17th verse) is so powerful for me.
The more I keep the communication open with God, the less I get stuck in my own head where self-doubt and self-righteousness and fear are always trying to get a toe hold. And the more new ways to heal and hope and grow pop up and become more robust so they help push the icky, pointless, painful, distractions away. And the earlier and more efficiently my fears, tears and anxiety are exchanged for trust. And then trust leads to a love that is humble, well aware of the potential I have for getting it wrong and a willingness to go at God's pace rather than demanding my own idea of fixing things.
All in all, I'm grateful I started this journey. Even though I don't get it completely right, the more I can practice this perpetual praying, the more I can think of all the bits and pieces as well as the whole of my self as being within the purview and interest of God and a part of the bigger picture that goes much farther than even Carl Sagan could imagine, but is well within God's understanding, power and purpose.
So my advice: Keep praying out there!