One small thing,
At the same time,
With gratitude in your hearts.
A dear friend of mine once shared with me this mantra. A friend who carries with her sixty years of discovering what it means to engage with a God who cares deeply for his people. She often spoke to me about the franticness of life and how the “glorification of busy” robs us of the deep fulfilment God longs to soak us in. For her, praying is constant, simple, and sincere. But I think she’d say it’s much more about listening, than telling God what she wants. This friend lives in a closeness to Jesus that is infectious. Not that she is never worried, or tired, or annoyed, but that she somehow walks through these human experiences evidently close to God. It intrigued me. So I asked her once, What’s the trick? How do you spend time with God? I kind of expected her to give some vague answer which was really just a question back at me, in that mysterious way that intriguing people like to answer curious questions. But this time she didn’t.
She said, “I do my twenty minute sit.”
“Twenty minute sit?”
“Yes, I sit, for twenty minutes, at least, and do absolutely nothing. I think nothing. I say nothing. And any thought or worry that enters my mind I say, take it Lord. And I empty myself, ready to take anything that God might give me; peace, joy, an instruction, a scripture. But often, nothing! But oh, how it rids me of all the foolish concerns that burden my brain, and reminds me of the hands that hold me!”
Our lives are so busy! We are trained by the ways of this world to be dissatisfied with what we have so that we constantly want more. And with this attitude we approach our maker, who longs to know us, and be known by us, and to transform us into his likeness. How often do we present our lists to God, of all the things we want and need, and find ourselves in a state of frustration with him because we feel as if our prayers are not answered?
I heard a church leader say recently; prayer is not so much about us changing God’s plans, as it is about God transforming our hearts.
The majority of us cannot hear anything but ourselves. We cannot hear anything God is saying. But to be brought to the place where we can hear the call of God is to be profoundly changed.
Now I can’t say I’ve mastered the twenty minute sit. But I have been starting my days with, my friend’s “one small thing” mantra:
One small thing,
At the same time,
With gratitude in your heart.
The purpose is to take the habit of grumbling to God which comes from a sense of dissatisfaction with what we have, and replace it with an acknowledgement of the good that already is, of who God always is despite my changing circumstances, of the constant simple things that keep me ticking over, or the surprising things that bring me joy. It is not to disregard hardship, or paint a rosy picture over pain. But from this place of being grounded in God’s unchanging love and grace can I face whatever the day might bring.
Now the trick is to make it a habit, at the same time, every day. So I do it while I eat my breakfast, because I love breakfast so if I never skip breakfast I’ll never skip praying. And with each mouthful, in my head I thank God for something. Even if it’s simply for the food that I’m eating that moment.
Prayer isn’t just for thanking God. It’s for petitioning, for crying out, for asking for healing, for praising, for listening, for being guided. But I will cry out to God when I need him by default, from a place of desperation. Cultivating gratitude and creating space for God’s voice of guiding is something that requires practice.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” – Psalm 100:4-5