In this homebound season I have learned many things about myself. One is that my struggle with spiritual disciplines is not, as I once thought, a function of limited time.
During my decade of teaching middle school science, I was inconsistent with daily Bible reading and intentional prayer. Having become a teacher without a teaching degree or training, learning the details of teaching on the job consumed my time unlike anything since parenting babies and toddlers twenty-four hours a day. The teacher days were like chasing a train on the move but never quite catching up. “If only I had more time” became a both a longing and an excuse for all that remained undone in my personal life.
Then illness struck and I had to quit teaching. Suddenly, all I have is time. I’ve had to manage debilitating fatigue and fluctuating energy levels, but I have unlimited time.
And yet, I still struggle with spiritual disciplines.
It’s not time. It’s me.
I’ve been reading and rereading “Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God” by Timothy Keller. This book has become a companion on my journey at just the right time. Keller says this about prayer:
I can think of nothing great that is also easy. Prayer must be, then, one of the hardest things in the world. To admit that prayer is very hard, however, can be encouraging. If you struggle greatly in this, you are not alone. (24)
It’s not time. It’s me.
But I am not alone.
At the beginning of the book, Keller shares four practical changes he made in his own pursuit of a deeper prayer life:
- He went through the Psalms, summarized each one, and began praying the Psalms regularly. (This took several months).
- He included a time a meditation between Bible reading and prayer time.
- He prayed morning and evening.
- He began praying with greater expectation. (17)
Keller says of these practices, “The changes took some time to bear fruit, but after sustaining these practices for about two years, I began to have some breakthroughs” (17).
It’s not time. It’s discipline. The key is sustaining the practice.
So I will start with the Psalms, reading, writing, and praying my way through. And to sustain the practice, I will share some of my writing along the way.
Why the Psalms? One more quote from Keller:
There is no situation or emotion a human being can experience that is not reflected somewhere in the Psalms. Immersing ourselves in the Psalms and turning them into prayers teaches our hearts the “grammar” of prayer and gives us the most formative instruction in how to pray in accord with God’s character and will. (255)