I keep having these moments. I’m standing in the middle of a ransacked room strewn with dozens of toys, dirty diapers, empty bottles, and screaming children. These moments normally precipitate a meal or a nap. Whatever the trigger, the twins synchronously begin wailing and arching at my feet. The toddlers respond in kind—with a squabble over a toy or the dire need for a snack or a desperate desire to be held. I look around and feel paralyzed—all the screaming, all the tears, all the stuff. Where to start? Who to help? How to make it stop? How can one person handle all of this? I panic, “I can’t do this!”
“I can’t do this.” Well, that’s obvious. But what’s more telling is what I do next. Do I start yelling back? Do I Facetime Grandma in tears? Do I call on a neighbor for help? Do I dial my husband and demand he do something? Do I lock myself in the bathroom? Do I brew another cup of coffee and push through? Do I turn on the TV for a quick fix? Do I toss everyone in bed for an early nap? Admittedly, I’ve tried all these tactics at one point or another. But even as I formulate a plan, I’ve forgotten the most powerful option available to me—prayer.
In my sinfulness, I’m tempted to scoff: prayer? What will that accomplish? Is God going to come down and pick up this mess or feed my children? Obviously not. So what does prayer do? I have to confess that question gives me pause. When I stop to pray in the middle of the mess, what exactly do I expect to happen?
Prayer does not instantly transform my landscape, but prayer does instantly transform my heartscape. In the moment, it’s easy to want a quick fix. But God’s desire for me goes much deeper. He seeks to penetrate my heart; much the same way I seek to guide my own children past the superficial problem (I want that toy) to reveal the heart problem (selfishness). Prayer is not about what God can do for me although He graciously acts on my behalf. Instead, prayer is about how I can exalt Him in the moment.
So what DOES prayer do?
Prayer increases my dependence on Christ. When I admit my deficiency, I am poised to receive His strength, “for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
Prayer stills my heart. Prayer shifts the focus off my surroundings–off myself– and focuses my heart on Christ. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Prayer acknowledges God’s sovereignty. I am clearly not in control (look at this hot mess), but God’s control never falters. “When my heart is faint. Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2
Prayer increases my intimacy with God. I am investing in our relationship when I choose Christ first (not a person or thing) and trust in His goodness and care. “Casting all [my] anxieties on him, because he cares for [me].” 1 Peter 5:7
Prayer recruits the Holy Spirit to fill me with His power, His strength, His mercy, His love, His patience even as my own heart fails. “For God gave [me] a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Prayer models to my children their need for Christ when I invite them to ask God to calm our hearts. “Train up a child in the way He should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Prayer draws me to the throne of Grace. “For [I] do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with [my] weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that [I] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
Honestly, in the chaotic moment prayer is not often my first response which is probably why the Lord graciously continues to gift these moments of sanctifying potential. Next time I look around and feel tempted to panic may I seize the opportunity to lean into my Savior instead.