My four children were all between the ages of two and five.
Simply venturing out into the world required the equipment (and courage) of Seal Team 6. Armed with diaper bags, snacks, toys, books and what little remaining patience I could muster, I’d run only the most critical errands. I’d select the grocery cart that resembled a Hummer, buckle everybody in and try not to take out entire end-cap displays as I whipped around corners.
In stores where buckles and carts weren’t available I’d routinely end up in what felt like a ‘Minute to Win it’ game: the kids would be pulling things off of shelves faster than I could count their heads to make sure I hadn’t lost a child. (We never went home with a prize but I always went home with all four kids. I’m calling that a victory.)
Eventually, I hit on something that helped us (read: them) survive those days. I started asking my children to fold their hands when we entered a store. Simply interlacing their fingers seemed to miraculously mitigate the urge to touch everything which, in turn, spared us countless messes, harsh words and hours. Whether ducking into the kindergarten classroom, making a return at Target or connecting briefly with a friend after church, the actions associated with those two words brought calm to the chaos.
I’ve found the same to be true in my life as an adult. When I’ve folded my hands in prayer before entering into a new job, ministry or friendship the result as been equally positive. By contrast, when I’ve sauntered into the very same things without taking the time to pray and heed God’s guidance, the items on the shelf of my life have tumbled crashing to the ground. When I find myself overwhelmed by my schedule, I can usually pinpoint the root of the problem to a decision I didn’t commit to the Lord first.
The Bible is replete with examples of prayer at critical junctures in the history of God’s people.
I shudder to imagine what the kingdom of Israel might have looked like if Solomon hadn’t prayed for wisdom.
“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” — 1 Kings 3:9 ESV
What if Moses hadn’t asked God for a successor to lead the people in his place?
“Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”
– Numbers 27:16, 17 ESV
What would have become of Esther and the Jews had they not all prayed and fasted for her to have the courage to go to the king unbidden?
“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
– Esther 4:16 ESV
There’s no required posture for prayer; our hands needn’t be folded. And there’s no reason to wait for ‘critical junctures’ before seeking counsel from God. Stop and fold ‘em (figuratively or literally) on the way into Target or before chatting with a friend at church.
Perhaps we’ll all stay out of a little more trouble if we do.
How has prayer kept you out of ‘trouble’ in life? Would love to hear your comments. Feel free to send me your prayer needs, too!