Unmasking Prayer

I hate wearing the COVID-19 face mask.  It’s hot. It slips down my nose.  I constantly chew gum to avoid smelling my not-just-brushed teeth. Plus, I often forget that it’s needed, until I am one step from entering a store and see the Mask Required sign on the door, and true to form, I rip it off as soon as I step out.

This week I have more reasons to dislike them. As I prepare my kids to go back to school, from tracking down lunch boxes and stocking backpacks with masks, lip balm, and sanitizer, I look at their beautiful faces and my heart saddens that they will be half-covered by buffs and bandanas. How will their excitement for answering a question or sharing a story be transferred when half of their facial expressions are covered? How will they decipher the emotions and reactions of their classmates? How will they be able to see the sweet flirty smiles and giggles that are commonplace to teenagers?  Plus, from a pragmatic point of view, I also feel sorry for the acne that will be worsened on their noses and chins.

Yet, we are persistent in wearing them because experts believe if we do, we’ll prevent germs from spreading, giving us the opportunity to freely gather again sooner.

Want to know how else I am being persistent? Prayer. I figure if I am being forced into the new habit of wearing a face mask, I should proactively seek something else I want to build repetition around.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

With the entire world encouraged to practice social-distancing, many friends are uncomfortable meeting in person. This prevents two of my favorite ways to pray; aloud while holding hands, or in prayer circles, where we stand side by side, arms latched, swaying in unison as we each pray. And like all things altered by COVID-19, my prayer plan got a few twists. First was to make prayer intentional: in the morning, at 1pm when a jazzy alarm reminds me, and with my family at dinner. I desire to build the muscle memory of speaking to the Lord through-out the day, drawing Him into my mundane moments and refining my hearing of His voice.

There is no pondering what to pray for, as my journal is full of needs: loss of jobs, fear over finances, marriages in crisis, parents juggling job with children who are normally at school, health concerns, decisions over which medicines and surgeries are necessary or could be held off, as well as the losses of cancelled graduations, proms, and sleepaway camps that are all being lamented as we endure through this pandemic.

 

Life feels heavy. It was time to make prayer personal.

 

My next twist is two-fold; to share specific needs and names of prayer requests, and to inquire the same when I am requested to pray. Instead of answering back “sure” or texting back with prayer hand emojis, now I stop and speak or text an intentional prayer for that situation, so they know exactly what I am lifting up to the Lord. It feels wonderful and a relief to invite close friends into what is weighing heavily on my heart and affecting my life.

About two months in, I felt a smile from Heaven. God showed me how bringing people exactly where I was creates vulnerability. He revealed how carrying the burden for others also allows for new opportunities to drop off a handwritten note, a pre-made dinner, a bottle of wine and an excuse to drop by to give a hug. A new depth in friendship was a sweet by-product I wasn’t expecting and I pray it continues to flourish.

Since I began implemented these new habits, I’ve experienced change in others’ prayer lives too. Instead of worrying about the “what ifs,” we lift them up to the Lord. Instead of asking for provision (please let me ace my test, land that job) or repeating a rote prayer from childhood, we are more comfortable with off-the-cuff prayers of gratitude and humility. Because we are living through tough situations together, our prayers are more honest and heartfelt. Friends are even boldly taking their full daughtership to pray in the authority of Jesus. Wow, that is true Praise!

The Lord hears when we call to Him (Psalm 4:3)

Prayer builds a strong relationship with God (Psalm 5)

Assists us in times of waiting (Psalm 40 – you might start humming a U2 classic)

Approach God with reverence and confidence (Hebrews 4:16)

We can quiet the enemy (Luke 10:17-20)

God is our Rock (Psalm 18:2)

 

If you are still reading but not buying my reasons to pray more, consider: What if God doesn’t meet your expectations because He wants to exceed them?! (Ephesians 3:20-21 message)

 

I don’t have a miracle ending to wrap up this blog in a gorgeous satin bow the way a Hallmark movie would, but I have seen the power of prayer multiply as text messages are passed along to prayer recipients. They have responded in love, in surprise, and in complete appreciation and humility that a group of strangers cared enough to pray for them. I think these experiences provide a renewed sense of hope and increased faith. The best part of my additional prayer time has been the answered prayers I’ve been able to hear from my Heavenly Father. Most notably was on my wedding anniversary as I was lifting up a special person’s salvation. It wasn’t a new request, and obviously the Lord heard my cry because He rewarded me with “Kristie, I’ve got this!” Mega Wow. Ultimate Praise and Glory to you, Lord. (Red Letter and emphasis mine)

As I persevere with wearing this mask, I refuse to let the enemy mask my voice.  I’ll continue to seek God’s wisdom in making me stronger and heard.  As for the flirting … I guess teenagers will need to get better at winking!

Please pray with me:

God, we know you will use every day of this world pandemic for Your Glory. Continue nudging us through your Holy Spirit to make heavenly habits that draw us closer to you. Press into us to stop and hear your voice. Show us who to invite into our struggles and let us boldly sing your praises. Amen

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