I’ve been a swimmer since childhood, so I was caught off guard when panic tried to wedge itself between me and my destination. Knowing I could easily swim over to join my family and neighbors hanging out a short distance away, I had jumped from the boat into the lake. But about half-way there, I could hardly catch my breath. I felt like I was suffocating.
I paused. I looked back toward the boat, then forward to my husband and children who were playing in the water. With shortness of breath, both seemed too far to reach. “This is bad,” I reconciled with myself. I did not have the lung capacity to yell out for help. Besides, I envisioned how requiring a rescue would traumatize my family. I was wearing a life jacket and knew that ultimately I was okay. I just needed to stop fighting for breath. The struggle to simultaneously swim and breathe cost me more breath. I needed to stop swimming, but I was desperate to get to safety.
So I flipped onto my back, relaxed, and let my body float in the water’s caress. As I began to rest, my panting slowed and expanded into catchable breaths. To stave off panic and preserve my calm, I conservatively extended my arms like oars and gracefully rowed myself to the dock closest to my family. Wearing a gigantic smile of relief, I pulled myself up from the lake and onto the deck without anyone knowing how close we’d come to an aqua-drama.
Standing on my own two feet, gasping for air, I realized what had happened. “I think this life jacket is too tight!” I blurted out. I threw off the jacket and immediately felt my diaphragm expand by ten inches — or at least it felt that way. Can you believe it? The very apparatus designed to preserve life, when ill-fitted, seemed to squeeze the life out of me. The life jacket seemed to fit perfectly when I was boating, but the life preserver was the wrong fit for a cardio intense swim across the lake!
Isn’t that the case with so many things in our lives? The right intention with the wrong fit compromises purpose. We need and want most things to fit well — clothes, family cars, friendships, church communities, doctors, our children’s schools, our neighborhood, etc. When life’s conventions fit well, they serve us well. Something that is not the right fit can potentially be taxing.
I have found this to be true for my prayer life. Before my life shape-shifted with marriage and children, I could dedicate the beginning of each day to pouring over Scripture passages, lingering on inspiring lessons and engaging in lengthy conversations with Holy Spirit. That was my prayer life. Such a prayer life is often coveted as the gold standard, as it is perceived as “putting God first” and “ordering the day.” When I could start each day this way, it was great. But my more complex and family-centric life birthed a custom-fitted prayer life.
I no longer fit prayer into my day; I fit my day into prayer.
I move through my day conscious of my connection to the One who creates for and through me. Knowing I am an extension of God’s energy, love, and light each day, I become like an artist painting the day as God’s masterpiece. I rise like a ready writer eager to pen words that align the moments with God’s thoughts. I become like a sharpened sword rested in the grip of a skillful and wise warrior whose battle is already won. My day is prayer in motion — breathing, living, and creating.
Jesus showed us how our lives become faith, hope, and love realized when we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Through Jesus’ days on earth, we see love for our neighbor actualized. When we rest our whole selves — soul, heart, mind and strength — in God’s intention, we become the embodiment of His prayers. We get to personify God’s purpose.
Because I loved my morning concentrated prayer time, my shift to this more custom-fitted prayer life was filled with insecurity. I wondered if eventually my day would fall apart. I wondered if I would fall apart. I wondered if praying this way would be enough or even good enough. But I have experienced that fitting my day into a prayer sustains me from moment to moment. Being perpetually conscious of God’s emerging design rewards me with rest, joy, focus, and renewed strength, which I get to extend to others.
Like a life jacket, prayer can sustain you beyond your own strength, and a custom-fitted prayer life will not only keep your head above water but expand your capacity to live beyond your imagination. Like anything designed to serve you, a prayer life fit for you will support God’s purpose through you.
Is your prayer life where you need it to be?
How can you custom fit your prayer life?
I no longer fit prayer into my day; I fit my day into prayer. -Lucretia Berry (@brownicity): Click To Tweet