Stress, Snot, and Other Impediments to Prayer

Prayer has always been somewhat of a struggle for me. Conceptually, I get it. Practically, I have good strategies. I’ve been fortunate to have good examples of people with strong prayer lives.

And, at times, prayer is very natural for me. I enjoy the times I get to spend before the Father because of the Gospel. I know that He hears me and is honored in my seeking of Him.

But then stressors come and my go-to move is to withdraw from those intimate times with the Lord. I know it doesn’t make any sense. I know it’s my tendency, so I should be able to overcome it. But it’s still regularly something that I do. This has been one of those weeks when the pressures of work, the demands of home, and my own existential pressures have all created a perfect storm of stress that has led me to withdraw.

Children’s Snot and the Father’s Heart

My wife and both kids have been sick this week. My almost two-year old has been hit the hardest. He’s had a fever, runny nose and a cough. All he has wanted all week is for someone to hold him. God forbid that you have to leave his side to get something for him, like food. If he marked you as “mine” this week that has meant that you are anchored to that child for the foreseeable future. We’ve lost count of the shirts in our hamper that have been dirtied by the copious amounts of snot that have come from Caleb cuddles this week. But those sick-kid cuddles have been the most precious moments of my week. As I write this, I’ve got a semi-conscious toddler on my shoulder at 5:20 in the morning because his fever spiked and he doesn’t want me to put him down. I wouldn’t trade this moment for anything.

Which has me thinking about how I would feel as a dad if my kids wanted almost anything else rather than me in the moments they just felt terrible and helpless. I’m making a mental list of al the things I run to instead of my Father when I feel overwhelmed and helpless:

  • Netflix
  • My to-do list
  • Social media

And I realize anew just how poor a substitute those things are for the embrace of my Father who knows my every need. I realize anew how those things, while not inherently bad, don’t provide me with what I truly need. I don’t need an escape from the stress, because the stress is where life and ministry happen. I need to be reminded of meaning in the stress. I need to remember whose I am in the stress.

Whose I am really shouldn’t be that complicated to remember. This snotty, slumbering toddler on my shoulder is a great reminder of that. He may not know much, but he knows dad is holding him so, for right now, everything is ok.

Lord, help me to find that kind of peace in your embrace through the snot and stuff of my life.

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About benjieshaw

Follower of Christ. Husband to Jenna. Dad to Ava and Caleb. Crossfitter. Coffee snob. MCU aficionado. Passionate about discipleship, engaging the unengaged, and helping churches understand/reach young adults.