Before I had kids, praying was easy.
As long as I can remember, I’ve prayed. Granted, I definitely conversed with God haphazardly as a child. But as I matured, my prayer life also matured until I found myself spending hours intensely reading my Bible and intentionally journaling out my prayers and thoughts. Eventually, I used nearly every spare scrap of time praying for something or someone.
I felt connected to Jesus. I felt like the mundane majority of my everyday existence was made sacred by the way I wrapped it all tightly in prayer. My life seemed to matter because I was a prayer warrior.
A Baby Changes Everything
But everything changed soon after I found out I was pregnant with my first baby. Within two weeks, severe nausea arrived like an unwelcome house guest. And it never left until about two weeks after our son was born. Everything I had programmed into my routine, including my prayer life, came crashing down.
I distinctly remember a discouraging meeting with a mentor of mine at the time. At that point, I was about five months pregnant. I explained to her how I still wasn’t basking in the second trimester golden period when nausea supposedly leaves and energy supposedly returns. I told her how I still felt horrible most of the time.
My mentor asked me whether I was finding time to connect with Jesus. I told her, “No.” I was in survival mode. She proceeded to tell me something I knew- how important it was to keep the Jesus connection strong- even more so once the baby was born. She urged me to get back into a routine.
I listened politely, but I was secretly in agony. As she was speaking, I remember using every bit of my willpower just to keep myself from heaving up the last cookie I had eaten with my tea. Even then I knew I wasn’t going to escape survival mode, at least not on my own strength.
Things didn’t improve much once pregnancy was over. My first son proved to be a very fussy and needy baby. It was challenging just to get him to eat or sleep. “Survival mode” quickly turned into an understatement. In fact, the whole first three months only exist in my memory presently as a wild and unstable blur.
Sure, I went to church. But I spent most of the hour in the cry room behind the sanctuary or walking up and down the atrium distancing myself from the congregation so I wouldn’t disturb the service. It was like I could see the light of Jesus from afar, but I wasn’t basking in its glow.
Around the time we reached the six month mile marker, I returned to a more predictable version of survival mode. And I remember sitting in the ancient rocking chair my grandmother had given me. As I slowly rocked and listened to every joint creak in concert, I looked down at my son’s feet sprawled across my lap, his head resting on my shoulder.
I thought to myself, “This isn’t going to work long term. I’m falling apart. We’re not even through the first year! I need to get it together.” So I thought about everything I wanted for my son and began to pray.
My Simple Prayer
I would love to tell you this return to prayer was like the return of the prodigal son, where every need is met and every hurt soothed right then and there, ending with an awesome party. But it wasn’t like that. I still felt inadequate, depleted, and terrified.
Yet for the first time in over a year I felt like there was some hope. Hope that one day I wouldn’t be a mess as a mother. Hope that I’d know what I was doing. Hope that I’d maybe even laugh again. Sure, I lingered in a weak sort of hope, like the first cold rays of dawn in January, but it was still more hope than I’d felt ten minutes before I prayed.
I boiled down my returning prayer into a handful of sentences I could easily remember no matter how frazzled I felt. From that day on, I prayed those same sentences over my son and myself before every nap and every bedtime. With each new child we added to the brood, I prayed the prayer over them and me every time they went down for nap or bed too. Pretty soon I was repeating my little prayer up to six times a day.
Maybe my little ritual doesn’t seem like a lot. But praying consistently over the course of nearly 9 years added up. My bedtime prayer helped me rebuild my connection with Jesus. Plus, my son has heard me pray over his life every day. When he’s older, I hope he’ll be able to look back and remember how much I’ve always valued him.
I haven’t returned to spending hours reading my Bible and journaling. But I no longer live in survival mode either. I read my Bible a little bit or listen to it on my phone, depending on the morning. And I only add ink to my journal once in a while. The extra scraps of downtime are again immersed in intercessory prayer, and so is the time I spend doing chores.
Now, prayer piggybacks onto every task I accomplish as a mother of four. It’s no longer prayer “or” my list of to-do’s. It’s now prayer “and” my list of to-do’s.
I still cherish the hours I spent in prayer as a teenager and young adult. The times with the Lord molded me into the woman I am today. But I also love being set free from the self-imposed burden of making my life matter through hours of quiet time.
I might only get twenty minutes of Bible reading/journaling time each day. But I’m still just as loved and valued as I was back when I spent four hours a day in quiet time as a 22-year-old. It isn’t me, my Bible reading, or my journaling that gives me value. It’s Jesus.
He was with me when I was 22, and He’s with me now in my 30’s. Whether I’m making dinner for my four kids or praying or doing both, Jesus is with me.
After many years, I’m finally beginning to realize something I missed when I was young. My life doesn’t matter because I’m a prayer warrior. My life matters because I’m His.
Latest posts by Etta Woods
- How I Found Purpose in Being “Mom” - February 10, 2020
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