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Pray through the burdens

Posted by Emily Holloway
on 9th February 2022

During one of his talks in September 2021, Andrew said this:
“Over-responsibility is the belief that I am the solution to every need and problem.”

Now in some ways, I’m going to take this completely out of context. Andrew was preaching on the miracle of water being turned into wine. I’m using it as a springboard to talk about how prayer can feel like a burden.

In the first lockdown God called me to pray for every person in my contacts list on my phone. As it happens, this was while I was following a short devotional based on ‘Everyday Supernatural’ - the book/course many of us are using in Community Groups.  It was a calling that put me completely out of my comfort zone - it meant texting everyone (I went for three people a day) and asking them if I could pray for them. I had the time and space to do this, often when I went on my daily walk. Some people learnt a language or an instrument. I learnt to pray. I learnt to love prayer.

But life went back to ‘normal’ and my work hours went back to 10 or 11 hour days. Getting up before 6am each morning to have my ‘quiet time’ was a non- negotiable, but it just didn’t seem enough. There was so much to pray about and it felt like I was only scraping the surface.

And now, eighteen months on? It feels even more important and yet I feel even more lacking in time. A few of my family have been and still are suffering with an array of health issues. My colleagues are burning out trying to balance home and work life. Friends are going through all sorts of things. And don’t get me started on national and global news - wars, desperate refugees, human
rights abuses - where do we even start?

But when I heard Andrew say that phrase, it awoke a new understanding of where I’m at now. Let’s hear it again:
“Over-responsibility is the belief that I am the solution to every need and problem.”

I realised that I have allowed this notion to impact my prayer life. There is a subconscious question: “If my prayers matter, then what happens if I don’t pray?” If I’m not continuously praying for my family in their struggles, if I’m not praying daily for my colleagues and the mountain of work they face, if I’m not praying for my friends in their seasons of difficulty, am I letting them down? Am I failing to show them the love of God? Am I preventing them from seeing God at work?

I had begun to believe that my prayers are the solution to every need and problem.

And there is not one thing about that statement that leads anywhere good, Biblical or God-centred. Prayer feels like a burden. My lack of time for prayer becomes a reason for guilt. I concede to the lie that my prayers are too few or are inadequate. That I am not faithful enough to pray continuously despite not seeing answers when I started praying months ago. I shrug, thinking that even if I prayed 24/7, it still wouldn’t be enough. Because every day I see more and more need for me to by on my knees, crying out to God, interceding for family, friends, community, city, nation and world.

Thanks be to God that I am not the solution to every need and problem and neither are my prayers. Thanks be to God that He will move even if I fail to pray for 24 seconds each day, let alone 24 hours. And if this is ringing true for you (because surely I’m not the only one who has felt this way), then why not thank God that you aren’t the solution either.

So how do I reconcile this understanding with my sometimes overwhelming prayer list? For me, the answer is in breathing and releasing.  For quite a while now I have used breath prayers to begin my quiet time.  It happened quite naturally one morning when my head was filled with distractions. It went something like this:

Lord, I breathe in your Holy Spirit (breathe in) and I breathe out the day ahead
(breathe out)
I breathe in your Holy Spirit… and I breathe out the meeting I have later…
I breathe in your Holy Spirit… and I breathe out that worry about my

You get the idea.  It really empties my head, I almost physically see those distractions get breathed away from me, not quite out of sight, but certainly distanced. They become non-tangible - on a good day, it feels as though I’d have to try very hard to grasp them again.
So when I get onto the mountain of things I feel I should be praying about, when they begin to crowd in, shout for attention, feel burdensome and overwhelming, I am learning to release them. To move into the space where my mind is still enough to praise God first, to read His Word, to try to listen to what He wants to say before I start my day. And that’s when I feel ready to come before Him in prayer, to seek Him, to intercede for others and to wait for Him to lead me towards those that I might reach out to that day. 

I am nowhere near perfecting that. But I no longer feel that prayer is a burden; rather, I feel free to pray through the burdens on my heart, and those that others are carrying.  And all I needed to do was to remember to breathe.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; 
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken.
My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him, 
for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8

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