Life is busy. We are so busy and getting busier every year. I have found that the more stretched we are, the harder it is to slow down and be still and silent.
It's actually a chemical addiction in the brain that causes us to be addicted to busyness, and it takes significant discipline and intention to learn how to slow down.
Several years ago, the Lord began plucking certain things from my life. It started subtly. A hobby I used to enjoy became boring and lifeless. After a few weeks or months I realized it no longer gave me joy, and I gave up that hobby.
Then a little while later, the Lord lifted His grace and ease from a friendship that use to bring me enjoyment. But it seemed like every time we got together it was harder to speak easily and becoming more strained between us.
I went to the Lord and prayed about it. I asked Him, "What should I do? This is a relationship you gave me. Why is it becoming strained?" He gently showed me that the friendship gave me comfort and joy when I needed it, but that because of a series of events in both of our lives we were now in different places.
He asked me to let the friendship drift apart. There was no big conversation or crazy experience between us, just a lifting of the grace that had once been there. I asked the Lord if He was going to replace the friendship, and He said to me, "Spend that time with me instead. The time that would have been spent with her, spend it with me in the Word and in prayer."
It was lonely for a little while, but I listened to the prompting of the Lord. Slowly He removed other things that took time out of my life. As He did, I drew closer and closer to Him. I learned to hear His voice in greater measure and capacity. I became less busy, and I learned to be still and to enjoy being still!
What Occupies Your Place of Prayer?
One day while I was unloading the dishwasher, I felt my mind slip into making a list and thinking about what needed to be done for the day. Part way through my list the Holy Spirit stopped my thoughts and gently pressed these words on my heart, "Use this time to pray."
An hour or so later, while I was folding laundry, I backed into a shelf on accident. I began to daydream of my future laundry room and how I would design it. The Holy Spirit again stopped me mid-thought and pressed harder, "Use this time to pray instead."
I began praying in the Spirit, praying in tongues while I finished folding laundry.
The next day I began to slip into the same pattern, daydreaming about the future, making lists, grocery shopping in my head, and the Holy Spirit again stopped me in my thoughts and said to me, "Use this time to pray instead."
This pattern continued over the next few days. At first, it was hard to change my way of thinking, my daydreaming, my planning, my future ideas. But after a few weeks, I found that I more easily slipped into praying while I was cleaning or doing laundry.
When the conviction first came I wasn't sure why God was asking me to give this up. Yet what I noticed over time, is that my heart became more peaceful and at rest. My mind became more fixed on things above, because I was slipping into prayer several times throughout the day. Now, there are days I spend up to an hour or two praying in the Spirit and I have noticed that I hear the voice of the Holy Spirit so much more clearly. He doesn't need to speak loudly for me to hear it. My heart is more sensitive to hear, to be attuned, to be ready to move where the Spirit moves!
It took some time, it took a few months of praying in the Spirit for 10-15 minutes at a time before I started to notice a significant difference. But because I obeyed, and continue to obey, He answers.
Do you hear God's voice? Do you know when the Holy Spirit is leading you? Do you know when He's pressing on your heart, or giving you guidance? If not, if you want to hear Him in greater measure, then what is the Lord asking you to give up? It might be a relationship that feels strained. Perhaps it's a hobby that occupies a lot of your time, or your phone or certain TV shows that aren't beneficial.
There is a picture floating around on the internet and social media, you've probably seen it. It's a little child holding onto a teddy bear, and Jesus is in front of her asking for the teddy bear. Behind Jesus' back is a bigger teddy bear, but He can't give it to her until she lets go of the little bear.
There is a wonderful principle in God's Word regarding blessings. The Lord won't give her the bigger bear until she has learned to give up the little bear. It's not that the Father doesn't want to bless her, in fact He wants to bless her in a bigger way than she even knows! She can't see the bigger bear, so she feels like God doesn't care about her. But in fact, Jesus cares so much that He wants to give her more than she currently has. The problem is, her arms are full, and she can't carry the bigger bear without giving up the smaller bear because the bigger bear is too big to be carried at the same time as the small bear.
The same is true for us. The Lord wants to bless us immeasurably, and sometimes that means letting go of relationships that no longer bear fruit, or hobbies that were once joyful but have lost their luster. Jesus wants to give us bigger and better things, but we can't receive it until we have learned to let go of our current armful and trust Him to carry that armful for us.
He might have us walk with empty arms for a little while, as we learn to depend and trust in Him completely. It could be that we need to grow in our faith for some time so that we have longer arms to carry what He desires us to carry. But one day, He will fill our arms with a bigger blessing than we could have ever have imagined.
Today, if you sense (or have sensed for some time), that you're carrying a bear in your arms that the Holy Spirit has been pressing on you to let go of, hand that bear over to Jesus. Use that time to pray instead. Use that time to be in the Word and in communion with the Lord. I promise you, a bigger blessing is in store than the one you were carrying around.
Learn to Get Quiet
About a week ago I was vacuuming our living room and praying in the Spirit. I was quietly praying aloud while I vacuumed, and just enjoying the flow and outpouring that the Holy Spirit was giving me while I prayed.
While I was vacuuming my daughter Skylar was bopping around saying, "You didn't got me! You didn't got me!" I looked over at her and corrected her saying, "You didn't get me!" She loudly said, "What?" And I corrected her again, even louder. Again, she said, "What???"
I just shook my head and thought in my heart, 'I'll correct her when I turn off the noise so she can hear me.'
Immediately the Holy Spirit said to me, "The same is true for my people. Martha was worried and troubled about many things. But Mary was at rest because she shut off the noise and sat Jesus' feet. You can't hear from the Lord unless you turn off the noise."
I could feel the charged atmosphere around me from this word of wisdom the Holy Spirit had given me, and I took a few minutes to let it soak in and enjoy it.
The thing is, while it was loud all around me because I was vacuuming, it was quiet in my spirit because I was at rest praying. My heart was ready to hear, and my mind was open to what God had to say.
Life is loud and life is busy. Despite that, we can learn to be at rest in our hearts even when our homes are noisy and the world is crazy. We can learn to rise above the storms of life by living in the Word, in prayer, in communion with Jesus every single day. The storm may rage around us, but like an eagle we will soar above it as we tune in to what God has to say.
We can be in the storm for some time, feeling like a lone boat out on the water. But when Jesus is in the boat we don't have to worry about the waves or water sinking our ship. We don't have to worry about where we're headed or how we'll get through the storm to the other side. We don't have to worry about the timing of when we'll arrive.
All we have to do is keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is with us in the storm, and because He is we know that on the other side of the storm is deliverance, healing, blessing, promise and salvation.
What's your teddy bear? What is preventing you from being with the One who loves you and desires the absolute best for you? What needs to go in order for you to hear Him and what He's saying?
Let it go, spend that time with Him instead. As you do, you will find that He's speaking more often than you realized. He will fill your heart with peace and joy as you pray and commune with Him. He will bring you safely to the other side of whatever storm you face, and He will give you rest in the midst of it.
Only Jesus saves, so let go of the busy and be with the Savior.