Surviving the Stress – Week 3: Keep Focus by Starting Your Day in Prayer
I’d like to say that every morning at the crack of dawn I am assuming this position (at left) and starting my day in prayer. Actually, I can still remember days in my early 30s when I eagerly rose from bed at 5:30 a.m., spent some precious time in prayer and Bible study and then showered and got on with an extremely productive day.
All I can say now is Where did those days go?
Now that I’m past 40, it’s not nearly as easy to rise and shine and conquer like I used to. Seems like there’s this added weight of obligations, age, physical wear and tear, and, sometimes, just plain weight! I’d just as soon let the snooze alarm go off a few times and lay there in bed thinking about what I’d do if I just had a little more energy. That’s where the self discipline comes in. I know that if I’m self-disciplined, from the time I get up, I’ll be much less sluggish and far more productive. That’s where the “I will” comes in. “I will start my day right.”
As I lie in bed, I must remember that the day was not created for me and whatever I want to do. There’s Someone Else in the picture. And what is His idea of why I was given one more day?
The Westminster Confession says : “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” You and I were created for relationship with the living God. That’s an amazing concept if you think about it. In fact, when I’m focused on that concept as soon as I wake up, it’s enough to get me out of bed in the first place as I realize that my Creator is waiting to enjoy the day with me. In fact, He is always waiting for me…and for you. And who are we to let the God of the Universe wait?
So as I lay there in bed, thinking about how I was created to enjoy relationship with God, I am able to answer the question: “What is the one thing life is all about?”
Finding your focus
The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14 “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on….” What did he press on toward? The prize – the relationship with God. In spite of everything, he knew the one thing he needed to do was to keep the relationship with God priority.
As you lay there in your bed contemplating the day, can you, too, ask yourself “What is the one thing I must do today?”
Maybe your answer is “I must take care of my children.” Or, “I must get that project completed.” Maybe it’s even “I must get through this day.”
Yet God tells us in the Bible “and (God) will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the kingdom of God your primary concern” (Matthew 6:33, NLT). Know the one thing you must do today (prioritize your relationship with God) and all the other things will fall into place.
I’ve found this true in my life time and time again. When I take the time to start my day off right – by rising a little earlier so I have time to get quiet and spend some time talking to God – I am able to focus first and foremost on the one thing and then the other things I need to do fall amazingly into place.
God has a way of honoring our time and helping us be more productive in our day when we first honor Him with our time. And by taking to Him all that we have to do that day, we are also releasing it to His control, which removes from us the weight and burden of feeling we have to control all the day’s events.
The Bible also says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.” (First Peter 5:7, NLT). There is a tremendous amount of refreshment that comes from handing over to God – early in the day – all that concerns us and weighs us down. Then He fills us with His peace to face the day.
Can you meet with God for a few minutes each morning and start your day right? Can you remember that, above all things, your relationship with God is why you’re here? When that relationship is humming along, so will the rest of you.
If you don’t already have a regular plan of starting your day with prayer, here’s one that has worked for me (and this is where I am everyday at 6:30 now…instead of 5:30):
- Find a quiet place to retreat to every morning. Do you have a quiet place where you can get away from the distractions of the morning and meet with God? One of my friends has to go into her walk-in closet and close the door. Maybe your place of retreat is at your kitchen table, while the house is still quiet, or in your car while you’re driving to work. Find that place and make it your “sanctuary” – a regular meeting place with God.
- Focus your mind in quiet prayer. Once you’ve found your sanctuary, ask God to help you quiet your mind and focus your thoughts on Him. Then ask God what He’d like of you that day, rather than telling God what you want from Him. Open your Bible to a Psalm and pray through it. As you do this, your prayers become guided by God and you end up seeking His will, not your own for the day.
- Follow God’s still quiet voice throughout the day. As you open the channels of communication with God in the morning, through prayer, you will be placing yourself on the “receiving end” of what He wants to say to you throughout the day. Listening for God’s still quiet voice throughout the day tunes your ears to what He wants to say and keeps you in a “quiet mode” throughout the day, protecting you from running the pace that makes you feel you’re running on empty.
Keep your focus (and keep from running on empty) by starting your day with prayer.