My mother in law has callouses on her knees from hours spent with head bowed to the floor. While some people, like me, use their wall calendars to keep track of their commitment to a daily exercise routine, her square boxes are filled with swirly capital P's, one or two per compartment, tracking how often she stopped for prayer on any given day.
I don't know what it means to pray like this, to be on my knees so much that they are rough and knobby, to track my commitment to my prayer life with such regularity.
It humbles me, makes me wonder what my relationship with God would be like if my calendar were filled more with P's.
The year before my oldest son was born, when he was tucked safely inside my belly, I would dress each morning for my full time teaching job, choke down (literally) my eight ounce glass of orange juice, and move from the chair to my knees before driving an hour to work.
My joints always protested the descent with the snap, crackle, pop sounds of the popular breakfast cereal. Before me would be my prayer list, people, things I needed to bring before the Father's throne. Yet, even in this daily routine, my knees never visually reflected my commitment. And honestly? My heart didn't either.
I didn't find a relationship in this routine. I found a routine in the routine, something I could check off my "must-do-to-please-God" list. Praying from my list kept me from forgetting anything, but it was also a crutch and seemed to keep me from praying from the heart, letting the Spirit guide my prayers wherever they might take me. It was also me always talking, rarely listening. When I did listen, my mind wandered far too easily.
By the time the twins were born and I could hardly tell when night ended and morning began, I had long abandoned these morning prayers on my knees. Out of necessity, I began to pray continually throughout each day--while I cooked, while I washed clothes, while I shopped for groceries, while I changed diapers.
In this type of prayer life, I gained a relationship with God that I'd never had before, where my thoughts dwelt on Him more than just during designated prayer or Bible study times, where my conversations with Him didn't begin and end but were a constant throughout every day.
Without a stopwatch prayer life, I found I was getting better at listening in my pauses. Reading His Word became an act of listening to a conversation rather than an act of reading.
Six years later, my relationship with the Lord is way beyond what it was when I felt prayer was a checklist item I must schedule like a doctor's appointment.
Lately, though, with the children growing up and not needing mommy every second of the day, I'm finding God prompting me to go deeper still--not to give up this day-long attitude of prayer but to add back in the "scheduled" quiet time I gave up when they came along.
For two weeks, I have been craving time on my knees. The irony is God has placed this desire in my heart but has temporarily taken away my ability.
Before Hurricane Isaac, I tripped on children shoes piled high by the back door. After slamming my foot into a door, my knees dropped straight down onto the hard tile. Almost two and a half weeks later, those swollen black and blue circles still won't allow me even to kneel on a soft mattress.
Sure, I can still pray and start my routine. It just feels like something is missing, that I'm not close enough to the earth.
When my knees are healed, this go-around, I'm hoping to find in a scheduled prayer time what I couldn't before--not a checklist or a requirement, but a a genuine meeting with the Father.
Writing in community with Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus