I’m an introvert (as God meant all people to be). When I fly, I sit quietly ignoring the person next to me (as God meant all airline passengers to be). But when I face decisions, I love to brainstorm with a friend.
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My wife and I frequently march over to our whiteboard and write columns of “Pros” and “Cons” or just catalog a bunch of ideas. We delight to explore any topic: how to counsel an anxious friend (or an angry friend), how to simplify our lives, and the godly benefits of introversion.
Brainstorming is fun conversation. Her ideas spark thought-flashes in me, and sometimes those sparks join together to ignite blazes of light and insight. The results of collaborative discussions far outshine any solutions we would have come up on our own. It’s a perfect example of, “The whole is better than the sum of its parts.“
These brainstorming sessions have made me prize talking with my wife. If something interesting happens at Panera, I want to tell her about it. When my seatmate on the airplane talks my ear off about essential oils, I can’t wait to get home and share my suffering. The story isn’t complete until it’s been dissected with a confidant.
God invites us into that kind of conversational relationship with Him. Just like a Friend.
The Hardest Command
Scripture is filled with impossible commands, like “Be ye perfect as I am perfect.” Although “Avoid troublemakers” (Rom. 16:17) is easy because we introverts do it by avoiding everybody.
But for me, the hardest command has always been, “Pray without ceasing.” Like, YIKES, I have a hard enough time interceding for fifteen minutes in my quiet time.
I used to belong to the board of directors of a non-profit that ran into a real thorny issue. One member had trampled on a serious set of safety rules, and the board needed to respond. Some members were furious, many were terrified. They pressured the board to act quickly, but every solution had a set horrible consequences. I became obsessed with searching for a solution.
At that time, I had a thirty-minute commute to work. On those drives, I was preoccupied with the board’s problem. I began a series of mental-brainstorms: possible solutions, pros and cons, and a bit (quite a bit) of venting about that malicious member.
But instead of an obsessive deluge of thoughts, like an unending anxiety-ridden rant, I accidentally introduced each thought with various synonyms for God.
- Instead of, “I don’t see an answer,” I thought, “God, I don’t see and answer.”
- Instead of, “I’m pissed at this member,” I thought, “Father, I am pissed at this member.”
- Instead of, “I feel inadequate to handle this, I thought, “Lord, I feel inadequate to handle this.”
Turning Thoughts into Prayer
At any given moment, our mind is racing down a dozen alleys, whether we are listening to a podcast, watching a movie, or reading an article. (Right now, your mind is wondering, “When is Sam going to get to the point?”)
Whenever I struggle with “Pray without ceasing,” it’s because I forget the nature of prayer. Prayer isn’t limited to intercession. That might only be ten percent of it. Prayer is a conversation between two people who love each other. And that conversation includes sharing, venting, thinking, dissecting, brainstorming, and sometimes just sitting in comfortable silence together.
When Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, I call you friends,” He meant that prayer is a conversation between friends about anything. Actually about everything. Every thought (or feeling) can be turned into that divine dialogue between friends.
Talking with God (about everything) is turning me into a “pray-at-all-times” lover. I don’t have to get home to brainstorm or share. When I get angry reading another politician’s hypocritical promises, I “pray” my thoughts instead of getting captured by imprisoning anger. I suddenly find my introversion burning away in the blaze of my newfound love of divine-dialogue.
Praying is accidentally turning me into an extrovert. Someday I will probably smile at the person sitting next to me on the plane.
Great article. Always look forward to your writings. Thanks
I do this myself Sam…….. good stuff.
I started doing a little thing that I call Walk in the Word…… it requires a Gold Gym treadmill, a computer monitor or a laptop in front and the online ESV.
My wife thinks I’m some kinda genius since I started doing it……. well I don’t know about all that.
I really just felt just led by the Lord to find a way to get into the Word in a sustained kinda way without just sitting on my keister reading.
I do a half hour walk listening to Kirstan Getty, ESV translation, while I follow along reading the text 5 days a week usually.
Small investments of time over = good result vs random investments over time are negligible……. right?
The time really flies by and before ya know……. I got a half an hour in – which I really need to do as I am no spring chicken anymore.
Listening to Ms. Gettys sweet Irish accent is a bonus…….
Be well brother……. In Christ,
Love your title, “Walk in the Word.”
I’ve never done exactly that. But I see the value. I tend to pick a few verses and meditate on them, but I see the value of the bird’s eye view you are trying out.
Sam, very good. Like you I am an introvert. I was on a talk on line, we are all pretty much locked down here for no reason I can think of..That’s another subject.
Anyway one of the participants in the group was advocating the need for us all to evangelise everyone we come across. I said I ask God if there is anything He/she has me to say to whoever. It’s not that I don’t want to share Jesus but I want to feel something of a prompting from the Spirit…
However, back to your verse about pray without ceasing. Although I think your idea is really good, what I do with a group is pray a lot in the spirit, if you know what I mean, and then when some sort of an ‘interpretation’ comes we share it. It’s been really helpful because even if we don’t understand what we are saying the Holy Spirit within does..Just another thought.
I like your idea when praying in a group, to follow the prompting of the Spirit.
My article focuses more on what we do when waiting for a cashier, listening to talk-radio, and dealing with the storm of anxious thoughts. How do we turn moment-by-moment THINKING into moment-by-moment conversation with God?
Hi Sam, How are you? I delight in discovering fellow introverts! It feels like discovering a member of a secret society because we all have to work that little bit harder to fit into an extrovert world.
I am re-reading Practice the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, but you sum up how to pray ceaselessly, so well. I do wonder if this type of praying comes easier for introverts. I don’t know about you, but I have an almost constant monologue going on in my mind as I see and react to the world around me, and respond to it’s effects upon me. My husband, who is extrovert, doesn’t seem to do the same thing, although he does literally narrate his own life as he wanders around the house doing his thing! I always post your pieces to Facebook, but I shall be drawing this one, in particular, to his attention; I think this will be so much easier for him to grasp, and as I practice intentionally sharing my inner monologue with Jesus, my husband can share his narration with Jesus!
Thanks again, love the way you think and share!
Sam THANK YOU for this article. I really, really needed it!!!!