Invite God In

By: Mandi Greene
One of the most beautiful things about my little monster toddler’s snuggles is that they are so rare. Every night when I go in to put him to bed, there is a magical pocket of time after we’ve read a book and turned the lamp off where he snuggles up in my arms and lays there quietly with his head against my shoulder and listens to me pray.

Praying has never been (and is not) something that comes easily to me in my spiritual
walk, but giving birth to my son surely kick-started a real, living and breathing dialogue with my
God. And the last thing I want is for my little one to be pushing thirty with a baby of his own
before he starts to understand what real prayer looks like. So I’ve had to start figuring that out
for myself, and our designated bedtime routine has become my favorite part.

It can turn into a lengthy affair, because let’s be honest, there are a lot of holes God is
going to have to fill in my parenting journey. I speak aloud over my son to cover everything from
his physical wellfare to his future spouse. It’s probably the only time carved out of my entire day
when I can stop and sit in the quiet to focus on being thankful, to ask for guidance and wisdom,
to unload my mind and heart.

But not every evening is conducive to quiet, thoughtful, meditative prayer.
My husband had come home in a mood. It had been another in a long string of bad
days at work. Our bedroom was out of sorts as we had launched ourselves into one of my
many projects around the house, and this one had a demanding timeline. So instead of coming
home to a restful evening, he was going to celebrate his release from a twelve hour shift of
standing on his feet by doing more work. I needed to get the baby to bed and I hadn’t even
started dinner yet.

Instead of peace and thankfulness, I felt pressure and frustration as I got my toddler
through his bedtime routine. I can keep this short tonight, I thought to myself as we approached
our prayer time. He’s too young to tell the difference anyway. It’ll be fine just this once, he
won’t even remember.

“Dear Heavenly Father,” I started with a sigh, feeling a bit ridiculous in my current mood.
“Thank you for blessing us with another day here on earth together.”

I could hear a mental clock ticking, breathing anxiety down my spine. My thankfulness
felt fake. Rushed. I reminded myself to be present and tried to keep going, even though my
mind was down the hall expecting a loud bang and a few choice words to ring out any moment.
What if he doesn’t read something on my plans correctly? I only bought enough wood for what
we needed. If he makes a wrong cut, this project was going to get pushed out another day and
he would have to drive back out to the home improvement store and then he would be even
more annoyed and we are NEVER going to get to sleep in our new bed and…
What was I praying about?

I had to stop talking for a minute and ask if this was the kind of prayer God wanted from
me or if this was a prime example of just going through the motions. I thought about my son
and how he is learning everything from what we do and how we handle situations. I thought
about what kind of person I wanted him to be and how I would hope he would cope with a bad
day (or month) at work someday when he was grown.

“Dear Lord, please help us to be people who lift other peoples’ spirits when they are
feeling down, rather than letting the mood drag us down, too,” I prayed, a bit begrudgingly.
“Help us to have Your eyes to see a person’s hurt through their anger, and their exhaustion
through their grumpiness. Lord, please show us how to come together and help take the weight
of those burdens instead of adding to them. Let our home be a home where feelings can be
voiced, frustrations can be felt, and we can still live in safety of knowing that we are loved and

I took another deep breath and felt some of that zipping anxiety dissipate right off my
skin. “Thank you for blessing our family with a man who works so very hard all week to take
care of us, both at his job and when he comes home in the evenings. Thank you for his work
ethic and commitment and that I can stand proud behind the man that he is raising our son to
be. Thank you for bringing me a partner who indulges all of my home remodeling projects,
whether or not he really cares about them himself. Thank you that even when tired, grumpy,
and in desperate need of rest, he still comes home and does the work that he knows needs to
be done.”

I didn’t cut our prayer time short. We rocked and snuggled and eventually I tucked my
little guy into bed as always. Then I went back down the hall to our bedroom and knelt beside
my husband and looked at him without a stitch of anger in my heart. Had I been left to my own
devices, I would have approached the slow boiling situation by sneaking glances at my drawing
of the plans and trying to inconspicuously check over his work to make sure he hadn’t gotten
anything wrong. I would have hovered and tried to anticipate mood swings and problems and
perhaps made a passive [aggressive] comment or two about his mood. Instead, I sat beside
him and asked him what I could do to help. He asked me to hold some parts together while he
put in a screw.

After a few minutes of working together he set down the drill and let out a deep breath.
His shoulders were eased down and his jaw was no longer worked into that tooth grinding
rigidness. “I don’t know why I tried to start doing this on my own, it’s so much easier with your

The bubble of tension in the room popped right then and there. Gone.

I know exactly how that evening should have gone, because I have gotten it wrong a lot
more times than I have gotten it right. It should have been tense, curt sentences flung back and
forth over an undercurrent of stress, frustration and misplaced resentment that made both of us
feel worse until we went to sleep barely talking and neither of us understanding why we were
really mad at the other. Instead, we spent some time enjoying each other as we worked on a
project together. We had time to talk and to work as a team and ultimately to wrap up a really
satisfying project. He got to vent about his frustrations at work, but also hear a funny story
about something our toddler had done that day. We went to bed that night at peace with one
Prayer might not change your circumstances. When I left my sleeping toddler and
returned to my husband, he was just as tired, overworked, and frustrated as he had been when I
left him. But one thing prayer most certainly will change, is you. When you take the time and
reserve that conscious mental effort of inviting God into your thoughts, your situation, and your
decisions, you become more like Him. You can muscle your way through hardships far beyond
your strength. You can find love and grace for the most unlovable and undeserving people on
this earth. You can draw from a place of wisdom and peace when your heart is consumed with
volatile emotions. You can turn a bad day around. You can change the tone of your marriage.
Your entire household. You want to get crazy? You can change the world.

That’s how big God is. That’s what prayer can do.

I have spent a lot of my life moving through prayer like a habit. A recitation. A plea
when I am in need of something that I know that He can give. A check box to mark because I’m
a Christian and prayer is something that Christians are supposed to do. But the last few years
have shown me that prayer is active. That it requires mental, physical, and emotional
participation. Prayer is offering up and emptying out the pieces of yourself that weigh you down
and replacing them with God. It’s worshipful and heartbreaking and gritty and soul-satisfying.

God’s call for us to engage in prayer is not to benefit Himself (although don’t we all like to
hear from out kids?). Christians are “supposed” to pray because prayer is the pinnacle of our
faith. It’s what takes our religion from a belief system to a relationship. It’s the difference
between worshipping an idea or an image, and worshipping our living God. It’s what activates
all those blessings God wants to give us. It’s what takes all that truth and right living that we
learn about in His word and turning it into a lifestyle. It’s the only way to experience the full
richness of what God wants to offer us during our lives here on Earth.

Prayer is for YOU, not for Him. Don’t forget to invite God in.
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About Mandi:  The most honest thing I can tell you about myself is that I am a total mess.  On any given day it’s likely that I have eaten breakfast, washed my hair, or put on clean clothes, but certainly not all three.  After six years of marriage to a man who can never be called boring, I’ve recently entered into the most challenging and inspirational season of life yet – becoming a new mom.  Having grown up as a part of the Oakwood family myself, I am overjoyed to begin raising my little one in the same loving arms.  It has been through this new beginning that God has continued working on me in completely new ways, and I am so thrilled to share this journey with you, and humbled that our Savior finds value in someone as ordinary and unremarkable as me and my middle class, suburban American life. 
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One Response to “Invite God In”

  1. amy says:

    Thank you, Mandi. You are spot on. A good relationship with God is so important. As talking through the everyday things with Him becomes natural, when the crisis comes (and it will in one way or another) reaching
    out to Him will be instinct.

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