I’m a list maker. I love making lists. I make lists in my daily planner and my journal, on post it notes, used envelopes, scraps of paper, or even the back of my hand on occasion. It’s an organized thing to do. Problem is, I’m unorganized enough that I often lose my list. Still, it doesn’t matter. There’s something about just getting the list written that gives me a sense of satisfaction and control that is unparalleled by anything apart from the next anticipated action—crossing something off. Lists are good.
This morning, I sat down for prayer and scripture reading. It was early; the house was quiet. I read Ephesians 1:3-14 as directed by my reading guide and moved on to prayer, and that’s when I stopped. I stopped when I realized that how I was praying and what Paul was writing were very different. Very different indeed.
You see, I’d begun praying a to do list–a to do list for God. “Help this person, heal that person, bring peace for this church, lend strength to that leader…”
There was nothing wrong with my to do list. It just wasn’t how Paul began. Paul began with God–
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)
Paul begins at the beginning with God, the Maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen. He begins with praise and only then moves to petition.
When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, after all, Jesus teaches them, “Our Father,” before, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Luke 11).
To the outsider, too often, prayer sounds like magical thinking, as if we’re some bland Harry Potter knock-off waving a wand to summon our heart’s desires. Fair enough, when we limit prayer to our needs without giving thought to the One who can satisfy them.
This morning, I stopped and went back to my holy to do list. I didn’t ignore it. But I did stop before beginning again and just sit in God’s presence for a few moments to say thanks. He knew my to do list, after all, before I ever gave voice to it. I’ll try a little harder from now on to let Him make the list, and let Him do the crossing off, and let Him have the glory.