What are are you holding on to? What is that one thing or that one person that you think you are leaving with God when you pray...only to have your heart and mind flooded with worries later? What is it that you feel powerless to change in your life or in the lives of those you love? What are those questions, fears, and doubts that scream at you when you lay your head on your pillow at night? It's time to release them.
I've been thinking a lot lately about that word- release. My oldest daughter recently turned sixteen, is learning how to drive, and just got her first job. It seems like all I do is release- let go, lately. There are nights when I lay awake tormented by the what-if's. What if I haven't prepared her enough for the real world? What if there is some monumentally important thing that I still need to teach her? We only have two years and then she graduates! What if I did too much? What if I didn't do enough? What if I had done this thing differently or that thing differently? What if...I release all of the what-if's into God's hands...and pray.
The questions we lay awake with at night, the things we bring to God and then worry and take back, the people that we are powerless to change are all silenced when we release them into His capable hands. It's not that they vanish...it's that they are no longer our problem to solve or our burden to carry. Prayer is the most powerful and effective way to release anything or anyone. In bringing what concerns us to God, we're acknowledging that we are truly powerless to do anything about it. Prayer is also an act of faith...why bother praying if you don't believe God has the power to take care of all that concerns you?
I've been asked quite a few times in recent months, how I walk away from praying with the food pantry guests without feeling bogged down by their requests. It's because I know that there is nothing I can do myself to help with those requests. When I pray, I am releasing the request to God on that person's behalf. I'm placing it in the hands of the only One who can do anything. While I am praying I often feel the weight of the burden, but once I've said amen the weightiness of what I've just prayed for is gone. I don't give it a second thought. I know it's been lifted and God has it. It was never my burden to carry anyway or my problem to fix. I wish I could say that this is true one hundred percent of the time when I pray for my family...but it's not. I believe that what God has taught me in praying with the food pantry guests has helped me to do a lot better with this, but I still have my moments of struggle like anyone else. I find it hardest to release my family members in prayer, because often I want to be a part of fixing things...as if God needs my help!
If I really want to "help" God, I need to release whatever or whoever I am praying for into His care. We tend to think of this as a passive kind of thing... a sort of throwing our hands up in the air and giving up kind of thing. It's not. Releasing is only the beginning. We begin by letting go, and then we ask God to show us how to continue to pray concerning that which we have just released. Many times the things that keep us up at night and the people that we keep giving to God and then taking back, are so hard to release because there is a very real battle going on concerning them and we know it. Once we release them into God's hands... we can ask Him to show us how to most effectively pray for them. We have to let go of our grip first, our ways of thinking, and our assumptions of how we ought to be praying in order to make room to hear God directing us how to pray. This is how we partner with Him in prayer...we ask Him to instruct us on how to pray specifically for that which concerns us. When we follow His lead we'll find that our prayers are no longer full of worry but full of hope, full of faith, and full of confidence.
Release is a lot like surrender. Isn't that what letting go feels like? Surrender? The definition of surrender is to give up or to hand over. The most effective prayers we'll pray, are the prayers we'll pray while surrendered to the will of God. So what are you holding on to? Won't you join me in my season of releasing? It's in the letting go and the surrendering of that which concerns us, or the people that we are concerned about that we not only free them...we free ourselves.