Sweeping the Places No One Sees
By Nathalie Jeter
I must admit I’m not a very thorough housekeeper. As long as things are reasonably organized and superficially clean, I’m satisfied. Though I have a horror of clutter, I tend to neglect ceiling fans and baseboards and the rather out-of-the-way areas that a more conscientious cleaner might maintain well-dusted and well-scrubbed.
But I’m indebted to an elderly woman in England for reminding me of the importance of sweeping the places no one sees.
Early in the morning on a recent trip to England, I looked down from my bedroom window and spotted a small gray-haired woman slowly and meticulously sweeping the concrete slab in front of her home. The street was lined with row houses and this particular woman had basement rooms, just below street level, so that you would actually have to lean over the railing to see her front porch.
Why, I wondered, would anyone wake up so early in the morning to sweep a place so inconspicuous, so out of the way … a place that no one ever really sees?
Perhaps she was expecting a special guest. Perhaps she was obsessive-compulsive and couldn’t rest knowing that the porch remained unswept. Whatever her reasons, it struck me as I watched her that I, too, have unswept places that no one sees. Often I’m so busy fixing and cleaning the more obvious places that I don’t take time for the places that only God and I can see. I know deep inside that it should be the other way around: if I start by allowing God to sweep out the secret places of my heart, then some of the more visible places will take care of themselves.
King David understood and demonstrated the importance of coming clean before God when he prayed such transparent prayers as, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10, NIV) and “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV)
Do you desire to keep your heart continually cleansed before God? Praying without ceasing, as Paul commanded in I Thessalonians 5:17, is a good place to start. Here are ten easy ways to incorporate prayer into your day:
1. Pray in the morning when you first open your eyes. Thank God for making it through the night and for the day ahead.
2. Pray in the shower. Thank God for his many attributes, like his goodness, faithfulness and grace.
3. Pray over breakfast. Thank God for the food he has blessed you with and that you don’t have to go to school or to work hungry.
4. Pray during your daily quiet time. Pray for your family, your friends, your neighbors.
5. Pray during your morning commute. Pray for the people on either side of you. Pray over the work day and ask the Lord for wisdom, guidance and divine appointments.
6. Pray over lunch. Thank God for food to nourish your body and give you strength for the day.
7. Pray during the mid-afternoon slump. Pray that the Lord will help you finish the day strong. Pray for your colleagues and bosses.
8. Pray during your commute home. Pray for the people on either side of you in traffic, that God will reveal himself to them in a special way. Pray over their homes and their lives.
9. Pray over dinner. Thank the Lord for a productive day and a chance to unwind.
10. Pray before going to sleep. Pray that God will give you and yours the peaceful rest that you need. Thank him for the day and for his many blessings.
Remember the elderly lady in England to whom I’m much indebted? There’s a little more to her story. Later that day, I glanced out of my window and saw an elderly gentleman arrive at the woman’s doorstep, flowers in hand. Mystery solved! Love is a powerful motivator. And love, too, should motivate us to rise early in the morning, to sweep out the inmost places through communion with God, getting everything straightened out before the “day-to-day” has a chance to introduce its dust and grime into our lives.
This spiritual housekeeping is our most important task of the day.
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Nathalie Jeter is the author of PrayerWalk Beijing and blogs about travel, food, and prayer at www.prayerwalkguides.com.
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