Susanna Welsey had 19 children and still found time to pray.
You may never have heard of her, but you may have heard of two of her sons - John and Charles Wesley, two men who have impacted millions of lives for Jesus. If we look at history, many of the great theologians and church leaders express thanks to their mothers for shaping them into the men they became. As the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “I am sure that, in my early youth, no teaching ever made such an impression upon my mind as the instruction of my mother.” These men, including John and Charles, owe much of their spiritual understanding and foundation to mothers who taught them God's word and prayed fervently and faithfully for their children.
Among the noise and activity of her many children, Susanna's trick was to pull her apron over her head - signaling to them and anyone else around that she was in prayer and not to be disturbed. In an age where moms consistently lament about not being able to go to the bathroom alone, Susanna found a way to have time alone by disappearing under a piece of fabric. Like a giant, "Do Not Disturb" sign, her children knew momma was to be left alone as she brought her prayers and requests to God in the middle of the noise and bustle a full household brings.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard from other women that they wish their "prayer life was better." And while the phrase can sound trite, it's true for most of us - myself included. Over the years, I've tried a lot of different things to grow in the area of prayer. I've studied it in God's word, read what others say about it, asked for tips from friends, purchased tools, made special plans ... and on and on. But as a mother, life is typically loud, messy and ever changing, and it's easy to find excuses for not being consistent in my prayer life.
But ultimately, as Luther says, "Prayer is like breathing." We don't need to overcomplicate it or make it more intense or scary than it is. Prayer is simply talking and communicating with God. Which means the key to prayer is simply ... praying.
It is a gift from our Heavenly Father, something that I am never too busy for and it is never too noisy for. Even though I'm willing to bet most of us don't don an apron all that often, what if we all took a page from Susanna 's book? Taking time in the midst of a crazy day to follow the prompting of the Spirit, stoping anytime and anywhere to talk to God, asking for his power to work in our lives. While our aprons may not be a physical piece of fabric with eyelet trim, we have everything we need each day to throw Susanna's apron over our heads and come to the Lord frequently in prayer.
Here are a few ways you can incorporate Susanna's apron in your life:
- Quiet your heart, even if everything else is loud. Start here. As moms in the little years, finding time and finding quiet are an elusive combination. So while you may not be able to find these two things together, take time as often as you can to focus on your Redeemer and all you have access to because of Christ's death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. Remember your eternal security and ask God to bring your will in line with his. My pastor's wife, Karen Hodge, reminded me recently that "Our position in Christ will determine our posture in prayer." Trust that God will show up and he will fulfill his promises in your life. Pray as a loved child, not an orphan.
- Act on the urge to pray. How many times a day do we mother's see our need for prayer? When I lose my keys, when my temper begins to bubble over, when I don't know how to deal with a discipline issue, when I'm talking with a friend who's struggling, in bed with my husband before we turn out the lights - this prompting to pray is from the Holy Spirit. Don't resist him. To have your heart moved and your mind prompted to pray is a gift. Thank God for it. Act on the impulse and you'll be surprised how much more time you'll spend in prayer each day.
- Bring every little thing to God: In Kingdom economy, there is no small thing. Remember, God cares about the sparrow, the hairs on our head, the bread that we eat and the shirt that we wear. Nothing is outside of God's control and will for our lives, so no matter how minute or mundane, remember that the God in Heaven cares about it. If we truly believe this, we'll be pulling that apron over our heads 24/7.
- Give it time. Sometimes, it's a quick one word cry like, "Help!" as we see our toddler throw themselves on the floor in a tantrum and we have no idea what to do. Other times, we may be able to find 20 minutes of calm during nap time. A healthy prayer life includes both long and short times of prayer. We need God every moment, so don't forget him in the tiniest moments, but also don't neglect to give him larger chunks of your day when you can find it. For me, this typically happens a few times a week, and yes, I have to schedule it. But setting aside time to dive into deep prayer is often the only time I am able to truly get my mind off my immediate needs and spend time in worship and adoration, truly submitting and aligning my heart to his will, and praying intentionally for the needs and requests of others - my husband, children, friends and the larger community and world.
- Pray with your children. As mothers, our children are with us a lot, which means there are plenty of times to engage in prayer with them. There are ample opportunities to not just pray for needs in front of our children, but to also pray with our children. While this can be before meal and bedtime prayers, I also find repentance to be a key area. While I want to strive to magnify God in all that I say and do around my children, I am an imperfect image-bearer of Christ - which means I should be the chief repenter in my home. Confessing my (appropriate) sins in front of and with my children is the best way I can show them my need for The Good News. Not being afraid to engage in prayer with my children not only gives me a chance to pull out my apron more often, but it also teaches them what a life dependent on Christ looks like in the day-to-day.
- Utilize prayer methods and tools. There are many great tools to help mother's stay focused and organized during their prayer time - everything from our own prayer card, the Val Marie Paper Prayer Journals, House Prayers, simple acronyms like ACTS, praying scripture, and I've always liked the thought of Piper's prayer circles. These tools and tips can be incredibly helpful in organizing and guiding your prayer life, but don't get too caught up in doing it perfectly. Remember, we can grow in our understanding and application of prayer, but we will never do it perfectly. Don't let an unfinished prayer card hinder your desire to talk with God.
While there are dozens more tips I could offer, ultimately, let me encourage you to follow Susanna's example and throw your apron over your head all throughout your day as a mother.
What a gift to have access to our God in Heaven anytime and anywhere!