This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura Wifler, and today I am excited for all of you to hear an interview with Valerie Woerner. Val is a wife, a mama to two little girls, and a business owner and a blogger. She runs a company called Val Marie Paper, and she creates some of the best prayer journals that Emily and I have ever seen on the market. As you can imagine, Val writes and talks about prayer a lot. So we want to have her on the show today to talk about prayer and motherhood. She’ll talk about what prayer actually is, what hindrances we face, especially in motherhood, and share some practical tips to help and prop up your prayer life. In addition, I wanted to take a moment to share with you all about a special new project that Emily and I have been working on behind the scenes. Today, we’re launching another arm of Risen Motherhood called RM|EQUIPPING. One thing Emily and I have noticed is that there are not a lot of free resources for truly equipping moms to grow in intentional motherhood, which as you know if you have been a listener of the show for much time at all, we believe is through having a purposeful and intentional relationship with God by reading his word and, fitting for today’s show, through prayer. Emily and I have developed a few resources for you to download and use to share with your friends. We have a couple different worksheets to help you study the Bible inductively, as well as a Companion Card, which you can consider like a little cheat sheet for using the Inductive Bible Study method. If you’re not sure what the Inductive Bible Study method is, definitely check out Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word, which we have listed on our resources page. Or you can Google it. In addition, we’ve also created a couple of handy little prayer cards; one is a weekly prayer card that’s divided up by the days of the week along the top, and then has categorical props along the sides. So each day you’ll pray for a specific request and each topic area that you fill in ahead of time. It sounds complicated but it’s not. Just take a look at it online and you’ll get it. The other card is actually a blank card. It has the producer’s lines around it, of course, but you can use it to write down specific prayer request, a memory verse, or just use it for your grocery list. We hope that these resources are helpful and profitable for you to grow in motherhood. Print out as many as you like and share them with anyone you’d like. You’ll also find a new post today on the blog that will walk you through how to use all these resources. So if these concepts are new to you, never fear, we’ve got you covered. Head to the blog and you can learn more about the Inductive Bible Study method as well as how to use the prayer cards. Of course even with all these free prayer resources, we totally still recommend investing in one of Val’s Prayer Journals. She had them for everything—pregnancy, a men’s journal, gratitude, and even a kid’s version. Definitely check those out at valmariepaper.com. Of course as always, we’ll have lots more resources listed on today’s Show Notes which you can find at risenmotherhood.com. We will link to Val’s journals, we will link to the RM|EQUIPPING page, which I’ll be talking about a little bit here today. And we’ll have other posts that Val has written as well as other things that Emily and I have enjoyed that have really helped encourage us in our prayer life. Definitely not a week to skip reading the show notes. And finally, you can find us of course, on social media; we’ll be on Instagram and Facebook, as well asTwitter. So we hope you’ll join us on these platforms as we talk more this week about motherhood and prayer. Let’s get to the interview with Val, myself, and Emily.
Laura: Hey Val, thank you so much for being on Risen Motherhood today.
Val: I am so glad to be here you all. I listen to your podcast and, in fact I binge on it, so I’m really honored to be here.
Laura: Thank you. We’re thrilled to have you. Emily and I were chatting—we’ve been using your products for at least quite a few years and knew about your prayer journal long before we knew about your blog. Now it’s good that we get to meet face to face. Well, we’re chatting over Skype here today, so it’s sort of face to face, I guess.
Val: Yes, I love hearing that whenever I get to talk to people who’ve used it for just a couple of years to know it’s something they’re sticking with, and that it’s making a difference in their prayer life. So it’s always good to hear.
Laura: Which is why we wanted to have you on the show today to talk about prayer. But first, maybe tell us a little bit about yourself, your family make up, what your typical day looks like; sort of that introductory fun stuff.
Val: Yes. I live in South Louisiana; I live with my husband Tyler and my two little girls. I have a three-and-a-half-year-old named Vivi, and Vana is about to be one. We’re working on her birthday invitations right now, so I just can’t believe that she’s about to be one.
Laura: That is crazy.
Val: My typical day though; I have more of a typical week than anything else. Vivi goes to school for a few days, so those days kind of look the same. I’ll get a little bit more quality time with Vana, when she’s at school, and then when Vana takes a nap, I get about two hours of work done. So that’s the bulk of my work time during the week. I have about consistently six to eight hours a week to work. The other two days; one day, we do shipping for the journals and then the other day is like our Friday, where we just do whatever we want. So every week is the same, but not everyday is the same. But we like it like that.
Emily: It’s fun to get an inside look at your business, and as Laura mentioned, we’ve both personally benefited from your writing and your resources, so we’re excited to talk about prayer and motherhood.
Laura: Speaking of Val Marie Paper, tell us a little bit more about your business. We love the heartbeat behind it, but can you explain what that is, and sort of where business is at today?
Val: Yes. I definitely feel like I fell into this several years ago, and I felt that this was just another way of saying that God did this, I didn’t do this myself. But I was pregnant with Vivi, and I am a hypochondriac and was just very sensitive to everything that I feel in my body. So pregnancy was not something that I was looking forward to at all. Actually I was looking for a prayer journal and couldn’t find what I had envisioned in my head. But it actually took me several months to design it because I was thinking, “Surely, somebody’s made this before.” I eventually made it and then the response was huge, and I’ve been able to do that now. Since that time, I guess just interacting with so many women about this topic of prayer and everything that that revolves around our prayer; we pray about everything. It’s really given me the heart to be inspired during the day. A big part of that was about motherhood and where they go for a source of energy. Basically, the Source for everything is God. I feel like my mission now is just to keep women inspired to find joy and peace with practical tools. I love worksheets. I love anything that will be a practical way to apply truth to them. I love what I do. I am lucky to do this right now.
Emily: I am so grateful for people like you who make these practical tools because for me, one of the hardest things about praying in the midst of the busyness of motherhood and the urgencies is honestly organizing my prayers and keeping track of that thing that person told me at church or little things that I want to be praying for my family. It seems like it’s already hard to sit and find that quiet moment that we need sometimes, and then in addition, trying to remember all the things that you want to pray for is hard. I just really appreciate the way that you thought to organize that. So at least when you do sit down, you feel like you can get somewhere and really make headway on the things that you want to talk to the Lord about.
Val: And it feels like we don’t want to make it legalistic or organize it too much because it feels like it takes away from it. But our thoughts go everywhere, so to be able to organize your prayer life sounds silly and too organized. To be able to do that has really helped me. That’s what I hear from women too, that they need help organizing their thoughts.
Laura: Yes, baby brains. Emily and I have both heard about it. That is a real thing but it lasts. Doesn’t it last all through motherhood? The baby brain never actually goes away, so it’s very helpful to have a place to organize thoughts. Can you frame up for us, a little bit, the purpose of prayer and how we see it played out in the gospel, since this is Risen Motherhood, we just have to go there.
Val: I feel like prayer is so huge. But on the simplest level, you can just say the purpose of prayer is just getting to communicate with God. He's the one who made us, so being able to talk to him and have access to what he wants for our life and everything like that is possible for you to do that. I would say on the simplest level it’s just being able to talk to our Creator, hear his thoughts for our life, and being able to make a request of him too.
Emily: Sometimes these simple definitions are the best. I always think about how I can say something, and the easiest way possible to explain it to my kids and that’s all I say is, “Prayer is talking to God, and we hear from God when we read his word”.
Val: Vivi asked me the other day, she was like, “Can he hear us?” [laughs] I was like, “Yes, he can,” and that’s just such a strange concept, but yes, he can hear us.
Laura: I love what you guys are saying here, let’s just not overcomplicate it. Keep prayer simple; that it is truly just talking to our Father. I’ve heard it compared to sometimes “just like breathing.” It should be very, very natural; it’s not about rules and style and getting it right and correct. But it’s really about having that relationship with our Heavenly Father and being able to talk to him and access him, any time of the day. I do think one great prayer, just to look at the Bible, is when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew. That’s a great example of different pieces of prayer that, if you have time, that would be an awesome spot to study—what prayer looks like, what components can make up prayer. But generally, yes, it’s just speaking to him authentically, and in a real way—whether that’s quick, short prayers, or it’s also really sitting down and having an intimate longer conversation with our Father. Both are necessary, and they're both exemplified in the Bible.
Emily: As we think about the gospel, I know the first thing that comes to my mind is, again, all the hindrances to prayer that we’ve been talking about. It’s difficult to talk to our Creator, not only because our relationship was severed, but also even after we’ve trusted in Christ, we do have that bold access to God and the confidence that we can go before his throne because we’re fully justified, we still struggle with things like guilt and shame and distraction and choosing good things instead of the best thing. So it is just a struggle and especially in this season of motherhood, when you have little ones at home, and you just have a lot vying for your attention. I feel like we need the Holy Spirit, and we need God’s word to be alive and transforming us, so that we can talk with God and have that conversation and truly live our lives in worship of him.
Laura: And that plays into our second question that we wanted to ask, which is, all of us moms and women, probably all people, really wish that they had a better prayer life. This seems to be one of the most difficult areas for us to keep healthy in the Christian walk. So is there anything else that you think, where the fall plays into this, or what are some of those really common hindrances to prayer, especially, or more specifically, to mothers?
Val: I was telling my husband this just the other day. It’s like the fall and Jesus dying on the cross. Basically, when we think about Adam and Eve and how they were able to communion with God, and how natural that was, I don’t want to say effortlessly, but that’s what it seemed like. Whenever that sin came in, it definitely separated us, and even the parts like you said, like the fact that we’re going to toil and strive for food and to make a living and everything like that. But there are a lot of things in our world that are distractions for us. You mentioned it that when the veil was torn, or it’s just the fact that we have complete access to him now is awesome, but we don’t take advantage of that because there's still sin and we have to choose that every day. So for moms, some of the biggest distractions is having so many other priorities in their life that come in, like the phrase “We’re putting out fires a lot of the times,” and there are other things that feel more urgent. Prayer doesn’t feel like something that is going to be a make or break in our day, so it’s easy to put it on the back-burner. We know we have to get our kids dressed for school and out the door, but we can feel like we can survive without prayer for a little while.
Whenever I go a few days without praying, I start praying and it is like, “Man, why haven’t I being doing this?” It is life-changing and it sets my heart on a different level; a different view of the world. I am not answering the question but [laughs] the distractions are pretty much the reason why we don’t pray; just feeling like there are other things that need our attention. We’re so guilty of putting everybody's needs before ours, forgetting that we have to take care of our own heart, and we know that prayer is one of the biggest ways to do that. It is important to remember this. If we just remember, from our prayer life and our thoughts, everything flows from everything else—how we respond to our kids, how we respond to our husband, and how our attitude goes for the day. Remembering that would help us choose that. Prayer is so nebulous and that’s why it’s one the things that is constantly on our goal list every year—to pray more or to get better at that. It’s just hard to measure it.
Emily: Another hindrance, and I don’t know if anybody else other than me struggles with this, is that I can go several days without praying. I am not in that habit of really sitting down and talking to the Lord throughout the day. But I can also feel guilty, like, “Okay God, can I just jump back in the relationship with you now?” It feels almost awkward and uncomfortable for me, it’s just preaching the gospel to myself and remembering that, as you mentioned Val like, when the veil was torn, I now have access to the Lord through Christ. He’s my Father and I have a father-daughter relationship with him. So he’s not annoyed when I come to him and neither is he burdened. He's not like, “You need to pay for what you did [laughs] for the time we spent apart.” All of the wrath that he had for my sin was laid upon Jesus, and so now I can come to him and know that there is no more wrath for me. I don't have to feel guilty or ashamed. I'll just have to stop and remember that, that there may need to be a little bit of confession and repentance there, because I had my priorities wrong, but that doesn't mean that I need to sulk and spend three more days feeling bad. It's just, run back to the Father.
Val: It makes me think of the phrase “We could take ten steps away from him and it only takes one step to go back to him,” so I think you're right.
Emily: That's a good one.
Val: I think that probably is something. I have heard that what you do, when you don't want to go to him because you feel guilty that you haven't gone to him when things are easy, but now you need him because things are hard. And I think that it's good for us to realize that we are doing that, but it's not a reason not to go to him because, as you said, it's a parent-child relationship and he loves us and he wants us to come to him with anything.
Laura: Exactly! And also, though you didn’t say this exactly but basically, prayer can feel a little bit intangible, especially for moms. I think that you were talking about kind of putting out fires and meeting those immediate needs, and it can feel really more productive or it can feel more purposeful when we are sort of checking things off the list or taking care of those things, and prayer sometimes doesn't feel as productive. For someone like me who is very task-oriented, I can look around the house and just see everything, and it can be so hard to just say, “I am going to close my eyes to those things and focus and slow down,” but I think that's what Satan wants to do with us—to distract us. Anything that he can use, whether it's the dishes in the sink, or it's the kids' bad behavior. It's all the things that we fear. If you're a work from home mom, or you work, those distractions are out there. Just remembering that there is great productivity in prayer and I think that that is in resetting our hearts and minds on the gospel, it's staying focused on what is most important. I think Emily and I talk a lot sometimes about doing not just the better thing, but doing the best thing and really learning to discern what those things are, and I think that happens through prayer. One other thing I always like, that I think Emily you've said this before in an Instagram post but it was about, when you don’t know what to do in a discipline situation, or with your kids as a mom: Have you tried praying? Have you just slowed down and tried praying? Instead, we bring in all these solutions, we get parenting hand books and poll our mom friends, and really I think there is so much value in bringing it to the Lord and allowing him to bring thoughts to mind, to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts. I think we just underestimate the power of prayer.
Val: I have been talking about prayer for years and in this past year I’ve been studying more about it, because I feel I have exhausted everything I knew about prayer. So, I have been learning more and E. M. Bounds has an amazing book called The Purpose in Prayer that I read. The way he talks about people praying, they're so passionate about it. He talks about people staying up all night, praying for different things and I know it's a different time and so it can feel it was easier back then. But it really puts a fire in me to feel that dependence on prayer the way they did and not feel like I'm dependent on friends' advice, books and stuff like that. I want to feel that dependence on God, the way they felt that. I want to read his books, just a couple of pages every week, because I feel like it puts me in a different mindset about prayer. I think here in America, we do not depend on God as much, because we can get our own food, we can do everything, and we see other people in other countries have more of a dependence on him. I think the same can be said in this day and age about prayer too. Does that make sense?
Emily: Completely. We were just talking about this in my Bible study last night. Talking about how you're renewed in the spirit of your mind and of course, I think the first thing that is easiest for me to run to, is to sit down and open my Bible study and say, “Okay, I'm going to get all this right doctrine and I'm going to get all this right thinking from scripture and it's very tangible and it's something I can see myself making progress on. It's something I'm growing in knowledge of and it's so good.” We absolutely have to have sound thinking and right theology. But I think in our culture, as we were talking about in my Bible study last night, in America, we love this logical, task-oriented stuff. Somehow I find myself almost neglecting prayer for my Bible study because that is something that I can feel and walk in and grow in. And like you said, prayer can feel more nebulous and harder to grasp how it's actually transforming me. However, there's that element of we can trust that it is transforming us because the Holy Spirit lives in us and God's word is living and active, and as we have that back and forth conversation with God, we can be confident that we are being changed, even if sometimes that feels kind of nebulous to us.
Val: That's a really good point to think about how we can be distracted from this personal relationship with him. I think part of that personal relationship comes from the Bible but we can't just get laser focus from this reading and not listening to what God might be saying to us, through it.
Emily: There's this Martin Luther quote, and I’ll paraphrase it but it’s something like, “I have so much to do, I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” And I love that because I'm always like, “I don't have time for three hours! I don't have time.”
Val: Just reading about these old guys, they really believed that, and they did it and it just seems crazy. But it's cool to remember that one quote because just hearing that again can totally shift so many thoughts you have. It’s a short quote but it just reminds you of so much.
Laura: Perspective! So speaking of all of the hindrances to prayer, what are some of your best tips Val? I know you're talking about all this, your whole business is really about practical tools. So what are some of your tips for creating a life and a habit of prayer especially in the season of little kids?
Val: I'll try to walk through a couple of them but first, I want to give one tip to people who maybe aren't moms yet. They are probably just listening to this so they should be prepared and get some knowledge. I would really cultivate a habit of quiet time in the morning and get really steady with it now, because I think whenever we go through those seasons of a newborn, you know different things like that, we may not be able to do that. However, I think quiet time isn't necessarily about the only thing that gets us in prayer, but it is creating a foundational relationship with the Lord, so that we can talk with him throughout the day, and that it's not weird to talk to him in small conversations. I guess just to put an example to that, it's hard to start a friendship long distance if you don’t have a good foundation. You can do it but it takes a lot more work and it's a lot harder to call somebody or text them every week, but if you have years and years of a firm foundation, or lots of time put in, you can kind of pick up where you left off. I think cultivating a habit before you have those seasons that are hard to have a quiet time, you will be able to have more of a conversation with God throughout the day. You will have that foundation to where those things are a little bit more natural. So, that's what I was saying to people who are not moms yet. But I would say, the tough love answer first, track your time. See if you really don't have time to spend with the Lord in a solid chunk, because I know our default is to say that we don’t have time because we're busy. We say we have a lot going on. But I know for me, if my phone is in my room, I'll pick it up and spend 20 minutes on Instagram and be like, “How did I do that?” David will come in early and my time is over. So, track your time just to make sure that it's not there and that you're missing it for something like that. And just be really honest with that answer and see what you can do with that time. If you're in a really busy season, I know this happens. But what I did, whenever there was a newborn, was I had a couple different devotionals around the house, and one would be in her room. She had a Rock N Play and I would just have to rock her to sleep or literally just have to bounce her Rock n Play up and down, but she couldn't see me or she wouldn't notice it.
Laura: Oh yeah! We've all been there.
Val: You all have the visual. I would literally just lay a devotional and open it up and be just lying on the floor rocking it. Did you do that too?
Laura: I wasn't as wise as you with using my time that way, but I definitely have laid on the ground and rocked a Rock n Play, that's for sure.
Val: I was able to redeem a lot of time like that. One of my favorite devotionals for a quick read is New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. It's crazy how deep he can take you in one page. So I love that one. I also just posted this on the blog but something called “House Prayers” where when Bear was young, I would just bounce her around the house praying. What I made was basically a PDF of different creative things to pray in each room of your house. She's older now, so I haven't been doing that but I have started to do that as I clean the house. I've shared this on the blog. I'm not somebody who's just going to let my house to be messy. I know a lot of blogs tell you not to worry about it and just be okay with the mess. But the mess in my home feels like it clouds our minds. So I want to redeem the time that I was spending tidying. It’s been really cool to pray over our home and get creative with what we pray over in our house. I think that just goes back to creating a firm foundation of those quiet times and having the conversation, the accurate lesson to start praying throughout your day. You can jump into it quickly and it doesn't have to feel, “I've got to have quiet. I've got to have everything perfect to jump into it.” I think that helps.
Emily: What you're describing is really not saying, “Oh, I have to find this totally separate time in my day that may or may not exist, where everything, like you said, has to be perfect.” I am going to attach a habit to something I am already doing and that is how I am going to add something to my life that I really really want to do more intentionally. I now that is something Laura and I have talked about before. And when I used to work before I had kids, I'd have a Bible verse in my car that I could pray on the way to work, and it wasn’t like, “I'm going to have a separate prayer time before I leave.” It was, "No, I'm going to utilize this time and do double duty. Or I used to pray in the car on the way to Bible study, and my son knew that we were going to do that every weekend, so he would totally remind me about it if I forgot. And we would pray before meals—whatever those rhythms look like. I just love that you are giving these practical ideas. Tape a Bible verse to your broom stick if you need to so that every time you sweep, you are coming back to that truth and you're remembering it that this is a conversation with God, that you want to keep having throughout your day.
Val: It's true and I have just noticed how every time that I make my bed now, I pray for me and my husband to have good communication, for us to have rest, you know, different things that. I's cool just to feel we redeem those things that we can kind of feel take up our day but are not important. It can just feel nice to redeem those things and make them purposeful. I actually have something that I am working on. You guys will the first to hear about it. It's a new product and I've been doing this this month. One of my big goals this year was to live in the presence of the Lord and kind of take that idea of not just doing quiet time in the morning but walking with him throughout the day. So I'll find a verse that I really want to look at and break it down and I will kind of break it down in the morning. I will take 10 or 15 minutes just to look at different translations, and I'll write the verse on one side of the card, and then on the back I'll put little phrases from different translations that kind of help me get a bigger picture of it. Then I'll write out a few questions that kind of come to mind, or things that I don't know what this is saying. Or things that I'm just like, this is a really cool phrase and I want to unpack this more. I'll carry that with me and I'll ask those questions in prayer, throughout my day. It's been a really cool way to walk with God throughout the day, in a bigger sense. I know for a while I really thought, “I pray in the mornings and I lay down and I feel like, "Where was God?” He was not a part of my day at all. It makes such a difference and being a mom, I feel like I can't do that anymore. I can't get through my day without him and when I try, I am angry and mean and you guys probably wouldn't recognize me. I think just not relying on just that time alone has been transforming me as a mom and my prayer life as well.
Laura: I like what you're saying about finding those pockets that already exist, and meditating on even one passage of scripture, or just making sure that your first response is going to the Lord. Lately, I've been trying anytime I have gotten the urge to pick up my phone for social media or just a non-urgent item, I've been saying, “I'm going to read a book. I'm going to read a hard copied book or the Bible.” I mean any of those are included in that, but one thing, I was just thinking here, "Why don't I spend that time on prayer?" You were talking about spending 20 minutes on Instagram or whatever, and I totally have those pockets, and I am amazed at how much reading I have gotten done when I say, “I'm not going to pick up my phone. The first thing I'm going to do is to read, even if it is three pages.” But I feel like that could even be a) more accessible to pray and b) just incredibly productive to be able to spend that time in the word, and find those pockets.
Val: I love that you do that, that's awesome. Just like people always ask me, how do you read so much and how can I read more? And that's a perfect way. I have to suggest that.
Emily: And another great thing about a return on our investment is the fact that it is a training tool. I also have to remind myself of this because sometimes, I want to sneak off and have these quiet prayer times or always write my prayers. And I'm like, “No, I should really be saying these things out loud,” so that my kids can see, throughout the day, that I'm having these conversation with God. Because if we are not saying those things out loud, they have no idea and they're watching us and that is a means by which we are discipling them and showing them what it looks like to walk with God.
Laura: And your kids do not know that it is weird if you start them young enough.
Val: That's true.
Laura: My kids will believe anything. I would just say, “Go for it moms. Have no shame.” I am always testing out my theories in front of my kids because I’m just, “Well, you're not going to judge me. You think I am sort of normal still.” So I'm going to play on that as long as I can. We were going to get into a lot more things about different ways to pray, but thankfully Val has a lot of that information on her blog which we will to link to in the show notes. I know we could just talk about prayer and God and all this wonderful stuff forever with you Val. We appreciate you so much for being on the show and sharing your wisdom. And as I said guys, you'll find links to Val's blog in the show notes, as well as these materials that she was talking about. You'll definitely want to check out her prayer channel to do some of those organized thoughts and leave on your counter to pray throughout the day. Thanks Val so much for joining us.
Val: Thank you all for having me.