Being filled with the Spirit is at the core of our Christian life experience. We know that apart from Him we can do nothing, And we know that we need to be filled with the Spirit so we can live like children of God, who are led by Spirit. I am not really interested in a Christianity that does not translate into real life experience. So the questions rise:
HOW are we to be filled continually? HOW are we to stay filled continually?
I am in the process of writing a book on prayer at the Lord’s command called ‘End the Prayer Struggle – How Tos for an enjoyable and effective prayer life’. The book attempts to bring the HOW TOs for an effective prayer life, not just give people a list of things they should do while not telling them how to do it. I ran prayer groups for years, especially with busy moms and it became glaringly obvious that the biggest problem was not the lack of willingness to pray, but the lack of knowledge on how to implement a prayer life in a busy family life, especially when raising little ones. I realized I had to teach the HOW before any progress could to be made. Because of this new understanding, I have allocated a special chapter in my upcoming book for families with young children to help them have a good prayer life in the midst of what looks like an impossible scenario.
I struggled with the same thing when I became a mum. I was used to being in control of my time and I could plan prayer time well. I was used to praying unhurried and sometimes for hours in a day. But once I became a mum, life took over with sleepless nights and the constant fight to do the bare essentials – it all seemed like a blur. On top of this, I just moved to India with a two month old baby and I was supposed to be someone that represents God to the locals I came to reach for Christ.
This pushed me to seek out answers desperately. How do I make this work: be a woman of God while not neglecting my family? It took me a long time to gather all the answers I am writing below, after long conversations with pastor’s wives, other women, lots of soul searching, as well as some years of experimenting with various things till I have found some tips that seem to work not only for me but for others as well.
CHANGES OF SEASONS CHANGE THE WAY YOU PRAY
One of the most liberating things I have heard from a Christian lady in my search for answers came from a very obscure Scripture in Isaiah 40:11
“He will GENTLY lead those who are with young”
God leads gently the mums who are carrying a child or nursing their young. This really set me free from the pressure I put on myself to be as spiritual as I was in the pre-children season of my life. I realized that God’s demands upon us change with the seasons of life and I chose to treat myself GENTLY if God so planned to treat me. Aren’t we meant to imitate God?
It does not mean that God does not require you to be filled with the Spirit, but the way you achieve this might look very different than in the past. I have found that the presence of God used to come really quickly to me when I started praying and had little ones to care for. I guess He knew that I did not have much time for warm up prayers and He showed up fast. He did not mind the children interrupting me either. I have learned to not allow frustration to get me due to the interruptions, instead I just simply gone back to talking to God as if nothing happened.
Over time, I slowly learned to pray as I did things around the house – just like any other habit you learn, it requires more effort at first and but in time you end up flowing in it naturally. I started to think about creative ways to involve God in my day and to include the children.
WAYS TO GET FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT IN SMALL INCREMENTS OF TIME
1. USE THE FIRST FEED OF THE DAY AS YOUR DATE WITH GOD
One way to help you start the day right is to use the first feed you give your child as a time to talk to God. It can be a concentrated time of talking to God and singing. You can sing looking at your child and praying while smiling at your baby. This give you a set routine for a good spiritual beginning of the day. It will really set the tone of your day and bring you peace and strength for the day.
The Scripture is clear:
“And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)
Even in this busy and blurry season of life, we can still prioritize God in our life just like in any other busy season of life. We have to make a choice to make time for Him. He does not require as much time as in the past, but He wants to see you try to put Him first.
2. LISTEN TO THE BIBLE ON AUDIO
I have found that I got a lot of Bible into me if I chose to put the audio Bible on while I did chores around the house. You can do the same with sermons or worship music. Don’t get frustrated when a child makes noise and you can’t hear it. Be content to hear as much as you can hear and don’t worry about the parts you are missing – the goal is to get something of the Word in you, not everything.
3. WORSHIP VIDEOS WITH FOOTAGE FOR CHILDREN
I have found at the local Christian bookstore Christian videos with footage of babies playing or toys, things that a very young child would enjoy to watch, but the background sound is peaceful worship music. This way the children got some entertainment watching fun things while I could hear worship that blessed and fed my soul.
4. USE YOUR TV AS A VISUAL BIBLE AND INSPIRATION BOARD
I started to collect thousands of images which had either Bible verses or inspiring quotes from revivalists, quotes for mums, quotes about family life, quotes about marriage, about teen issues, for children, other inspirational and motivational quotes. When the TV was off I ran these from an USB stick inserted in the digital TV. I mixed these images among thousands of family photos.
I walked many times through my living room, tired, sometimes discouraged and something came up on the screen that was just what I needed to hear to keep going, have renewed vision about my role and have a good attitude. This also created a beautiful atmosphere between us in the family as we remembered all the memories from the photos coming up on the screen. The children – as they grow up – can start to read the quotes and Bible verses and they will stick with them. I still use this in my home and I keep adding to the collection. My children can also find such images on the internet and contribute to the collection.
5. HAVE A PRAISE PARTY WITH YOUR CHILDREN
You can tell the children that you’re going to have a praise party time. Buy a set of musical instrument toys (tambourine, ribbons, maracas, etc) and let each have one to use. Sing and dance with your children and focus on God as well as on them. You can learn to be aware of God deep within while you have your eyes open and share love to your children. Change to slower songs and teach them how to sit silently before God with their hands outstretched to God and wait for God to speak to them or at least teach them to sing gently. It is also good training for them to learn to calm themselves down.
6. DRIVING BECOMES YOUR FRIEND
Times in the car are some of the most restful for a mum, all the children are in their seats and can’t move and you can sing, pray and seek to hear from God. Never close your eyes to worship or to pray while driving!
7. WORSHIP AND MAKE MELODIES IN YOUR HEART TO GOD
My favorite time for this was when I cooked dinner. I would sing whatever songs seemed to bless me at the time and then I would go into free worship where I composed my own songs as I felt led by God. This used to catapult me sometimes really fast into a deep presence of God or intercession. I would laugh and weep and feel deep in the presence of God while cutting veggies and preparing a meal. Sometimes I would double over in intercession for something or someone. It did not start this way, but the more I did it, the more I learned to become very aware of God in the midst of any activity. My children would walk in the kitchen and they got used to seeing me with tears running down my cheeks, but happy. They would say to one another: Mum is being touched by God again.
8. PRAY IN TONGUES
This is one of the best things you can do while you are doing an activity that requires a bit more brain work. Praying in tongues can be done even while doing your books or paying bills, as it only uses your spirit man, not your brain. The Word of God says that we are building ourselves in our most holy faith and we edify ourselves when we pray in tongues. It also helps you to transition from living out of your soul to living out of your spirit. It lifts you above your circumstances and in the realm of faith. It creates the environment for receiving a download from heaven of the mysteries of God, of the plans of God for your life, it makes you aware of what is happening in the spiritual realm.
9. PLAY GAMES THAT BRING QUIET IN THE HOME WHEN YOU NEED IT
Michael invented the ‘Animals in the Forest’ game for times when there was too much noise in the house and we really needed a bit of peace and quiet. So the idea was that the children had to sit quiet and not make any noise so they would not wake up the animals who sleep in the forest. It was a game of whoever sits quiet the longest wins. It really worked to bring a few minutes of peace which we could use to pray or relax in God – or simply be.
10. SHOOT SHORT PRAYERS UP
Someone taught me that no matter how busy I am, I can often shoot up short one sentence prayers to heaven. Things like: Help me Lord with this! Strengthen me, God! Lord, I need You! Come to me now, God! And the list is as long as your creativity can come up with. If you do many of those prayers throughout the day, it accumulates to some good amount of praying. Sometimes you can pray the same way for others too: Help my husband with today’s project Lord! etc.
11. PLAY THE THANKFUL GAME
You and the children can take turns to find things to thank God for. You can play this till you run out of things to thank for. The one who thanks God for most things win. You can have a box in the house with really cheap toys, stationery, lollies and give them as a prize or you can just play it without a prize. It will help you feel that your day is not so bad as it seems, it will remind you of all the things you are blessed with and it will teach the children to be thankful to God as well. The things they will thank God for will bring lots of laughter but also a lesson that we take so many things for granted.
12. PRACTICE BEING AWARE OF GOD
Throughout the day, try to keep your thoughts on God, and since you will be interrupted multiple times in a day, try to bring your thoughts back on God without feeling guilty.
13. MEDITATE ON ONE BIBLE VERSE THROUGHOUT THE DAY
I have found this practice very helpful and many revelations came to me as I did this. If you listen to the audio Bible or read a bit of the Bible at some point in the day and something jumps at you, write that Scripture down on a piece of cardboard and put it in a place you frequent throughout the day, like above the kitchen sink. Then make it your goal that you will meditate, think deeply throughout the day about what that Scripture means. Do so for an entire day. You will find that by the end of the day you have received deeper insight into it and possibly other revelations which sprung from this verse. God says in Joshua 1 that meditation on the Word will make your way prosperous and give you good success.
14. PRACTICE KEEPING YOUR ‘SPIRITUAL ANTENNAE’ UP
I have a practice which I call ‘keeping your ‘spiritual antennae’ up, or staying in touch with God’s voice. I listen as if to catch the frequency of God’s voice with my spirit man. I listen for things God may say. If I intentionally set myself to do this, I tend to hear more than if I just went about my day waiting for God to take the initiative to speak and to make me aware that He is speaking.
15. PRACTICE TALKING TO GOD INSIDE YOU
You can practice talking to God in your head while you are listening to others speaking or while you are in a meeting, etc. This enables you to stay connected to God even when you are interacting with the outside world.
16. PRACTICE TALKING TO GOD ABOUT ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING
Learn to chat with God about absolutely everything. Talk to God in your head about anything you see, experience, feel or taste. Talk to Him about the prices you pay in the grocery shop, about what you see down the street, etc. Just practice conversing with God about every detail of life. You can do so in your head if you are in a public place and it makes you very awakened in your spirit man to God and opened to what He might want to teach you or do.
17. LIE DOWN AND ASK GOD TO MINISTER TO YOU
One of the best advice I have received from an experienced mum was to lie down even for 5-10 minutes with my legs elevated above my heart level (so the blood flow returns to the brain). This position seems to offer great rest and refreshing in a short amount of time. I use this chance to ask God to come and minister to me, I go in receiving only mode and trust God to minister to me. We become so used to giving that it can be a struggle to receive. I imagine myself on God’s operating table and I tell Him I give Him permission to brood over me with His Spirit like He did over the earth in Genesis and to do whatever He sees is needed in me to bring light and life and order. Sometimes I feel the love of God just comforting and moving in my soul. Other times a deep peace comes that sometimes puts me to sleep. Other times I feel strength enters my soul and I feel I can grab life with both hands and I can face anything. Other times He just simply washes stress from inside me and I feel relief. Sometimes He only speaks to me about something or simply feel He is there. I have learned to be patient and wait for Him to come and be content with whatever way He chooses to minister to me. At times, nothing happens. I am ok with that too, I just sit and think about Him, He knows what to do and when better than me.
18. CONSERVE YOUR ENERGY SO YOU HAVE SOMETHING LEFT FOR GOD OR YOUR HUSBAND
Difficult times forces you to find creative options to survive a terrible cold while the children are very active and want you to play with them. I came up with an idea one day to just inflate a balloon and stay in the armchair and hit it towards the children. Their job was to hit it back to me and not let it fall on the ground. I did not stretch too far to hit it and if it fell down they collected it. They loved it and I could play with them for quite a while without getting tired. I got to rest and keep my energy for God and my husband and they got plenty of running around, laughter and time with mum.
19. ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ TIME
The goal of this is to teach the children that mum also needs time to herself sometimes or time to talk uninterrupted with dad. So, you can use a timer and you tell the children that they cannot talk to you about anything for a set amount of time. You can start with 5 minutes to train them or 10 minutes and stretch it to 30 minutes when they are older. You can use this time to pray, rest, talk to your husband or simply treat yourself to a relaxing bath, etc. You can tell them that if they allow you to do this, then mum can be happier and stronger and they all can enjoy that. They till try to break into this time, out of habit, but you can stick firm to it and tell them after the timer rings you will be right there to spend time with them.
The next three games are not necessarily games that help you draw closer to God, but I thought I would include them here, as they are things you can implement for your children to learn to talk about their feelings or choose a right attitude. I thought it was fitting to add these two here.
20. ‘HAPPY HEART’ GAME
This is a game designed to help the children get out of a bad mood or a tantrum into a good mood. If they decided to throw a tantrum or be sad or upset because they did not get their way. I would ask them: ‘Hei, where is your happy heart? I think you lost it! Let’s play the Find the happy heart game! Is it in the bathtub? – and you keep asking similar questions. They will say No and in the end they tend to say: It is in here, and point to their chest. And you can look surprised and say: Is it, really? I don’t see it! Look, your face shows that you lost your happy heart. Then they will try to convince you by putting on a smile and acting happy. They did not realize that you actually transitioned them in a fun way from a grumpy mood to a happy heart mood. This works well with very young children but as they grow up they catch up to what you are doing and it won’t work anymore.
21. THE LOVE JAR
Children are not always very good at expressing how they feel and what goes on inside them. You want to know if they feel they are being loved and receive enough attention from you or from their siblings. You can ask them to draw a level in the jar to show how full is the jar with love from Mum (then another jar for dad or sister, brother). At times we can get really busy with various things and without trying to end up neglecting them a little. This is good feedback from the children without them having to express complex concepts. If they feel they are not 100%, then you ask them to write in the jar what they feel it will make it full. Of course, sometimes they will write things to manipulate you into something, but you can tell them that this is not ok, you just want them to not be tricky, but to be honest. This opens great discussions between siblings and children and parents about what they like and dislike in interactions. For example, Lisa wrote in her jar that she did not like me always trying to make her feel better when she had a bad day and be all over her, she preferred space to process things. I would not have know this without the love jar game.
23. THE FEELINGS GAME
The feelings game is designed to help you understand what the children are feeling about themselves, the family, friends and the world in general. You ask them to draw faces that symbolize how they have been feeling recently, if this feelings have persisted. Then you can ask them about each face what it represents and it opens far more conversation about things they would not even think to talk about without this feelings processing game. This can be done as well by asking them to draw a picture of how their life is like at this moment, how they feel about life. As they say, a picture can tell a thousands words. If the child draws themselves at school alone and a large group of friends are away from her, then you know she is feeling isolated and doesn’t have friends. Then you can talk about it. If they draw the whole family together and she is sitting isolated away from the family, it can give you a clue that she feels the other siblings are receiving more attention than she is. Lots of revelations about what it is in their heart can come to the surface. This teaches the children ways to process their feelings through art which can help them later in life. I used to process my feelings as a teen by writing poems and a journal and I realize looking back that I would have been a mess if I did not have this outlet for expressing my pain out.
All the above are tips that can help you in small ways to connect with God, but if you practice a large number of them in a day, the sum of it all will represent quite some amount of connecting with God. The more you practice these things, the easier it gets and they will flow more naturally out of you. I am not saying you must do all the things I have mentioned above, because every family creates their own way of getting near to God, but please feel free to pick and choose those tips which you feel will benefit your family.
At the end of the day, if you did your best to try to connect with God, you have done very well and you should congratulate yourself instead of condemning yourself about not reaching a certain place in God that day. God sees your heart and the heart is what He is after, a willing heart that gives Him the best the person’s got under the circumstances. He doesn’t expect perfection and He is gentle with those with young. Imitate God and be gentle on yourself too.