A little over a month ago, I had had it. They had been wreaking havoc every day. Every. Day.
Dancing in the windowsill. Jumping on each other. Climbing on the furniture. Bouncing. Screaming. Playing.
I won’t insult the truth by pretending they are sweetly innocent at nap time. They have a sincerely grand time playing together, in the most chaotic ways. I had been in and out of their room every day, multiple times, trying to control the mayhem, trying to encourage sleep.
That is, after all, the point of nap time. Sleep.
Sure, I need the peace and quiet. I’ll admit to that. But my boys need the sleep. They have to wake up in time to go with me to pick up their sister from school.
And without a nice long nap, they become angry flailing monsters.
And I get kicked in the face trying to dress them. It doesn’t exactly inspire my best parenting.
This had gone on for months. I was frustrated. Pushed beyond my level of tolerance.
And not just at nap time.
My daughter’s morning routine had turned into an exercise in nagging and disrespect. After school became a T.V. time so I could avoid the elusive task of parenting and cooking dinner at the same time.
I blamed it on hormones, on the possibility of genetic depression, and on my kids for being wild. I ended up in tears, wondering what I could possibly do differently, not knowing how to change their behavior… or my frustration.
I wanted to be different.
I didn’t want to yell. I didn’t want my kids to be parented by the television. I didn’t want to feel physically ill, so often plagued by the defeating thought: “I can’t handle this.”
This frustration coincided with a Bible study I’ve been working through by Priscilla Shirer. The study is called The Armor of God, and focuses on pieces of armor mentioned in Ephesians 6. These pieces of armor are all gifts from God to believers in Christ for the purpose of defeating the enemy.
It’s a passage of Scripture I’ve studied before, but never like this.
For one, I had missed a crucial verse. After the apostle Paul listed all the armor and its spiritual benefits, he wrote this: “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Ephesians 6:18 (NLT)
Pray. Pray all the time. It’s so easy to gloss over it. Because if you’re like me, sometimes you wonder if prayer really changes things. Sometimes you think your prayers have little impact. If God knows it all before it happens anyway, what difference does your prayer make?
But I was desperate.
For change. For hope. For a way to parent my children better.
I needed something to restore my sanity in my daily struggles. I wanted to be calm in the midst of nap time battles. I wanted to maintain composure dealing with attitude problems from my children. I wanted to be at peace while handling the general volume level in a house with three kids (HOW are they so full of energy and ear-piercing squeals at 6 a.m.?).
And I wondered…what could be different if I really prayed? If I wrote out reminders of God’s faithfulness? Reminders that would combat my doubts? Specific passages of Scripture that I could repeat when things looked bleak? What would change?
I have been a Christian most of my life, but I didn’t know Christ the way I yearned to. If I am a Christian, shouldn’t I be producing good fruit (Matthew 7:15-20)? Fruit like joy and peace and gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22-23)?
I was feeling short-changed on the Christian life. I wanted to see more victories in my life, victories where I made the right choice instead of the wrong one, where I kept my cool, where I displayed genuine peace amidst chaos. REAL peace! Peace from the inside, not just a mask to cover my panic, my distress, my brokenness.
So I decided it was worth a try. I would try living like prayer could change things, believing prayer could change me. I began to write out my prayers, and I prayed over them frequently.
- Remind me that my struggle is not against my stubborn kids. The real fight is against the evil in this dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Open my eyes to the armor you have given me to fight the real enemy. (Ephesians 6:12)
- Remind me of the incredible greatness of your power for those who believe. (Ephesians 1:19)
- The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Protect us, God. Bind us together in your love. Help us be humble and gentle. Let ours be a home where we make allowance for each other’s faults. Teach us how to parent with your approved discipline and instruction. (1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 6:4)
These are snippets of my prayers mingled with Scripture, and they are words that have held real power for me. As I prayed, He worked.
As I spent more time thinking about God’s truth, God’s blessings, God’s promises, the frustrations of every day life became more and more secondary. Sure, I still stub my toe, I still change horrendous diapers, and I still live with three young children who test my patience daily. But they are not my enemy. And Satan doesn’t get under my skin as often, because I’m sheltered by God’s truths.
Jesus said the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but he came to give life to the full (John 10:10). And full life doesn’t include losing the same battles with my sinful tendencies again and again. Full life includes victory. Here and now.
Even at nap time!
As I prayed, God prompted me to finally finish a book I had started on parenting. (Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman. If you’re losing your mind like I was, this one is worth a read!) How often the resources are there, and I can’t even see them because I’m stuck wallowing in self-pity.
Through reading and continued prayer, God opened my eyes to a nap time possibility I had previously written off. I wanted to separate the boys, but we didn’t have a good room suited to that. So, God prompted me to put my youngest in the living room. Yep. The living room. The space I like to have to myself at nap time.
But given the boys’ thrilling adventures at nap time, I wasn’t really enjoying the calm environment anyway. And I could feel God willing me to trust Him, to try it.
So one day, after putting the boys to nap in their room, I set up a corner of our living room with a nap mat and a few board books. I set the mood with some soft, relaxing music. When the noise escalated in the bedroom, I didn’t try to reason with them or yell. Instead, I walked into their room, picked up my youngest with his blanket and pillow, and brought him out to his new nap spot, shutting the door behind me. My older boy cried about five minutes before falling into a restful sleep. And my youngest curled right up on his nap mat, and was out within ten minutes. TEN MINUTES!
And that’s our new nap time routine, for the last few weeks now. They fall asleep quickly almost every day.
Not every day.
But God is teaching me more patience in those moments. And that is a blessing and a wonder.
This is not meant to imply that God solves our circumstantial problems every time or that He solves them our way. And I still have struggles to work through, and I will have struggles to work through until I see heaven. But I can tell you that I’m producing a lot more joy, a lot more peace, a lot more gentleness, and a lot more self-control. God sees fit to fill me with peace through this process of prayer, of relying on His words and promises instead of believing the lies and deceit of the enemy.
“Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.” Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)
P.S. If you’re interested in experiencing victory through prayer, I recommend watching the movie War Room. It’s the best two hours I’ve spent in front of a screen in a while, and it displays strategic prayer in action.