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More practitioners, fewer performers

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Prayer is a mirror. I think often people avoid times in prayer because they are unwilling to face what shows up when they go to our Heavenly Father in prayer. We are alarmed when our efforts to rise early in the morning to seek His face are met with reflections and revelations about our own faces, status, fate and conditions. It is not always a pretty picture. Yet, it should not be such a surprise. The older I get, the more I am learning that God deeply involves Himself in our maturation. He grows us up by His grace.

In prayer, I reached a place where I got quiet enough and honest enough to confess. I admitted that I need to be more of a practitioner of the gift of my time than a performer in it. Even as the words came out of my own mouth in devotion, I was trying to understand how I could be more of a practitioner of life. I recognize some things that I can do better, such as how I spend my time.

My search to understand the way to become a good practitioner led me to one practitioner of little known history, Brother Lawrence, a monk who faithfully served in a Parisian monastery in the kitchen. Brother Lawrence is credited with mastering the practice of God’s presence. He found God in the kitchen and in everything he did. He found that the simple way of talking to God about his faults, his troubles, daily habits, tasks or his concerns only required that he invite God to wherever he was. He had no need for a chapel or an altar. He made an altar anywhere.

If you think about it, COVID-19 has caused us to learn this art of making our spaces useful for anything, because the times have required it. We have had to conduct “common business” (as Brother Lawrence calls it) outside the confines of what is common use. Although some of our usual business has returned to normal, the fact that new COVID-19 cases are rising assures us that these spaces may remain dual purpose for some time.

Brother Lawrence demonstrated how his kitchen prepared spiritual food for him simultaneously while preparing natural food to feed others. It happened simply because He invited the Creator of all things to join him there. One of his letters records these words, “I have very often experienced the ready help of divine grace upon all occasions. When I have business to do, I do not [worry] about it beforehand. When the time comes to do it, I see in God, as clearly as in a mirror, all that is needed for me to do.”

Practitioners are regularly and actively engaged in whatever task they are skilled to do. Performers turn on the skill when the curtain rises or the opportunity knocks or the task requires it. They are not regularly employed. During times of crisis, they are unemployed.

I am beginning to understand that the weariness of this season is because I have been performing, doing what is necessary to be done until the opportunities cease to exist or the task is finished. I believe the Lord is trying to teach me (and perhaps you) that just like my dining room table became the schoolhouse because COVID-19 required this, God is able to bring the resources of heaven to where I am if only I practice engaging the help of my Helper regularly.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Connect with her via iamquawanna@thebiggerme.net.