If you had asked me if I own any turtle jewelry, I would have denied it. But there it was, my high school dangle-ring, in my jewelry box next to a tarnishing charm bracelet. I decided to start wearing it again.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about turtles.
My church is nearing the end of a 40-Day prayer challenge, in which we were asked to pray with the same friend or family member for five minutes daily. So I bit the bullet of vulnerability and asked a friend if she would join me. I’ll be transparent and say that when she said she would do it, I immediately thought, “But she doesn’t really want to! I can tell! She didn’t sound excited! I would have sounded excited, if she had asked me! Now she is stuck! She is trapped! She doesn’t want to pray with me, and she already said yes to doing it for 40 days! That is forever! Oh, this is already a disaster before it begins!”
I’m telling you this so that when your self-image starts doing the same kind of unwarranted mental gymnastics, you’ll tell it to sit down and be quiet and quit lying.
My friend really did want to pray with me, and we’ve prayed over the phone every day for several weeks now. We both chose one area of focus for the 40 days, instead of praying in general ways. Many of the mornings, we have talked for an hour, so one day I brought a cup of coffee to a favorite park so I could watch the ducks on the pond until she called.
There are these two big turtles in the pond who have a routine. They tread water at the edge until the early sun is just so, and then they crawl up onto the shore, dripping. They stand there, looking forward expectantly. This may be the only way a turtle can look, I realize. But I tell myself they are waiting for something.
And they are. At just the right time, the lawn sprinklers raise their heads. You should see these turtles go. I didn’t know turtles could move that fast, but these two fire up their rocket boosters and run. The sunlight makes a rainbow halo in the mist, and the turtles hurl themselves in that direction. They tumble toward the sprinklers like they are desperate for water, even though they were immersed in the pond just moments before. They want more water, different water. And if a turtle can have fun, then these turtles are most certainly having it.
By the time my friend calls, I am laughing.
“Did you know that turtles can run?” I ask her, telling her about the way they sped from the pond into the spray.
It only lasts a few minutes, and then the sprinkler heads descend into the grass again. The turtles turn, lumbering back into the pond and sinking below the surface.
The Lord speaks to me in metaphors all the time. As I listen to my friend begin to pray, I realize that we are those turtles, and speeding toward sprinklers is what we’ve been doing every morning. When the early sun is just so, we emerge from the deep pond of blessings that we already live in, and we look forward, expectantly. We want more water, different water. We want it bad enough to run toward it. And if a person of prayer can have fun, then we are most certainly having it.
At times we have wondered if we were being silly to ask the huge things we are asking. We open every conversation by sharing the sweet encouragements that keep us going when it would feel so much safer to quit. We’ll tell how we saw a billboard or heard a Bible verse, we’ll explain how we received a sudden gift or compliment. All of these connect back to the topics of our prayers. Even last night, I was encouraged by something that happened at a sno cone stand. A sno cone stand. Don’t make me tell the story; it’s too long. But, yes, I sensed the Lord’s encouragement to keep praying while I was getting a sno cone.
Now that’s fun. And what was even more fun was telling my friend about it this morning and hearing her laugh. On some days, praying has been hard for us, but on plenty more, it has been a joy.
Do you think praying is a joy? Do you think it is fun?
I want to encourage you to pray like my turtles at the park pond. Here is what I have learned from watching their routine every morning.
1. These turtles move in twos. Private prayer is important, but “partnered prayer” is even more effective. Matthew 18:18-20 affirms this and is paraphrased in a lovely way in The Message.
“Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”
You will be able to pray in a more focused way if you bite the bullet of vulnerability and ask a friend to join you for a two-week, or 40-day, or six-month prayer season. Do it.
2. These turtles unapologetically run for more. John 15:7-8 (NIV) tells us that we were designed for more.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
It doesn’t mean that the turtles are dissatisfied with their watery home just because they go for the sprinklers. It is not wrong to move toward more. God is a generous Father who gives abundantly. When we seek Him above all, clinging to His words and keeping them the substance of our thoughts, then we are going to bear fruit. And not just a little. It is to His glory that we bear a lot of fruit. I used to think, “What does it say about me that I think I can ask for more? Doesn’t it say that I am greedy?” Now I ask, “What does it say about God that I think I can ask for more? Doesn’t it say that He is generous?”
Yes. It does.
When a kid is well-taken care of, it does’t say much about them. It says a lot about their parents. When our lives are fruitful, God gets the credit. It brings our Father glory, not us.
It serves no purpose to stay small. It does not show humility to shy away from blessings, it shows humility to know where they come from.
3. These turtles are having fun. Prayer can be a joy. That is one reason why it is important to have a prayer partner. People have more fun together. Before long, you will find that you are sharing the ways that God is encouraging you to keep praying. He’ll do that in especially sweet ways. In sno cone kind of ways. And because you know you will share those details with your friend, your eyes will be open to those details when you are alone. Psalm 13:5-6 (MSG) sounds like someone having more than just a little fun with prayer. It sounds like a turtle on the move.
“I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—
I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs,
I’m so full of answered prayers.”
When you see me wearing my turtle ring these days, now you’ll know why. Maybe I am already dripping from the pond, but I still want more.
I’m running for the sprinklers. Come on, let’s go.