One of the people I meet with to talk about a spiritual practice of prayer has what she calls a God Pot. If you saw it you’d identify it as a tea pot with a handle and spout for pouring and a top for keeping the tea warm. But in this case the pot is not full of liquid. Instead there are little pieces of paper with people’s names or certain situations written on them. The way this person came to use the tea pot as a God Pot was out of some frustration. There was something she had been worrying about, something that was really a burden for her, and after struggling with the matter for a while, she decided she had to give up the struggle. “God, I just can’t handle this one,” she finally admitted. “You’ve got to take it.” So she wrote it on a little piece of paper, put it in the tea pot, closed the top and went on as best she could. Ever since she’s called it the God Pot.
There are a few things about this practice that I like. First, it came out of a place of authenticity. She was totally frustrated, had struggled and struggled, and finally just had to admit she needed help from God. I know we’re supposed to take everything to the Lord in prayer but sometimes we think that’s a peaceful, easy practice. Just give it to God. My experience is that giving things to God is mighty hard. As someone else I meet with says, “I’ll give something to God but then I’ll keep taking it back.” Letting go is not like flipping a switch. Forgiveness is not a once-and-you’re-done sort of thing. Most of our spiritual struggles and relationship issues are matters which demand daily or even hourly attention. Letting go is something we do after we’ve struggled and something we have to keep doing. We can’t really do it ahead of time. As we let go, the situation doesn’t change immediately. We change and then the situation changes.
I also like it that the practice is concrete. Many people use journals in a similar fashion. Writing down our struggles is a helpful practice. It helps us identify just what it is that is hooking us or keeping us stuck. But placing that little piece of paper in the pot and closing the lid is especially helpful for this person. After identifying our struggle, actually giving it to the Lord and trusting God to bring the needed resolution is the real act of prayer. I can think of my pain, write about it and talk about it, but the act of praying about it involves asking for God’s help and then trusting God to bring healing. Sometimes writing or talking about our pain isn’t particularly prayerful.
It seems appropriate to me that this God Pot is relatively small. Although this person has put the same name or situation in the God Pot more than once, she doesn’t sit down every day and deposit dozens of little notes. It’s a careful, respectful process. Once she’s put something in it, she tries to remember that it’s not hers to worry about anymore. Easier said than done, certainly, but the smallness of the pot is a reminder of the vastness of God’s healing.
Tea pots are for brewing and I like the idea of prayers brewing in this little God Pot. Good tea takes some time. God’s healing isn’t immediate. It takes a while. And over time we come to see its richness more and more.
One thing I haven’t asked her that I will the next time I see her is how the God Pot gets emptied. With tougher life issues, can we ever be healed enough that the prayers aren’t needed anymore? As with journaling I suspect it’s good to look through the God Pot periodically just to see how much has been accomplished. It could be evidence of some pretty big miracle. And it might also encourage further prayer, further need for trusting. Maybe just starting anew with the God Pot every now and then might be a reminder that there’s always more room with God.
How do you pray through your struggles? Have you forgotten that prayer is what we are called to be about? Name your limits. Ask God to heal. Remind yourself that God is already redeeming the most dire situations. In God’s kingdom what we most need is already accomplished. As we give things to God in prayer, we come to know God’s ways.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.