A few weeks ago at the weekly homeschool group I direct, one of the families shared a creative way they make prayer "real" for their little kids. They take a piece of paper, write their request on it, and attach it to a helium-filled balloon. As they release the balloon into the sky, they say a prayer for that need.
Over the lunch break, this family passed out balloons to all of the other families so we could offer our own "visual prayer" to the Lord. Now lunch for our group is an understatedly busy time for me, so I took the balloon they offered and proceeded to carry it around for about an hour-and-a-half before I even realized I had a balloon following me.
Eventually, I started to get asked if I planned to do anything with the balloon. My response: "I'm going to get to it later." It was then that I realized I was doing with the balloon what I do with most of my prayers-carry them around thinking I'll eventually do something with them.
How much easier would it have been had I just gone outside and released the balloon on the spot? How much easier might some of my burdens be if I would just let them go?
Psalm 141:1-2 says:
"I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice."
I say I am dependent on the power of prayer, but the truth is I'm dependent on the power of me most of the time. I eventually turn to God in prayer only when I prove to myself that I really can't do it. Thankfully, God's faithfulness isn't dependent upon my verbal requests; He knows my heart and meets the needs I don't even know I have.
It was about 3 p.m. before I (along with my kids) actually took the balloon outside to offer up a request. By then the balloon was no longer floating as high as it was at noon, and I was mildly concerned it wasn't even going to make it up in the sky at all. Still, we prayed and lifted the balloon up as high as we could, even giving it a punch to send it up a little higher. Imagine our surprise when it continued to lift-slowly, steadily, surely.
Did we need the balloon to make sure God heard us? No. But the visual reminder that God can take a half-deflated request and receive it as an expression of desperate dependence on Him was not lost on me.
I'm thinking about buying my own helium tank so I won't forget.