prayer

Prayerful Preparation by John Touloupis

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The Lord is my Shepherd
I shall not want 
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me besides the still waters. 
He restores my soul; 
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. 

I knew I wanted to work on my prayer life as part of my preparation for interning this summer at Project Mexico. During the school year, I get distracted by classes, assignments, and friends, often neglecting my prayer life. I’d stay up late studying or working on side projects and then crash without saying my evening prayers. In the morning, I’d sleep in after a late night before dipping out for class, skipping breakfast and simply grabbing a black coffee to start my day.

So, to prepare, I started at ground zero.

I keep an Orthodox study bible on my desk--thanks to my mom who slipped it in my suitcase when I moved to college. I cracked it open to a bookmarked page and read Psalm 23, one of the most famous Psalms and my personal favorite. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; 
For you are with me; 
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 

In my previous Westward Bound, I wrote about how excited and scared I was to embark on my internship this summer in Tijuana. While I’m excited about the opportunity to meet new people, spend time in the outdoors away from distractions and to serve others, I’m still scared of the unknown.  But something began to change the more I read Psalm 23.

Whereas previously I hardly prayed, I found myself reading the Psalm once a week. Once a week turn into twice a week. Now, it’s several times a week. A prayer life began to emerge in my life, and as a result, my fears slowly started to fade away. 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; 
My cup runs over. 

As an economics major, I love logical reasoning and thinking analytically through problems. One of the fundamental rules of all economic principles implies that people are rational thinkers. I need facts.

Plans.

Order.

I consider myself a highly organized person who pays close attention to detail to ensure nothing goes wrong. 

And that stresses me out in life.

But I found when I kept reading Psalm 23, my fears and anxiety began to slip away. I found the answers to my stress in scripture. The Lord is my shepherd. He continues to guide me throughout my life with blessings and opportunities I struggle to be thankful for every day. I’m trying to be more thankful and mindful because the Lord has always taken care of me. 

I don’t need to be afraid this summer because my Lord will always be with me.

But my mind still needs more logic and reason, and as I continued to read more scripture, I found more answers. 

In Matthew 13:29-30, Jesus says not to pull the bad weeds from the wheat, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” 

The weeds represent suffering, pain, and evil while the wheat represents the good. The kingdom of Heaven allows these things to coexist while we are on Earth because we wouldn’t know one without the other. 

Without night, we wouldn’t know the day.

Without heat, we wouldn’t know cold. 

Without fear, we wouldn’t know excitement.

As the final days count down before I leave, I try to let my stress, fear, and anxiety go. My lord will shepherd over me and protect me.

As I prepare, I’ve learned to place all my trust and faith in the lord, because surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.