Tag Archive | Faith

Learning About Prayer

I am the leader of prayer ministries for a large and growing ministry for ladies with chronic illness. I am currently leading a prayer study for the Sunday school class my husband and I attend. So prayer is important to me. But I do not consider myself an expert in prayer. As my responsibilities in the area of ministering to others in the area of prayer have increased, the knowledge that I still have a lot to learn has become foremost in my mind.  I am a learner in the area of prayer.

I shared in a recent article that my husband and I have been walking through some difficult circumstances in our lives. I don’t want to go into the details again, so I’ll share the link for anyone who is interested in this story.        https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/living-outside-my-comfort-zone/

God has been at work through these circumstances in both my husband’s life and my life, but in different ways. In my life, He has had me in what I would describe as the Holy Spirit School of Prayer

During the same period of time, I have been preparing to lead the prayer study in our Sunday school class using The Battle Plan for Prayer Bible Study materials from Stephen and Alex Kendrick, producers of the movie War Room.. What I share today is a combination of what God has personally been teaching me and what I’m learning through the study of these excellent materials.

Now I have a more balanced understanding of what prayer includes. Up until recently, when I thought of prayer, what primarily came to mind was confession of sin, lifting our needs up to the Lord (supplication), and intercession for the needs of others. I always felt like I was falling short in these areas, especially in supplication and intercession, because the needs were so overwhelming that it would literally take “prayer without ceasing” to cover all of them daily.

These are important parts of prayer, but prayer is so much more. I knew in theory that worship, praise and thanksgiving were all elements of prayer, but in my mind they were separate things. I had even tried using the A.C.T.S. acronym – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication – during my prayer time, but I saw this more as a formula for prayer, with worship, praise and thanksgiving more as preparation for prayer than as actual types of prayer.

I had also read of the importance of using God’s Word in prayer, but in my mind and on my daily schedule Bible reading and prayer were two separate things. As we have walked through this difficult season, I’ve begun to understand each of these things as a part of true prayer.

At it’s root, prayer is communion and communication with God. When Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are to pray without ceasing, he was not talking about what I used to think of as prayer. He was saying throughout the day we are to stay in open communication with God. The main way God speaks to us is through His Word, so we are to read His Word expecting Him to speak to us. And we are to respond to what He shows us in prayer. Bible reading and study are meant to be a part of our prayer life, not separate from it.

This season of my life has caused a major change in my daily quiet time. Instead of seeing it as composed of a series of things I do, I have begun to see the whole quiet time as a part of prayer. Praise and worship are no longer preparing my heart for prayer – they are prayer. Overcoming discouragement by looking for God’s blessings in the midst of our trials and expressing my gratitude to Him is also a part of prayer. And when I pick up my Bible or open a Bible app on my iPad to begin reading and studying, I do so with an attitude of prayer and expectancy.

One thing that has really helped me gain this new understanding is prayer journaling. I’m not new to journaling. I remember many years ago as a new Christian getting up and reading my Bible and writing in my journal every morning before leaving for my job as a kindergarten teacher. And through the years, I’ve filled hundreds of notebooks and journals from this habit. But again, I saw this as separate from my prayer life.

When we began walking through this season where the cry of my heart daily became “God, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:12‬b‭ NIV)‬‬, I began prayer journaling. I now begin my quiet time with a prayer for God to speak to me through His Word, and as He began to do so regularly I grew into an expectancy that this would happen.

Now, as I read God’s word, I do so with a pen in my hand and my current journal open so I can put in writing the things God in showing me. This isn’t really much different than the journaling I’ve always done, but I no longer stop there. Those insights now become prayers of worship, praise and gratitude to God, of confession of sin, of honestly telling God where I am and asking His help, or of commitment to obey something He has shown me I need to do. Often as I’m reading a Scripture, someone with a need comes to mind and I intercede for them. Or I read a verse that gives a burden for Christians facing persecution for their faith and I turn this into a prayer. Or I read a passage that reminds me of how messed up things are in our nation , and I pray using that passage for our nation. Whatever God speaks to my heart during this quiet time in His presence is turned into a prayer of response.

As a result of this growing understanding of all prayer includes, and of learning to make prayer an important part of my day and not just an add-on to my Bible study time, I have been walking through one of the most difficult trials of my recent life, one where my normal response would be fear and anxiety, in almost constant peace. There have been days when staying close to God was a battle – life as a Christian in this fallen world is like that. But by staying in communication with God by talking with Him throughout my day, walking in meekness and submission to His will and purposes in our lives, and resisting the devil and his lies, I’ve experienced God’s peace and strength as seldom before.

As I was praying this morning about this article, a picture came to my mind of someone throwing a large stone into a lake. When the stone breaks the surface of the water, it creates a ripple effect, with concentric waves of water moving out from the spot where the stone landed. This is a picture of the effect of true prayer in our lives. True prayer isn’t just something we do as a part of our daily schedule, or even throughout the day as we become aware of needs. True prayer is like breaking the surface to enter into the presence of God, and the result has a ripple effect. It changes every part of our lives and even spreads out to touch the lives of others.

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Five Minute Friday: Walking Steady

As a woman with knees badly damaged from an auto accident and feet crippled from peripheral neuropathy and degenerative arthritic conditions, walking is a challenge. I use a walker daily to keep me steady on my feet, and when I’m going somewhere that will require extended walking my wheechair is needed.

This week, God has been speaking to me about a different kind of walking steady, about spiritually walking steady. Difficult circumstances such as the ones we are currently facing add great stress to our lives, and as Christians this puts us in a battle. Will we give into our emotions, or will be continue to stand strong and walk steadily in the Lord? God’s Word makes the correct choice clear.

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For many years, I’ve had the habit of spending the first part of my day as a type of spiritual prep time for the day ahead. So this week, doing this came naturally. But on the other hand, this wasn’t a typical week in this area. My sense of need to spend time in God’s presence and hear from Him was so intense that it got me out of bed earlier than usual. And each day, God graciously met me in the place I have set aside for this.

On Monday, before I even got out of bed, God spoke to my heart that I was to study the first thirteen verses of Hebrews 12, which was not on my scheduled reading plan for the day. As I obeyed, God opened my eyes to some encouraging truths in this passage that I had never noticed before.

Verses 12-13 especially stood out to me: “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” Sensing God wanted me to take the time to really understand what He was saying here, I did some word studies in the original Greek. Where the English translation says “weak knees,” the Greek says “palsied knees.” As the mother of an adult son with extremely severe cerebral palsy, this had special and clear meaning to me. And for the rest of this week, during my quiet times God has continued to bring new insights to my heart all coming out of these first thirteen verses of Hebrews 12.

I don’t know what circumstances you are currently facing, but perhaps God is also speaking to your heart of a need to walk steady spiritually. If so, I pray you will set aside an unhurried time each morning of this coming week to hear from God. Whatever the need, God is waiting to open your eyes to exactly the truth you need to continue a steady walk with Him in your current situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday at Ten: A Journey of Faith

Joni Erickson Tada knows what it is to have a broken body. As a teenager she loved riding horses and swimming. A diving accident in 1967 changed all that. Diving into a shallow lake left Joni Eareckson Tada a quadriplegic in a wheelchair.

For the next two years, Joni made a determined but largely unsuccessful attempt at rehabilitation. And her battle was not just physical. Joni also struggled with suicidal despair. During this time, her faith was shipwrecked. She was unable to accept God’s design in her paralysis. Why didn’t God stop her accident from happening?

With the help of a friend, Joni gradually began to understand that God did not cause the diving accident, but He allowed it and had a purpose in it. God sees no indwelling goodness in a spinal cord injury – or in cerebral palsy, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or any other disease that leaves someone with a broken body. Instead, He uses situations like this for our good and His glory.

As it says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭ESV).‬‬ These things in themselves are not good, but for His children they fit together into a pattern for our good. If we are His children, His purpose is to conform us into the image of His Son, Christ Jesus.

Looking back almost forty-nine years later, Joni says she can see many ways this accident has resulted in good. God used this injury to develop patience, endurance, tolerance, self-control, sensitivity, love and joy in her life.

Today, Joni is the leader of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, a ministry is dedicated to extending the love and message of Jesus Christ to people who are affected by disability around the world. She is also an internationally known mouth artist, a talented vocalist, a radio host, an author of 30 books for adults and 5 for children. She also writes on her blog Joni’s Corner, and is an advocate for disabled persons worldwide.

When I read Joni’s story, I see what a true journey of faith is like. And that’s how I want to live. Like Joni, I know what it is to have a broken body. Like Joni, I was in an accident, but my was in an automobile. My attempts at rehabilitation were more successful than Joni’s. But we also suffered the grief of losing our firstborn daughter in the accident.

We also have an adult son who has cerebral palsy and a long list of other diseases, that have left him completely bed bound and dependent upon others for all his needs. When I look at the Joni and Friends website, I see hundreds of children

So Joni’s story deeply touches my heart. From the place of total devastation, she has become an example for disabled people around the world. Through her writing, art, singing, and other ministries, numerous lives have been touched and changed. If you struggle with a disability or chronic illness that limits what you can do, learn from Joni’s story.

Reflecting on the life on Joni Eareckson Tada definitely makes me realize that I have no excuse for not fulfilling God’s purpose for my life. My prayer is that you will be encouraged by this story and will find joy in your journey of serving our Lord.


Tuesday at Ten logo

Tuesday at Ten logo


Love and St. Valentine’s Day

We live in a society in which the Christian Faith and the concept of marriage being between one man and one woman are both distained by many. As I did some research on the history of Valentine’s Day, I learned that this ties in closely to the history of St. Valentine’s Day.

According to Father Frank O’Gara, priest of Whitefriars Church in Dublin, Ireland, one of three churches that claim to house the remains of St. Valentine, he was an actual Roman Priest during the reign of Emperor Claudias ii, also known as Claudias Gothicus. This was during the time when Christians were eagerly propagating their faith and planting churches. Christian teaching concerning marriage stood in stark contrast to the permissive society in which Valentine lived, where (according to Father O’Gara), “Polygamy would have been much more popular than just one woman and one man living together.”

Claudias persecuted the Christians, as many of the emperors during this time did. He also made an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people, based on his understanding that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers, who were concerned about what would happen to their families if they were killed. St. Valentine believed that marriage between a man and a woman was sacred, putting him in direct opposition to Claudias’ edict.

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Marriage between one man and one woman

St. Valentine encouraged young couples to marry within the Christian church, and because of the edict he married them secretly. He was eventually caught, imprisoned, and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against the edict of the emperor.

Willing to stand on what he believed, even at the cost of death, St. Valentine was executed on February 14, 269 A.D. There is a legend that Valentine prayed for the blind daughter of Asterius, one of the men assigned to judge him according to Roman law, and she was healed of her blindness. The legend goes on to say that the last words Valentine wrote were to the daughter of Asterius, signing it “from your Valentine.”

Some say this was the beginning of the idea of sending Valentine’s Day cards. Whether or not this legend is true, St. Valentine has come to be known as “the patron saint of lovers.” And I believe the story of St. Valentine is one with deep meaning during this time in the history of our nation. As St. Valentine was uncompromising on his Biblically-based beliefs concerning marriage, spiritual leaders today may also face this same issue.

Father O’Gara concludes, “What Valentine means to me as a priest is that there comes a time where you may have to lay your life on the line for what you believe. And with the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that – even to the point of death.”