Tag Archive | Prayer

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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Living Outside My Comfort Zone

The Five Minute Friday writing community, led by Kate Motaung and in which I routinely post, is writing on the prompt COMFORT this week. This is technically not a Five Minute Friday post – the two guidelines for Five Minute Friday posts are free writing for five minutes and no editing, and what I need to share today cannot be written in five minutes and is too personal and important to post without editing. But seeing Kate’s prompt for the week showed me the direction for this article which I’ve been sensing God directing me to write this week.

 

If I were in charge of my life, I would never step outside of my comfort zone, that place where I feel confident and comfortable and function with ease and familiarity. But many years ago, I turned the control of my life over to another, to Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. One big thing I’ve learned in the thirty-five plus years since then is that God is much more concerned with my character than my comfort.

From the automobile accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter Teresa and left me with crippling injuries, to the birth of our son with severe brain damage and profound mental retardation, to my later development of a long list of chronic  illnesses as a result of the injuries I received during the accident, comfort has not been a word I would choose to describe my life. Yes, in each situation, there has been a measure of comfort from God in the midst of heartache, but my Christian life has not been lived in my comfort zone.

In recent months, my husband and I have been walking through another dark valley, another season of life where in ourselves we can see no way out. It all started on a Saturday in May when we decided to take some much needed family time and have a meal out. My husband, daughter and I enjoyed our pizza and were on our way home when our car broke down on one of the busiest roads in southeast Houston. God protected us from injury and provided a way home, while our car was towed to a shop. Later, we learned that repairing our car – our only vehicle – would cost more than it was worth. We began praying, asking God to make a way for us to buy an affordable but dependable used car.

Fast forward a few weeks, and a series of letters, phone calls, and one visit to the court house opened our eyes to another major problem. We learned that the house and property we had inherited from my mother-in-law, which we thought the probate attorney who handled Mom’s estate had taken care of for us, was still in the name of the estate, and another plot of land on which she owed back taxes and which we had been advised by our attorney to just turn over to the county had been transferred to our name, apparently brecause of an error made by some level of local government. In addition, we learned that the senior homestead exemption we filed in January on our home had been lost by the county tax assessors’ office. Because of all this, we suddenly owed thousands of dollars in past due property taxes and penalties, on property that wasn’t even officially in our names.

It’s now the middle of July, and so far neither the need for a dependable car nor the property paperwork and tax issue has been resolved. We are still in a time of waiting to see what God is going to do.

Yet while our prayers have not yet been answered, this doesn’t mean that God hasn’t been at work behind the scenes. I can’t speak about how God is working in my husband’s life through these circumstances – that’s his story to tell. But God is doing a major work in my life during this season, first in teaching me about the power of prayer, and also in helping me to walk in faith in the midst of uncertainty.

Nothing prompts us to prayer better than a crisis! When circumstances feel over-whelming and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change them, you learn how dependent upon God you really are. What began in my heart as a simple cry to God for help has become a major classroom on the discipline of effective, strategoc prayer. I’ve come to understand as never before the need to hear from God before I pray, and to be honest with Him in sharing the burdens of my heart. I’ve learned the effectiveness of praying God’s Word back to Him. And I’ve learned to keep praying and not give up until the answer comes.

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The last two months have also been a time of taking hold of the fact that I am loved and accepted by God, even when I’m struggling. It has been a season of having my trust in God stretched to the breaking point, but also of my trust becoming stronger as I spend time in His presence and Word daily. Daily prayer journaling has become a way of life, as it my weakness I recognize my need for God’s strength to make it through another day. My relationship with God is now stronger than it’s ever been in the past, and my morning quiet times have become the biggest blessing of my days.

We still don’t know what God is going to do in either of these situations. We have done everything we know to do, so now both problems are in His hands, awaiting His answer in His timing. I want to close with a verse God gave me about a week ago, from 2 Chronicles 20, the last portion of verse 12. It says, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” That’s where we now are, as we wait on God to work on our behalf.

Where are you today? Is God asking you to live outside of your comfort zone and trust Him? If so, let my story encourage you to seek Him with your whole heart and hold nothing back. Even before your prayers are answered, you too may be amazed at the work He is doing in your life.

When the Answer is Delayed: Five Steps for Walking In Faith Through the Wilderness

“There is another side to my wilderness. I am only going through it. I am not camping in the wilderness permanently. I am not settling. I am prepared to keep moving because my God is with me.”  – Rachel Wojo

These words caught my attention immediately this morning, as I opened Rachel Wojo’s Bible study Never Alone to begin my devotional time. Why? Because once again our family is in a wilderness situation.

It’s been a week since my husband, adult daughter and I decided to take some much needed family time and go out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. Since they have handicapped parking right next to the door, I decided to use my walker instead of my wheelchair that usually goes with me on all outings. We enjoyed the meal and the time together, but by the time we left the restaurant I was struggling with shortness of breath and wishing we hadn’t left the wheelchair at home.

I made it to the car, and we started on our way to one final stop before heading home. Suddenly, on one of the busiest streets on our end of Houston, the car abruptly stopped and we were stuck in heavy traffic. After one attempt to get the car into neutral so it could be pushed off the street into a nearby parking lot failed, my husband was finally able to get the gear to shift and some strangers pushed us to safety. Then we waited for a wrecker and a friend we had called to arrive so we would have a way home.

We had been having trouble with our car since having some transmission work done several months earlier, so my husband suspected the problem was transmission related and had the car towed to the transmission shop. But once the mechanics looked at the car, they concluded there was no way to prove the problem was related to their work and therefore they would not cover the repairs under the warranty on their work. So we now had a dead vehicle, our only means of transportation, a budget stretched so thin we were barely covering it monthly, and no way we could come up with to either repair or replace our car. 

What do you do when you face a situation like this? My first reaction was to give place to thoughts of fear and anxiety, but I knew this wasn’t the right response. So my husband and I prayed, turning this situation we saw no way out of over to the Lord. And as of today, that’s where it still is, with no understanding of how God is going to solve this problem.

Many years of walking with the Lord have taught me several things concerning how to walk through a wilderness situation such as this one, when in our own understanding we feel trapped and see no way out. 

  1. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Acknowledging we don’t have an answer but He does is the first necessary step, as we commit the situation to the Lord through prayer.
  2. Recognize our emotions will not always line up immediately with our decision to entrust our situation to the Lord. Therefore, we must make a commitment not to allow our emotions to effect our decision.
  3. Spend time meditating on Scripture. This renews our minds with the truth of God’s Word, which we need to stand upon when fear and doubts come in like a flood.
  4. Keep a grateful heart in the midst of the trial. A graphic of one of my favorite quotes on being thankful hangs in my bedroom, where I see it every morning. It is from Ann Voskamp and says, “There’s always, always, always, something to be thankful for.”  This is a daily reminder for me to look for the evidence of God’s goodness in the midst of every trial and to give him thanks.
  5. Remember what God has done in the past, when He has come through for us in similar situations. This builds our faith that He will meet our current need also.

The last time we were in a similar situation, receiving an answer to our prayers took a lot longer than we expected. God is faithful, but He seldom works on our time table. I’ve walked out these steps during the past week, and I’ll probably need to walk them out many more times in the future, both in this trial and in future ones.  

For now, I’m holding onto God’s promise that this wilderness is not our permanent residence. We are passing through, and with His strength and provision we will make it to the other side. I don’t know what you are facing right now, but these principles provide the keys for each of us to make it to the other side. 

Sometimes He Calms the Storm!


Judgment Begins at the House of God

America is in trouble! This is a message being spoken by Christian leaders all over our nation, from Billy Graham to Pat Robertson, from John MacArthur to Steve Strang (founder and president of Charisma Magazine). All of these believe that America is in danger of coming under the judgment of God. Many believe this judgment has already begun.

Signs are clear that America has lost its moral compass. According to an article on CBN.com, since 1960, crime in the United States of America has increased by 371%, with juvenile crime up 920% since 1985. The homocide rate is the highest of any industrialized nation. The U.S. is now the world leader in divorce, teenage pregnancy, voluntary abortion, and illegal drug use.

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham and Chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer, says America has gone astray. She is among those who have been crying out an alarm. “We live in a nation that has lost its soul. Our abundance has led to greed. Our freedom has become license to turn away from God and pursue the role of the prodigal. Our national religious heritage is being forgotten or ridiculed as irrelevant or old fashioned.” She added, “America has become one of the most sinful nations in the world. We have done more to destroy the morality of other countries than any nation in history. We have become the single greatest market on the globe for illegal drugs, and we lead the world in exporting pornographic magazines and films.”

So where is the church of Jesus Christ in the midst of this widespread moral decay in our nation? As many as 70 million Americans go by the name “Christian,” so why isn’t the church having a positive influence on our culture as a whole? Could it be because we have become so much like the world around us that we no longer have the ability to be the seasoning and preserving salt that Jesus called us as His followers to be? That we no longer shine a light on the corruption in our nation because that same corruption has invaded the church?  I agree with syndicated newspaper columnist Cal Thomas who recently wrote, “The Church needs fixing too… much of America’s major social problems can be put at the feet of the undisciplined, biblically ignorant, disobedient, uninformed, uncommitted, lethargic church.”

One reason for the condition of today’s church is that the church as a whole has abandoned the Scriptures and is preaching what Paul referred to in Galatians 1::6 as “another gospel.”  If Paul were alive and in America today, I believe he would again say, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:” (‭‭Galatians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭KJV‬‬)

Many churches today preach what David Wilkerson called “an accommodating gospel,” one that is willing to do whatever is needed to make unbelievers feel comfortable. Instead of preaching the necessity of repentance and death to self, these churches exclusively emphasize God’s love and grace. Love and grace are definitely a part of the gospel, but so are God’s discipline and judgment.

In fact, 1 Peter 4:17-18 makes it clear that God’s judgment of a nation will begin among His people. “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:17-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

So, in light of this truth, is there any hope for the American church? YES! But that hope will come with change. Here are a few of the things that need to change.

  • Christians need to return to God’s Word, the Bible. A recent article on Foxnews.com declared America is now biblically illiterate. “Most Christians know enough about the Bible to be dangerous. The Bible in America is a massive industry ($2.5 billion) yet it is the best seller few read and fewer understand.” Change in our nation will require Christians to believe God speaks to us through the Bible and to remain in the Word daily.
  • James 1:22-25 makes it clear that just hearing (or reading) the Bible isn’t enough. We must begin to see it as our guidebook on how we are to live. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
  • As the church of Jesus Christ, it is our responsibilty to pray for our nation. Pray for repentance and forgiveness, beginning with God’s people. “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chr. 7:14).
  • Finally, Jesus’ church must love Him more than the things of this world. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (‭‭1 John‬ ‭2:15-17‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

It is sobering to realize that we can no longer honestly call ourselves “one nation under God.” If we want to see that once again true, the change must begin with God’s people. As Jesus said, His true church will know what it is to be hated by the world. “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (‭‭John‬ ‭15:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

When I Feel Like Hiding

This morning, I woke up wanting to do what the fellow in this week’s prompt photo above did. Instead of jumping out of bed, delighted to start a new day, my biggest desire was to pull the covers up over my head and hide. And why was that? Pain. Problems. Stress. Unknowns.

As a woman with several chronic illnesses, pain is something I’m well acquainted with. And this has been a week marked by severe physical pain. Chronic illness can put pressure on our finances. It can mean a future filled with unknowns. Having a child with special needs adds to the pressure in all of these areas. But no one thing has caused the desire to hide away that has overtaken me this week. Rather, it’s the feeling that life is closing in on me from many directions all at once.

First thing Monday morning, a call came in informing me that medical equipment essential for our special-needs adult son’s survival wasn’t covered by his insurance so the supplier would be picking it up. Then, the sewer problems my husband had been trying to solve all weekend got worse, and he we had to call a plumber, something we really couldn’t afford. Then I felt relief that this problem was finally behind us, only to learn this morning that it really wasn’t and that we needed to call the plumber again. Add to this the unexplained pain in my left shoulder that felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife, and my desire this morning was to pull the covers up over my head and hide from the new day.

Though your details are probably totally different than mine, I think most of us can identify with having a day that makes us want to crawl back in bed and hide. How do we face such a day as believers in Christ, seeking to live a life pleasing to the Lord? Do we allow ourselves to be ruled by our emotions, or do we somehow live differently? Do we ignore our feelings, or do something constructive with them?

When I feel overwhelmed by the flood of problems in my life, I’ve learned through experience that the worse thing to do is to surrender to how I’m feeling. Instead, I take several steps to change my perspective, to bring the Lord into the picture.

  • The first thing I do is pray, honestly telling the Lord Jesus Christ how I’m feeling.
  • I agree with Him about any sin He shows me, confessing it to Him and receiving forgiveness.
  • I ask Him for the grace to walk through this day in a way that pleases Him.
  • I make the decision to trust in Jehovah God, the Creator of the universe who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and not in my continuously shifting emotions.
  • I get into God’s Word, asking Him to speak to my heart.
  • Then, after spending some quality time with the Lord, I ask Him for my “assignment” for the day, for what He wants me to accomplish today, and I get busy.

While taking these steps may not result in a perfect day, they do turn my day in a healthy direction. They get my mind off of the problems I’m facing and onto fulfilling God’s purposes. They are a lot more effective than pulling the covers over my head and hiding from the new day. You may want to try them the next time you feel like you want to bury your head under the covers and hide.
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