Thursday, August 20, 2009

More thoughts

A few more thoughts for you on prayer. They're not my own, but I'm finding out on this journey that I don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are so many others who have gone before me (and are still journeying), who have amazing insights on what prayer was meant to be. I hope you enjoy these. And let them lead you into prayer, not make you feel condemned, okay?

Prayer--Why We Struggle and How Not To (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)
"The only reason we fail to pray is because we've made an idol out of self. I discover it on a Thursday picking up errant crayons, scattered legos, swiping up crumbs. I can't stop. I'd like to. I keep glancing at the clock, knowing it's time to rest, to close my eyes and pause for morning prayer. Pray like Jesus and all Jews did through the centuries, like the fixed hour prayer of David , the set prayer times like Daniel, the particular hours like Peter and John and the Early Christians.It's time to stop to pray, but I'm too busy cleaning house...."

Corrie Ten Boom -- "Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden."

E.M. Bounds (The Essentials of Prayer) -- "Paul, in urging patience in tribulation, connects [trouble] directly with prayer, as if prayer alone would place us where we could be patient when tribulation comes: 'Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer' (Romans 12:12). He here couples up tribulation and prayer, showing their close relationship and the worth of prayer in begetting and culturing patience in tribulation. In fact, there can be no patience exemplified when trouble comes except as it is secured through instant and continued prayer. In the school of prayer is where patience is learned and practiced. Prayer brings us into that state of grace where tribulation is not only endured, but where there is under it a spirit of rejoicing."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

A bit of humor and a lot of truth. Sam Walter Foss

"The proper way for a man to pray,"
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
"And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees."
"No, I should say the way to pray,"
Said the Reverend Doctor Wise,
"Is standing straight with outstretched arms,
And rapt and upturned eyes."

"Oh, no, no, no," said Elder Snow,
"Such posture is too proud;
A man should pray with eyes fast closed,
And head contritely bowed."
"It seems to me his hand should be
Austerely clasped in front,
With both thumbs pointed toward the ground,"
Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.

"Last year I fell in Hidgin's well
Head first," said Cyrus Brown.
"With both my heels a stickin' up,
My head a-pointin' down;
An' I made a prayer right then an' there--
Best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
Was a-standing on my head!"

I just got done reading a book I picked up at the thrift store last week, called "The Exciting Church: Where People Really Pray" by Charlie W. Shedd. The title intrigued me, and it was a quick, but powerful read. The author was the pastor of a small church on Jekyll Island, Georgia, limited in size by the very fact that it was on a small island in a touristy kind of town

Pastor Shedd and the elders on the board of this small church asked themselves, "What do you all think Christ wants this church to be?" Week after week, as they studied and sought the Lord for His direction, they asked more questions like, "Is this the most specific thing Jesus said about his church, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'? I really wonder what would happen if everyone in our congregation was prayed for every day by someone."

Then, as they considered 1 Timothy 2 (Instructions on Worship), especially verse 1, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men," they came to the conclusion that prayer is the first business of the church. The elders & their pastor started on a 30-day journey, creating prayer partners in their small group. They committed to pray for each other daily for 30 days & then evaluate.

Things went well that first month. They decided to switch partners & pray for a different person the next month, and the next month after that. At the end of 3 months of praying, one of the elders (who was originally skeptical of the prayer partner idea) said, "You all know what happened in our family this month. When my wife went to the hospital for her operation, I can't tell you what it meant to know that 'K' and his wife would be praying for her every day. You know what I think? I think we should have everybody in the congregation praying. Why don't we ask them to pray for each other?"

So, they experimented with their congregation, creating prayer partner trios out of families. The pastor & author goes on in the book to explain how the passion and excitement in their church exploded over the next few years. The only contributing factor: the increase in the pray-ing of their church members.

This was such a great reminder to me of what God does when we open our hearts to Him in prayer. Pastor Shedd shows us in this book that "prayer is not first man's trying to get through to God. It is first an opening up on God who is trying to get through to us.....Of course, one kind of prayer is reaching. But the first concept for great prayer is to know that God is already reaching for us."

He continues, "With this insight I saw my ministry in new light. My first job was not to storm heaven's gates for my people. Nor plead for them. Nor beg a reluctant God to bless us with his favors. It was to teach the opening of inner doors with the simple prayer, 'Come in.'"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Only one word.

I knew it had been awhile since I had posted anything on this blog about prayer, but I had no idea just how long until my sister commented on my last post and encouraged me to keep it coming. (Thanks, Jacque!)

To be honest, I've had a rough few months. There has been a lot of illness in my family, and I feel like we're just starting to get back on our feet again. My house is not exactly ship-shape, and I feel like my prayer life isn't back to normal either.

I just love what God does, though. How He uses other real, human people (as opposed to non-real, non-human people? man, am I weird or what?) to bring it all home, back to basics. I re-read my last post since it had been a few months, and was surprised to find that I encouraged myself! I opened up my Bible, knowing I needed to hear something from God, honestly doubting whether I was even in a state of mind to actually receive whatever He might say, and only half-hoping that He would indeed speak to me.

I felt directed to Psalms and opened to a random chapter, 102. I'm going to type it out (verses 1-22), because I want you to experience this with me and see how ONE WORD made all the difference. The dude who wrote this Psalm was just an average, everyday person. An afflicted person who was dealing with all kinds of junk in his life. Kind of like you & me.

Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.

For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.

All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.


You, O Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.

For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory.

He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.

So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.

I don't know about you, but something just hit me when I saw the word "But," followed by..."You, O Lord, sit enthroned forever." I know that this was no coincidence, and I just LOVE IT when God speaks to me so clearly in His Word. What a great reminder that I can change my attitude about my circumstances with just one word.

And I loved how the Psalmist said in verse 18: "Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord." I thought, "That's ME he's talking about! He wrote this so I would be encouraged."

Moral of today's story & this really long blog post: Don't let the stuff get you down. Let that one word change your life today. Yes, you may be going through a really hard time. Maybe the worst time ever, and you feel that no one else would truly understand what you're dealing with.


I challenge you to use this word when you are praying to the Lord about the circumstances you are facing today.

P.S. If you have trouble bringing yourself out of the pit you've found yourself in, Psalm 103 is an excellent choice.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Getting started

So what is prayer, really? And how do we go about it? Do we set aside certain times each day for prayer, or do we pray in snippets of conversation throughout the day? Should we pray in the morning or in the evening? What does it mean to "pray continuously?"

I'm hoping to delve into some of these things for myself in this & future posts, and if any of them help someone else, then that's just a bonus!

Something I've always struggled with is having consistent times spent in prayer & Bible study (I like to refer to this as my "quiet time," although sometimes my prayers are anything but quiet!).

I've never been a big morning person. I can wake up early, if I have to. But don't expect me to be happy about it or have a nice conversation over breakfast unless I've been awake for at least an hour! Growing up, I had always heard people in church talk about "waking up to have their quiet time" and "the morning is the best time of the day to devote to God." I think that this has been one of the reasons I struggled with consistency--mornings are my worst time of day to focus, I'm exhausted, and usually fall asleep when I try to pray.

I tried evenings, but somehow that didn't feel as "spiritual" compared to what other people were doing. And I would find that I'd forget what I read or learned after a good night's sleep. Working full-time made any during-the-day quiet time difficult. So, when was I supposed to find time for God?

I used to always think, "When I get to be a stay at home mom, I'll be at home all the time. I'll have sooo much time to devote to God's Word and prayer." (snicker) Looking back, I had much more free time when I worked during the day than I do now at home! The grass is always greener, isn't it?

My point in this rambling post is that I'm learning that it's all about embracing the season of life that you are in. Are you single and live alone? Maybe mornings work out great for you. You can wake up...instead of your morning coffee with the paper it's your morning coffee with your Bible. There are no spouses or children to disturb your peaceful times with Christ. Or maybe you work evenings and get home around 1 or 2 a.m. There's not much on TV anyway...get out your Word. Let Him speak to you. Spend some time talking to Him.

For me, in this season of my life with 2 small children and a husband who works weird hours....I just have to take it when I can get it. Five minutes at the breakfast table (you know, when the kids are done eating--you're always the last one eating anyway, take advantage of that time). I post some prayer reminders above my sink; while I do dishes, I say little prayers for people I love. Sometimes, like today, the days are horrible and endless. The last thing I really want to do is spend time with the Lord at midnight. But I know it's the One Thing I need to do.

My husband (oddly enough, a morning person!) gives me grief about staying up late. He does this because he loves me, I know, and because he's wise. He knows that there is an almost 100% chance that one or both of our small children will be awake between midnight and five a.m. But sometimes, like tonight, I know that an extra hour spent with my Lord is not an hour of sleep wasted, but an hour of strength gained. I am re-centered, my mind and heart are once again at peace. I gain new power for the days to come.

I was reading in Psalm 119 tonight, and I was encouraged by all the different times of day that the author prayed or meditated on God's Word. "In the night I remember your name." "At midnight I rise to give you thanks." "I meditate on it [your word] all day long." "I rise before dawn and cry for help." "My eyes stay open through the watches of the night." "Seven times a day I praise you."

Let's not get hung up on the "when" but concentrate on the "Who."

Monday, February 2, 2009

A simple truth

I was mulling over the concept of prayer today. And I came away from that time with this simple truth:

In order for prayer to work, to accomplish the purpose for which God created it, we have to actually pray.

Not read about prayer in the Bible, not read a book written about prayer, not talk to others about prayer & how it changes lives....

Just pray.

All those other things are good, but they must be used to help us "work out our own salvation." We have to pray. There's no getting around the work, no shortcuts, no "10 steps to answered prayer."

Just pray. But, oh, the rewards!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Anybody reading this thing?

Ok, so isn't it crazy when life gets in the way? The past few weeks have been challenging. But I am an overcomer. That's what He says, anyway.

This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. - 1 John 4:3-5

The firstborn, type A, perfectionist in me absolutely hates that I can't just do things right the first time. It especially hates the fact that sometimes I am learning the same lessons over and over again.

I'm one of those women--maybe you are, too--one of those women who starts the race well. I'm running. Not too fast, not too slow. Just at a good pace, feeling pretty confident. I'm walking with my Lord, talking with Him throughout the day. There's nothing we can't handle together.

But, alas, (isn't "alas" a fun word? not at all Old Testament...) therein lies the problem. "There's nothing we can't handle together." There I go again, thinking that the Lord actually needs me to do His job. Now, I know you could interpret that phrase another way, and that God does actually use us humans to accomplish His perfect work on the earth. But, for me, that phrase is completely full of stinkin' pride. Full and overflowing.

And what's that Old Testament Proverb? "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov 16:18) That's just what happened to me.

You see, I was doing pretty well, I thought. Getting up early to spend time with God, staying up late to hear His voice, talking with Him throughout the day and actually hearing Him talk back to me. But then I started to walk a thin line between the humble "He's talking to me..." and crossed over to "He's talking to ME! Look at what a good Christian I am! You know, Suzie Q over there--God's not waking her up to talk to her...."

Yes, I am being real. Hope that's okay.

So what happens? Life. Vomiting children, broken washing machines. Children who forget that they're supposed to sleep through the night. Husbands who want to spend time with you--and want you to not be a complete hormonal disaster.

I am quick to blame it all on Life. "Oh, God--yeah, I hear you calling me to spend some time in your Word right now. But you see, I'm just so tired. You know, the baby wouldn't stop crying last night. And then my son woke up 2 hrs early, and I just don't think I can do it. Maybe in a few hours, after I get a nap." And a few hours becomes a few days, which becomes a few weeks.

All of a sudden I realize, "When was the last time I got quiet with the Lord? What was the last thing I heard Him say to me?" And I realize that it was not He who backed away from me. Indeed, it was my fault. I fell.

Now here is the crucial point where I usually fail: Do I completely ignore all the guilt I feel at not having spent time with God and just pick myself back up and start running again? Or do I think "He certainly couldn't want to hear from me now. After all my pushing away, I just know He's not ready to hear from me yet. I mean, I haven't been loving Him the way He wants. Look at 1 John 5:3: 'This is love for God: to obey his commands.' I haven't been obeying Him...."

But here's where it gets good, folks. Just look at the rest of this verse!! How have I missed this before? "And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world."

So, here I am. Picking it all back up and relishing the thought that the load is not heavy anymore. The weight of my "Christian duties" is suddenly lighter. And everything I've been longing for is found again.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. - Matthew 11:28-30

What choice will you make? If you have been struggling with your prayer life--feeling guilty for not having one, or not spending the "right" amount of time praying--just pick it back up again. Throw off those hindrances and the sin that so easily entangles. I think you'll find the true rest you've been looking for.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Comments fixed

If you've tried to post a comment & didn't have a blogger ID, it probably didn't work. I guess I didn't have it set up properly! Feel free to leave a comment below for any prayer requests--I am praying!!

We've had a bit of illness at our house, so the things I had planned for this blog have gone by the wayside. But I'm finding that the quiet moments in the middle of the night are great for sending up prayers for my children, my family, & other needs.

The Lord has been waking me up (or keeping me awake) a lot these last few weeks, showing me things about myself that need to change, or giving me visions & ideas for other things like this prayer blog. I must say that although I am missing the sleep, these times with Him are so precious!! I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world.

It's amazing when we actually sit down and silence the noise around us (TV, computer, music)--He speaks. Softly, gently...He's always there, ready to share His heart with us. I'm so thankful for that.