Prayer

The Priority of Prayer (with a printable)

Last fall, I began a Bible Study on Prayer. It has been an excellent study and has reminded me of the importance of prayer. However, no matter how important we say we think prayer is, there is still the little matter of just sitting down and doing it.

I am not sure anything is more of a challenge for me in my Christian life than taking time to pray. I think this is for a number of reasons, but, thankfully, God has not given up on me yet.

A few Sundays ago, we even had a guest speaker who reminded me once again the priority of prayer, which served as a reminder that I cannot give up on strengthening my prayer life, no matter how discouraged I get.

He gave us some tips to help us make prayer a priority in our lives–

1. Make prayer a priority. Okay, that sounds redundant, I know. Of course, you need to make prayer a priority if it is going to be a priority. But think with me about the truth of this statement for just a moment.

He went on to say that we always make time for what is important to us. It’s true, isn’t it? How many of us are not able to find a half hour to pray and yet we somehow we manage to spend an hour or two watching TV or playing a game or reading a novel? We find time to shop for non-essentials or to work on our hobbies. We find time for the things we want to do.

This is rather an indictment to most of us and our desire to pray. Perhaps we don’t really want to pray as much as we say we do. Actions speak so much louder than words.

2. Remove something from your schedule if it’s too full. If we are truly too busy to pray, then we are most certainly too busy. At this point, it is time to evaluate our schedules carefully and remove something. This can be difficult because sometimes it requires us removing something good. I’ve already had to back out of a church ministry because I was too overwhelmed and did not have time to focus on my private prayer and Bible time. Sometimes this is necessary.

If we literally don’t have time to pray (and study our Bibles), then we need to take the steps to change this as soon as possible.

3. Remove noise and distractions. We probably all pray throughout the day–in our cars, while washing dishes, or in bed at night. But, in order to have a dedicated time of prayer, we need to find a quiet place that has no distractions. This means putting the phone and tablet in another room.

I became very convicted of this yet again recently. I am sincerely trying to break myself of the habit of having my phone nearby during my morning quiet time. It is so easy to get distracted. It is one of the main reasons I like using an actual Bible and an old-fashioned prayer journal that I write in with a pen (rather than apps).

Committing to remove these things from our presence during this time can be difficult but, oh, how it yields such a rich quiet time when it’s just me and the Lord, without the distraction of texts or notifications or even simply the temptation to look something up or add something to my calendar.

4. Pray together with others. The Bible talks about the importance of praying together in Matthew 18:19-20–

Again, I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

This is a great way to get in the habit of praying regularly.

5. Let your feelings in the corner and go to the other corner to pray. The speaker shared how someone he once really respected talked to him about prayer. This mentor had said {and this is my paraphrase}: In order to really become a prayer warrior, he had had to let the “I don’t feel like praying” feeling in one corner while he obediently went to the other corner of the room and prayed.

In other words, we can’t be dominated by our feelings. If we wait to pray until we feel like praying, we will rarely pray. Sometimes our feelings will straggle over to join us from the other corner while we are praying and sometimes they won’t. It doesn’t matter. We just need to do what is right.

I found this a profound and convicting illustration.

I hope these five things have given you food for thought as you seek to make prayer a priority in your life. Will you join me in taking the steps to become a vibrant and strong pray-er? Satan knows that this is a key weapon in the battle against him, not only for us personally but for our families, for the lost, and for…well, everything. May he never be victorious in distracting us into prayerless lives.

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If you are still a little uncertain about how to really pray seriously, I wanted to share something that I prepared for my Bible Study ladies. It is a little hand-out that gives instructions on how to pray for a half hour. You will find that, if you follow it, it will be hard to keep it to just thirty minutes. It’s easier to pray for that period of time than you may think.

I hope this is a blessing to you as you seek to strengthen your prayer life.

Click here to find a printable that will help you pray for a half hour.

(p.s. The printable is set up in a landscape orientation and in bookmark form, with three copies per page.)

 

 

What Does the Bible Say About…(Prayer)?

Prayer is one of those subjects that can be a little daunting. We know we should pray. We really do want to pray. But, if we are honest, it is downright hard for many of us to make time for prayer without distractions. Oh, we will pray throughout the day (and what a privilege this is!) but to actually pray for any length of time in any consistent manner can be a real challenge. It is so easy to talk about but not-so-easy to put into practice.

The other thing about prayer is that Satan has attempted to hi-jack it for his purposes, invading and deceiving many in the church with a new type of prayer that is never mentioned or supported in scripture. It is called Contemplative Prayer and you can read more about it here and here if you desire to be aware and knowledgeable about this great danger.

Whenever Satan hi-jacks something good it tends to make us biblical Christians nervous whenever the subject is brought up. And we are always wondering: How do we know if what we are being taught about prayer is actually from the Bible? This is a wise and valid question to ask. We are told to test all things (I Thessalonians 5:21).

This week my Bible Study lesson was on prayer. As I worked to prepare for this lesson, I decided to see if Pastor Dean had any sermons specifically on prayer. I was delighted to find that he had actually, in preaching through Matthew some years back, preached on each section of the Lord’s prayer, which is found in Matthew 6:9-13. He also has four introductory sermons on prayer based on Matthew 6:1-7.

As I was listening  the other day, it dawned on me that some of you may appreciate these biblical (and very helpful!) sermons on prayer, as well, and so I decided to put them all here in this one place.

I feel sure these sermons will not only teach and remind you of just how our Lord Jesus commanded us to pray but that they will also give you a new and fresh vigor for your prayer life.

 

How Not to Pray (Matthew 6:1-7)

Praying Like a Hypocrite (Part 1)

Praying Like a Hypocrite (Part 2)

Praying Like a Heathen

 

Overview (Matthew 6:9-13)

The Pattern of Prayer

 

An In-Depth Look at the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)

The One to Whom We Pray (Part 1)

The One to Whom We Pray (Part 2)

Hallowed be Thy Name

Thy Kingdom Come

Thy Will Be Done

Forgive Us Our Debts

Deliver Us From Evil

The Doxology

 

 

Are You Treating God Like Your Personal Genie?

At the beginning of this year, I asked God to teach me how to pray. I have felt for a long time that this is an area of my life that is sorely lacking. It’s not that I haven’t been praying at all but I was keenly aware that when it came to the topic of prayer, I was just not what I was supposed to be.

God has been answering my prayer and He is teaching me a lot. One of the things He has been teaching me I’d like to share with you here today. We probably all know this already (I did), but sometimes a good reminder is just what is needed to get us back on the right path.

Somehow in 2018 we have landed in a world that is all about self. Self-advancement, Self-centeredness, Self-indulgence, Self-aggrandizement. All of life is all about self for most everyone. We can see this in our workplaces, restaurants, stores, sports fields, and even in our churches. We especially see this in families, where moms and dads are often off busy chasing their dreams while they leave their kids to be raised by strangers. This is probably worth a post itself but I really just needed this paragraph to remind us of how selfish we really have become as a whole in this current age.

And, as believers, while we know we are to be the opposite of all of the above, we can sometimes get caught up in this, as well. Sometimes without thinking. And I believe one of the ways this happens is in our prayer lives.

How often do we treat God like our personal genie? Asking only for the things we need and want personally? Asking (and maybe sometimes even demanding?) for the things that affect us in some way. And yet how often we never find the time to spend time praising and thanking God or to bring the requests of others before His throne.

As I was thinking about this a bit this morning, I thought of my relationship with my kids. If all they ever did was to ask for things from me or to use me and my resources to their advantage, I would not feel very loved. And I think we can say that this would be an indication that they don’t love me. At the very least, we can be sure that they love themselves more than they love me. This doesn’t really lead to a healthy relationship, does it?

James 4:3 describes a skewed prayer life by putting it like this: You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

When we ask out of wrong and selfish motives, we ask amiss. Sometimes we can fall into this pattern without thinking–trying to use our relationship with the Almighty, Omnipotent Creator to our own advantage. We can find ourselves always asking, always taking.

So how do we keep this from happening? What steps can we take to have a healthier prayer life? Here are five things that will help–

1. Spend the first few minutes of our prayer time in praise and adoration.

2. Spend some time thanking God for answered prayer requests. Thank Him for how He has worked in our life and for what He has already provided.

3. Spend time in His Word with a submissive and obedient heart, reading what He has to say to us with a willingness to live it out.

4. Submit our wills to God’s with all requests. Never demand, but ask with a heart that will take “No” for an answer without getting mopey or holding a grudge.

5. Live righteously before God, pleasing Him with our actions and obeying His commands, so that He knows we truly do love Him and we don’t just view Him as our magic genie in the sky.

Prayer is a tough thing, especially now that it has been hijacked. Satan has badly mangled it by bringing contemplative prayer to the scene, turning it into a self-centered (notice that word “self” yet again) time of experience and feelings. But prayer isn’t about what we can get. It’s about God and our relationship with Him. It is an opportunity for us to praise and worship God each and every day. It is an opportunity for us to submit our wills and lives to Him as a living sacrifice. AND it is also an opportunity to bring our requests before Him. Yes, we should do this. He wants us to do this. But let’s be careful that selfish requests aren’t the only thing we are bringing before Him, lest we fall into the trap of treating God like He is our personal genie, waiting to do our bidding.

 

P.S. If you want to know how to pray biblically, Jesus told us Himself in Matthew 6:9-13–

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.[d]

Notice that He doesn’t tell us to be silent before Him or to wait for Him to speak to us. If this was critical to our personal prayer time, I am quite sure Jesus would have mentioned that here where He is teaching His disciples how to pray. The fact that this type of prayer is never recommended in scripture anywhere should be enough to keep us far away from this type of mystical praying that comes straight from eastern religions and Catholic monasticism and has nothing to with biblical prayer.

 

So What Now?

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You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from Christians across America as we watched the election results on Tuesday night. What we thought was impossible actually became possible as we watched states start to turn red. I am still shaking my head that–

A. Donald Trump is the President Elect of the United States.

and

B. That I actually voted for and am glad that Donald Trump is President.

I feel like I have fallen into some alternate universe or something. What a crazy year. And what an upset. And here we are– with a guy who has few morals– and even less experience– about to run this country.

While I consider this a huge victory and answer to prayer, it certainly isn’t because of who became President but strictly because of who didn’t become President. Hopefully, we will now witness a halt or at least a slowing down of the aggressive liberal and socialistic agenda that has been the passion of our current President.

Before this election, many Christian pastors and bloggers reminded us that our hope is in the Lord. We felt hopeless, we felt powerless. We Christians needed to be reminded of where we should find our hope.

But with what happened this week, we may be tempted to start hoping again in the wrong things. Let us be careful we do not place our hope in a man. On Tuesday night we watched  as reporters almost stuttered in their shock and amazement over what was taking place on that map. Even staunch Republican insiders saw no hope for a win. But, while this is most certainly a wonderful surprise, we need to continue to pray! God is still our only hope. He is still the one who raises up and removes kings. Only He controls the nations. We must be careful not to place our trust in a man or in a government.

Trump is historically liberal in where he stands morally. While he may not be as aggressive in pushing immorality, it is unlikely that he will make sweeping changes to the morality of this nation. This was not a victory for Christian principles in this country.

In my opinion, this wasn’t really a win for Christians as much as it was a win for those who desire a return to sanity. Progressives are deeply mourning what they believe to be a move backwards for this nation. One has to wonder how well they know the histories of civilizations. When a country starts to break down in a way ours has been, complete destruction is never far behind. And so I believe we are simply backing away from the edge of the cliff for a few years. And, in so doing, may we continue to pray. Not only for the direction of this country but also that there would be opportunities to reach the lost. This respite will hopefully give us four years free of the persecution that we saw looming ahead of us. It may give us four more years of free speech. May we redeem this time and use it to proclaim the Gospel!

 

Why Are We Praying What We Are Praying?

prayer

There has been a rousing call to prayer for this country by Christians everywhere. This election, perhaps more than any other in history, has burdened our hearts for the future of this nation. But as I sat in prayer this morning, I was convicted by something.

What if I am praying that God would take America back to its Christian roots for my own benefit? For my own comfort and convenience and safety?

Because, if I am honest, that is what I am most afraid of losing.

But what if–what if–God’s purposes include bringing this nation to its knees? What if His glory can best be served by letting this nation continue to spiral downward? What if His kingdom here in America can expand best by the true church being persecuted? What then?

Do I lose faith because I am no longer comfortable? Do I stop trusting God because I am being persecuted? Do I cry out in despair because my prayers weren’t answered the way I want?

I am in no way suggesting that we stop praying for this nation, but instead that we make sure we are praying with an attitude of “Thy Will Be Done, Lord”. We don’t know His purposes, but only see a small pinpoint of activity on the timeline of history. Let’s pray for this nation! But let’s not grow discouraged if we don’t see the answer we want to see. God is using all that happens for His glory and purposes and we need not fret. Let’s be ready to yield our wills and desires to the King of Kings. Because we know that–

And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.

Daniel 2:21

I guess this really could apply to all that we pray, couldn’t it? How many of our prayers are prayed out of selfish motivation? It is quite sobering to consider. May we always pray that God’s Will be done, first and foremost, and be ready to yield our will to His, no matter what the request. This is short and sweet today but it was on my heart. Let’s keep praying for this nation but with a heart and mind submitted to God’s Will, no matter what lies in store.

With Acceptance Comes Peace

winter night2

When you get to be my age, sometimes you look back over your past and you realize just how much you have changed in certain areas. Oh, in many ways, I am still the person I was but–praise God!– in so many ways I am not.

Sometimes it seems that all we hear about the Christian life is brokenness and imperfectness and how that unites us all. And, yes, we are all broken. I actually prefer the term sinful. It’s what we are and it is how we are born. But there is some victory over the years in the life of a servant of God who truly desires to obey the Word of God. I’d like to share one of those small victories with you today. I am not sure I was even aware of it until a conversation took place a few weeks ago.

This person was not happy with their circumstances. They kept reminding me of how unfair it all was and questioning why life wasn’t going a bit more according to their plan.

As I listened, vague memories of my own dissatisfaction with my life circumstances came to my mind. I remembered feeling much the same way about my life situation when I was a young wife with a houseful of small children and a workaholic husband. If you remember, we were building a business. And businesses take hours and hours and hours. My husband has never worked less than 55 hours a week. Many times it was more. (It probably still is). And, of course, in the beginning years, there was little money to show for it. It was a lot of hours for little reward.

I could feel myself growing slightly resentful. I’d hear of things other husbands were doing and how they were able to help their wives and I’d think to myself: That’s just not fair.

But somewhere in that time of my life when I could have grown bitter and resentful over this, the Lord opened my eyes to a wonderful truth–

With acceptance comes peace.

This particular phrase was coined by Elisabeth Elliot. I am using it because it is the simplest, most profound way to say what I learned.

My life was my life. I was not changing my husband. I knew enough to know that. So I could choose to be joyful in my circumstances or I could choose to be a miserable grump. The choice was all mine. And the ramifications of that choice would ripple out across my family.

As I understood this more fully, I came to understand that the only thing I could change was me. Was I so arrogant as to believe that I somehow I had it all together? Did I think my husband had it so easy to be married to me?

Yes, as the Lord opened my eyes to accepting my circumstances, he also opened my eyes to my own bad attitudes, unkind words, and impatience. And it was not a pretty sight.

As I started climbing out of the pit that complaining and dissatisfaction had kept me in, I started realizing just how good I had it. Sure, my husband worked long hours but he loved his family. He was there for the kids whenever he possibly could be, making it to more games and events of theirs than most dads who don’t work those same hours. We had winters together–a few quiet months each year to catch our breath and regroup as a family.

As I started to focus on the positive and not the negative, our family life changed. As I started focusing on fixing myself instead of fixing my husband, our marriage changed.

Oh, I’d like to say I never experienced defeat in this area again, but, of course, life isn’t like that. But remembering that accepting my circumstances is the key to peace (and joy, too) in my life has helped me navigate many an unfair circumstance in my life. That lesson I learned as a young mom has helped me through many difficult times.

Let’s face it–we could all have a reason to be dissatisfied with our lot in life in one way or another. And if the thing we struggle with could be fixed tomorrow, we’d find something else to be unhappy about. It is the very nature of our humanity. We actually have to work against our selfish nature to rise above it and reach acceptance.

Now, let me just add this one thing–

Acceptance is not the same thing as resignation.

Accepting our circumstances does not mean we resign ourselves to the fact that our circumstances will never change. We still pray and ask the Lord to convict those who need to change. We ask Him to turn hearts to Him or to work in an area of our life or someone else’s life that needs changed. Oh, how we neglect the power of God to change people when we don’t get on our knees with diligence and perseverance.

But while we wait for God to work, we have to accept His timing and His sovereignty in the situation and work on our own selves–humbly recognizing our own sinfulness and need for growth.

Yes, this can all be extremely difficult, but the sweet and abundant fruit we yield when we do so is so much different than the bitter, ugly fruit we yield when we don’t.

And, so, there is some victory in the life of a believer truly dedicated to God and His Word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is so true, isn’t it? —

 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Word of God will change us–but only if we spend time studying it with a humble and yielded heart.

 

Lessons from a Snowstorm

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To say my weekend turned out nothing like I planned would be an understatement. It started off with a phone call on Friday morning that forced me to change my plans for the whole day. As I drove home on Friday night the snow was coming down much earlier than had been forecasted and the weather reports seemed to be raising the amount of snowfall expected. Our landscape company does snow removal, so I knew we were definitely in for an interesting weekend.

As the snow fell on Friday night everyone gathered at our house and we turned on a movie. But it was not a normal relaxed movie night as my husband, son, and son-in-law kept their eyes on the weather and wondered how they were going to handle such a huge storm.

Three days later, it is mostly over. Although as I sit here at my laptop, my guys are still clearing snow in their efforts to get normal life back up and running for folks. Oh, how I respect and admire them for this. I don’t think I could do it. They have been going nonstop since during the night on Friday with just a few hours of sleep. I don’t know about you, but I know that I couldn’t do that. I am so thankful for the men in my life!

My job is to take the inevitable phone calls, which is always an adventure. One of our secretaries made it into the office this morning, so I am finally getting the opportunity to sit down and write on this Monday morning. My thoughts feel a little scattered, so I am going to try to pull them all together.

The weekend was full of interesting stories and tidbits, but instead of relaying everything, I thought I’d just summarize a few lessons that I learned (or was reminded of yet again)–

1. God is faithful. I never fail to be amazed at how God works out all the details when these days come. We have breakdowns and we have problems, but God is there in the midst of it. Without question. I know skeptics call this coincidence. But really–is there such a thing?

2. Most people are still generally nice. At least that is what I experienced yesterday. Because of the huge amounts of snow, we had run into the unusual circumstance of our normal snow equipment not being adequate for all of our jobs. This meant contracting subcontractors with bigger machines. But most people were patient and very kind when they called to ask about their driveway.

3. Some people are not so nice and they are the ones who remind me that I still have such a long way to go in the sanctification process. At one point, one lady called to complain about something. Her complaint was certainly legitimate, but it was made with such anger and accusations that I had a very difficult time holding on to my temper. I did manage to do so, but I got a little sarcastic and felt quite a bit of glee informing her that I was one of the owners when she demanded to speak to one of them. It is people like this that remind me that I still have such a long way to go in loving others–especially the ones that are selfish and unkind.

4. God answers prayer. In the midst of the weekend, we ended up having quite the crisis. Without going into details, I felt so helpless and really had to reign in the worry and fear that was rising quickly inside me, threatening to overtake me. I learned again that when I am faced with circumstances far outside my control, that I am not that spiritually mature, after all. I enlisted a few people to pray and God answered in an amazing way. We feel undeserving but offer our deepest and most humble thanks to Him!

5. A thank you in the midst of something like this is like a balm to the soul. This morning, before I switched the phones back to the office, I answered a call from a local business that we plow for. As most calls are usually negative, I prepared for the complaint that was sure to come. Instead, they had called to thank us for doing such a great job. Wow. What a blessing! Just a simple phone call, so easy to do, and yet so many of us never take the time to do this. I am thankful that this man did so. It means so much to our guys to hear words of praise once in awhile. We are always so quick to complain but most of us rarely offer a thank you. This phone call reminded me of the importance to express my gratitude to others.

6. I won’t die if I can’t leave my house. One of the things I have had to get used to is being the last one plowed out. Even now, my driveway is full of snow and drifts. This used to really get to me and I would grow a little angry. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that it was just my selfish desire not to be stuck here that drove my anger. Now I just try to be patient and not to be an extra burden that my husband has to worry about. When I feel a little claustrophobia rising in me, I just remind myself that I have people who could pick me up if there was an emergency!

 

These are just a few of things I learned this weekend. I am sure I could come up with more, but I need to go get busy and see if I can get my life back to some semblance of order! Hope you have a great day!

 

 

Is There a Wrong Way to Pray?

praying

I saw the movie War Room on Friday night. While I sat watching the big screen in front of me, I found myself contemplating my own prayer life and the great need for growth in that area of my walk with God. While there are a few things in the movie to concern the biblically discerning viewer (I’ve listed them at the end of this post), I think it does remind people of a very important principle of the Christian life that we often forget:

We need to fight on our knees.

Oh, how often we get caught up in our daily lives, barely squeezing in a chapter or two of the Word and a few sentences of prayer each day. It is interesting to reflect on just how much this world would change if we Christians would pray longer, more often, and more sincerely.

But one of the things that worries me is, while I do think it is a good idea for Christians to pray more, I am also very concerned that Christians– moved by this movie to create their own War Room– will pick up unbiblical resources on prayer. And, oh, there are so many of them! This subject of prayer has been hijacked by the enemy and it’s one of the quickest ways for him to gain access to our hearts.

One of the most popular ways to pray right now is called Contemplative Prayer. This prayer focuses on saying the same word or sentence over and over and then being still and “emptying and opening” your mind for God to speak to you. However, prayer is never described in this way in the Bible.

Many people use Psalm 46:10 to promote this type of prayer. And yet, to do so would necessitate taking this verse very much out of context. If we read the whole chapter we will see that the verses before verse 10 are focused on God’s help in our time of storm. It is clear to see that when  we get to this phrase “Be still and know that I am God” that it is referring to resting in the Lord, even in the raging storm, because God is still in control. This is a great example of how damaging it can be to take a verse out of its context.

There is a short, very helpful article over at gotquestions.org on this topic of Contemplative Prayer. I really encourage you to read it, so that you will be able to better discern the information you read or hear about prayer. But let me share a paragraph of that article here–

Contemplative prayer, by design, focuses on having a mystical experience with God. Mysticism, however, is purely subjective, and does not rely upon truth or fact. Yet the Word of God has been given to us for the very purpose of basing our faith, and our lives, on Truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What we know about God is based on fact; trusting in experiential knowledge over the biblical record takes a person outside of the standard that is the Bible.

The pattern for prayer that we are to follow was given to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:6-15. As we read through the Lord’s example of praying, we will notice that He gives us no indication whatsoever that we are to sit still for hours, waiting for God to mystically speak to us, neither before we start speaking to God or after we are done speaking to Him. In fact, there really is no mention of this anywhere in the Bible.

And if we do just a little research, we will find that this practice of emptying and opening our minds for supernatural messages comes straight from false religions and has nothing to do with biblical Christianity.

So, yes, there is a wrong way to pray. And we need to be very careful. As I’ve mentioned so many times before, Christianity today is full of land mines. We need to constantly keep our guards up and be looking for red flags. Not in a “witch hunt” type of way, but in a concerned and prudent way, comparing everything that comes across our path to what the Word of God says.

If you are truly interested in strengthening your prayer life, as I am, then where can we turn for some good biblical resources on this subject of prayer? Unfortunately, we have to go back a few years to find the best resources. If you’ve never read some of these classics, I highly encourage you to do so.

Perhaps you say to yourself, “I just can’t read stuff like that.” Well, then, let me tell you a little story. I was right where you are. I felt the same way. I found them dull and dry and could barely get through any nonfiction book, much less an old, musty one written by a guy who lived fifty or more years before I was born. But, one day, I simply made the decision to push through the book Humility by Andrew Murray. And that book changed my life. Not only with what was written within its pages (which is excellent, by the way!), but by showing me that I could not only read those books but also that they would be a great asset to my growth as a Christian. Yes, it was work to get through the first book like this and sometimes I had to read a paragraph three times before I got it, but, oh, it was so very worth it! And the good news is that it grows easier and easier with each one. You are never too old to train your mind.

So did my little story convince any of you to pick up one of these books on prayer? I hope so! I asked my brother, Pastor Dean, for his favorite books on prayer. Here is the list he gave me–

A Call to Prayer by J.C. Ryle (this one is more of a booklet and a great one to pick up first)

A Privy Key to Heaven by Thomas Brooks

Prayer by John Bunyan

A Method for Prayer by Matthew Henry

If you do prefer to read more recent authors, then I would recommend this book. I found it to be biblically sound and extremely helpful–

Alone with God by John MacArthur

Prayer is a very important topic and we can’t treat it lightly. Contemplative, mystical prayer has become almost the norm. Test all things through the scriptures–no matter how good and “spiritual” it sounds–as you work to build a stronger and deeper prayer life.

 

 

Issues and concerns from the movie War Room for the biblically discerning viewer–

  1.  There is a scene where the main character moves throughout her house shouting at the devil to get out of her home. But I can’t find anywhere in scripture where we are ever encouraged to have a conversation with the devil. I believe that God will take care of that for us. He fights for us and we can rest in His hands. Getting into that shadowy world of speaking to Satan and demons is dangerous and unbiblical business. Here is a great post on this topic if you’d like to study this further.
  2. I think this movie may have the possibility of leading us to the grave danger of treating our heavenly Father like He is our own personal genie, waiting to do our beck and call. While I understand the dilemma presented in this movie for the producers–they had to show the mighty power of God and how He can work and so we needed a happy ending–I would hate for anyone to think that God is going to make life perfect if they just start praying. The truth of the matter is that many women pray for years and years for their husbands to be saved. If you read last Thursday’s post, you will remember that my friend prayed for 32 long years before her husband came to know the Lord. Just because we get on our knees and pray does not mean we will get the answers we want in the time frame we desire. Prayer is not some magical formula that puts all the puzzle pieces of our lives together. Now, can God work? Oh, my goodness! Yes! I have seen Him do marvelous things! But does He always choose to? No. And the fact that this wayward husband turned to the Lord so quickly, while making for a nice happy ending, was pretty unrealistic. If you are a wife who was convicted to pray for her husband by this movie, please, please don’t get discouraged if things don’t end up like this. It might take years. It may even take a lifetime. I remember reading once of George Muller’s prayer list of five unsaved people. In his lifetime he watched three of those people come to know the Lord. But the final two never got saved until after he died. We need to keep praying, even when we don’t get the results we want. And that may be the hardest thing of all.

Ironing for Jesus

ironing-403074_1280

The other day, as we prepared for yet another wedding, I watched my brother and sister-in-law. They efficiently and diligently did every task asked of them without complaint or attitude. I have seen them do this before. Since they never complain and no job is too small or “beneath” them, they are wonderful to have around! While we have had so many helpful relatives and friends give us a hand these past few weeks, on this particular day there were just a few of us and I watched my brother and his wife closely. As they quietly worked, much got done and there was no drama. They willingly and gladly did anything necessary to help. By the end of the day, I was convicted.

On the way home that day, I asked the Lord to help me be more like them. I told him that I wanted to stop complaining when a task is boring or hard. Or when I’d rather be doing something else.

Little did I know that God would present me with a situation that would test my earnest prayer the very next day.

We had tablecloths to iron. Lots of tablecloths to iron. Somehow I ended up at an iron (probably because no one else wanted to do it!) But these weren’t just any tablecloths. These things were so difficult to iron. There was no feeling of accomplishment even when I’d spend 15 minutes on one tablecloth. I am convinced that many of the wrinkles in these rented cloths were permanently in place.

This made for a pretty discouraging task. For a variety of reasons–

It was hot.

It was boring.

And there was no possible way to do it well.

As I watched everyone having all the fun of decorating the venue, I stood at the ironing board, dutifully doing my “mom” thing but not with a very good attitude. I was bummed and started complaining inside my head. And then the complaints started spilling out of my mouth.

And that’s when the Holy Spirit challenged me.

Did you really mean what you prayed yesterday? Because this is a test.

No, I didn’t hear the words. But I was convicted.

I made a choice to stop complaining in that instant. What did it matter? Why not spare someone else from having to do this awful job and let others have the fun? The only reason I even cared was because I was thinking only of me. If this was my job, then I would do it cheerfully. I went to work and, instead of being resentful about missing out on all of the fun, I put on some uplifting music and chose to enjoy watching all of the activity.

Thankfully, God was so kind to me and provided my mom to help me with the ironing a little later on. But not before I learned a good lesson. Sometimes we don’t get to do the fun job or the job we think we should. Instead we are asked to do the job that we don’t want to do. The one that perhaps we think we are too good for. And that’s when our true character shows, isn’t it? That’s when we see who we really are inside. Because anyone can be pleasant and diligent when they are doing what they want to do.

Thankfully, the Lord hasn’t given up on me yet and so, while this could have ended up as one of my many spiritual failures, in this particular instance I made a choice, through the nudging of the Holy Spirit, to respond correctly and started ironing for Jesus.

One of my favorite verse came to mind while I did so–

Colossians 3:23-24  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Are you doing your mundane or hated tasks with a joyful heart and pleasant attitude? If not, I encourage you to, this day, think through your attitude. For it is here that Satan can so easily ensnare us. We Christians don’t always view our bad attitudes as sinful, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are sinful.

Let’s improve our characters by making the conscientious choice to smile in the boring tasks. To praise God through the difficult demands. And to be humble when asked to do something we think is beneath us. For in doing so, the light of our Lord and Savior will shine ever so brightly through us!

 

Diamonds and Axeheads

Diamond Necklace

Several years ago, I lost a necklace. Not the big, chunky kind made out of brightly-colored beads. This was a delicate chain with a small diamond charm. The special kind your husband gives you to celebrate a special milestone or anniversary.

I had taken it off at the end of a long day and placed it on the end table. When I thought of it the next day, it had completely vanished. I searched everywhere. I couldn’t find it.

We came to the conclusion that it had probably fallen in the small trash can next to the table. I sadly realized that it was lost forever. We have a big dumpster which holds all of the trash that our sizable company discards. The bag holding this necklace was in that dumpster. The chances of finding a tiny little gold chain inside a large trash bag in an even larger dumpster were slim to none. We didn’t even know which trash bag was the right one.

My husband decided to look, anyway. That’s just the kind of guy he is. I sent up a little prayer letting the Lord know that I would greatly appreciate finding this special necklace.

Within just a few minutes, Eric came inside the house holding the chain in his hand. Unbelievable. Why would God care about such a thing?

A few years later, I lost my anniversary band. It was a little big and when the weather grew cold and my fingers shrunk even further, the band must have slipped off. How well I remember that Monday at lunchtime. I looked down at my hand and realized it was gone. We searched everywhere for it. But my heart sank, knowing full well that it was unlikely that we would find it.

For several weeks, I prayed that it would somehow miraculously turn up. This ring meant even more than the necklace, as it was bought to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It was very special and also rather expensive. I was heartbroken.

It never turned up.

But when my birthday came around a few months later, my husband presented me with a small wrapped box. When I opened it, I found the exact same ring that he had purchased over a year earlier. He had bought me this because he knew just how disappointed and upset I was about the loss of that ring. And you know what? This ring means almost more than the first one. It symbolizes unconditional love even through my failures and stupid moments. It shows me commitment and willingness to go above and beyond. He could have been furious and never bought me another piece of jewelry again. Instead he bought me a replacement for the ring I had lost.

So why am I telling you this?

These events came to mind as I read the account of the floating axehead in 2 Kings 6. Elisha’s servants decide to build a new dwelling. At least one of them is so poor that he needs to borrow an axe to fell the trees. While they are working by the Jordan, his iron axehead falls into the Jordan. He is in much despair over this, because it is not his and he does not have the money to replace it. Elisha asks him where it has fallen, throws a stick in the water, which causes the iron axehead to float, and the servant picks it out of the water.

This whole story takes place in only six verses. It’s only a minute portion of the Bible, but there is much to learn here. This man’s life was not in danger. His home, his wife, his children, his education are not mentioned. We know nothing about him.

What we do know is that iron was very expensive in those days and this lost axehead would cause him financial difficulty.

What we do know is that God cared enough about this man and his seemingly trivial problem to provide a miracle on this man’s behalf.

Now, I’m sure this didn’t happen every day and there were probably some axeheads that sat on the floor of the Jordan at the great displeasure and inconvenience of their owners and borrowers. God did not make every axehead float.

But in this instance, God decided to intervene.

This incident shows us that, just like my diamond necklace, God cares enough to help in the little things. Sometimes He chooses to show Himself in an amazing way.

But sometimes, as in the case of my ring, He instead has a lesson to teach us or something to show us by not interceding. And that’s okay, too.

No matter how God chooses to answer us, He knows best. We can count on Him to take care of us all the way. He will give us the strength and grace that we need–and even occasional little miracles–as we go.

And we come once more to the necessity to rest wholly in God’s Sovereignty. I am convinced that this one thing is what will bring us joy and peace as we travel through life. God cares about us. He cares about even the smallest thing. We know that He is in control, no matter what comes our way. What a comforting thought!

 

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