Category Archives: Prayer

The Spoken Word

I once had a boss who absolutely detested emails, memos, letters – any form of communication other than the spoken word. I will forever remember him for his repeated, “If you have something to say, pick up the phone or come to my office in person”. Although this frustrated me to no end, especially when I needed his confirmation in writing, I learned something valuable.

Nothing can replace the spoken word.

The accelerated growth of the electronic era has almost eliminated the need for verbal interaction. We text. We email. We post a status update on Facebook. And we never have to say a thing.

I catch myself falling into the trap of voicelessness. I even text with my own husband and kids, which is ridiculous because we all have cell phones that rarely leave our hands. Did you know that those little devices actually have an app that can make real calls? Imagine that.

We’ve allowed this closemouthed habit – and it is a habit – to invade our spiritual lives. We have access to the Word of God on every electronic toy we own. We subscribe to the podcasts of our favorite Bible teachers and preachers so we can have sermons-on-the-go. We join online study groups and prayer chains. But when it comes to speaking the Word, praying out loud, and telling the people around us about Jesus – well – we email them the link to a really good website instead.

This is not what God intended. He made us to be talkative people. The Bible is full of examples that clearly show the results of speaking the Word, right from the Genesis to Revelation.

The words we speak create the atmosphere around us. Positive or negative.

If I am not happy with what’s happening and I feel like everything is going wrong or everyone is against me, I have to think about the way I have been speaking. I can usually see where my negative words and attitude have brought about the corresponding circumstances. On the flip side, positive words of faith, encouragement, and love result in those very same things showing up in my life.

The Bible is pretty clear when it says, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” – Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

Jesus said in John 6:63, “The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen. Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this.” (The Message)

The moral of the story?

1. Watch your words. Make every single one count in a positive way.

2. Put your electronics down and have a real conversation. Face to face.

3. Pray out loud. Read the Word out loud. Tell someone about Jesus. Out loud.

Gotta go. I just got a text.

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Distracted Christians

It’s Monday. The day after Sunday. Which was the day Christians everywhere vowed with one hundred percent sincerity like they do every Sunday, that this week would be different. That Jesus would be front and centre 24/7. That they would read their Bibles and pray. That they would not be distracted by life.

How long do you think that vow lasted?

For most, it was already out of their minds by the time they reached the church foyer after the service. Some may have gone home remembering their mental commitment. Until they woke up this morning and rushed off into the week. The odd one – very odd – actually took the time to sit down and do what they promised themselves they would do. To spend time with God.

The majority of us allow ourselves to be trapped by distractions. So much so that by the time next Sunday comes along, we face the cold realization that we haven’t even opened our Bibles since last Sunday’s service.

There are a million excuses, and I’ve used a good many of them myself. But the bottom line is this: the devil, the enemy of our souls, will do anything – ANYTHING – to distract us from walking closer with Jesus. We’re no threat to Satan as long as we put the latest episode of Hawaii Five-O ahead of prayer time. Same with the messy house you noticed the moment you decide to open your Bible. Or that phone call you just remembered you just have to make. Or the quick peek at your latest Facebook notification? Not that there is anything wrong with these things but recognize them for what they are at that moment.

Distractions.

Then you can deal with them. Make a decision. Say no. Put your Jesus time first.

He makes the difference.

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Acceptance or Persecution?

There are many things amiss in the world, but there is one particular issue that rises to the top of the contentious list. Our rights and freedoms as members of the human race.

We hear about it all the time, but what does that really mean? I don’t think anybody knows anymore. While I believe that the inherent meaning is noble and good and right, our rights and freedoms have become skewed along the way. So much so that much of what I hear and read in the media is just plain dumb.

You have to be politically correct, you know.

It’s to the point where you can’t even express an opinion without being called narrow-minded, racist, prejudiced, or worse.

But there’s a contradiction here. You must embrace same-sex marriage, accept the religious practices of other cultures, and say nothing that could be construed as offensive to any race, color, sect, or political party. Except, of course, when you are referring to Christians. Then anything goes.

Anything that sniffs of Christianity – church, the Bible, prayer, etc. – is fair game for the hounds who make it their purpose in life to be obnoxious. Seriously. It’s true.

Apparently, rights and freedoms do not apply to Christians. A Muslim can wear a turban to school, but a Christian cannot wear a T-shirt with a cross on it. Public buildings are being asked to establish non-gender specific restrooms to accommodate the LGBT population, but those same public buildings do not allow any form of Christian display or practice.

Why is it that Christians continue to bear the brunt of persecution while being forced to accept the beliefs of other groups?

It’s not fair. It’s not right. It doesn’t even make sense. But that’s the way it’s always been. And that’s the way it will continue until Jesus Christ comes again.

I have gay friends. I have friends of other faiths. I have friends who are completely against Christianity. We don’t fight. We don’t argue. We talk about why we believe what we believe and there are no hateful words or intolerance or offenses taken. We simply reach a point of acceptance – acceptance of each other’s fundamental rights and free will.

And I will exercise my right and obligation as a Christian to pray for them.

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Get Specific

I’ve done a lot of thinking since yesterday’s blog post, realizing I haven’t been specific enough when I pray. And this has probably been the case for most of my life. Oh, there have been seasons when I got right down to the nitty-gritty with God and told Him exactly what what on my mind and wow, it felt good to know that even though He knew it all anyway, I was sharing with Him the deepest longings of my heart.

I asked myself why it was that I didn’t always want to get into the details with the Lord. Upbringing, partly. I was taught that you didn’t ask others for things because that was being selfish. You were supposed to be happy and thankful with what you had. Period.

Old habits die hard.

Another aspect is the I-don’t-want-to-bother-anybody syndrome. Especially if it’s something you think you can handle on your own. And if you need something more, well, you just do it yourself or do without. Really, if you stop to consider this, it’s kinda wrong. God’s intent for mankind is family. Whether that’s your biological family, your church family, your neighborhood, or even your workplace. You were never meant to do life solo. You need people. Lots of them. And they need you.

So how does this all tie together?

God wants you to tell Him everything. He wants to hear you say out loud what’s in your heart. He wants you to be specific about what you want. I read somewhere that God doesn’t answer vague prayers. I don’t know if that’s true, but you get the idea.

I remember asking my Dad for money when I was young. It frustrated me because he would always ask me how much I needed and what it was for. He didn’t just reach into his pocket and give me a pile of cash. I wish! He wanted me to be specific.

I prayed some things this morning – asked God for some very specific things. With names. Dates. Numbers. I told Him why. I even told Him that I knew some of the things I asked for were selfish. But I think He can handle it. And I think He appreciated my boldness in coming to Him with the things that are important to me.

Tomorrow, I’m going to do it again.

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What Do You Want?

Yesterday, our pastor delivered a great message that ended with this question: What do you want?

At first I thought it was an irrelevant question for me because, of course, I know what I want. Right?

Wrong.

In the span of the following three minutes, I realized that although I thought I knew what I wanted, I couldn’t articulate it. Couldn’t put into words what was in my heart. And then I started asking myself if what I wanted was really what I wanted. I had to establish some parameters and there was some serious thinking going on there for a bit. I forced myself to zero in on exactly what I wanted.

The spiritual aspect of this question is profoundly simple. We don’t receive the answers we want because we don’t pray specifically enough about what we want. And sometimes our prayers are so vague that there is no way of knowing whether God has answered them or not.

It’s true.

So . . . what do you want?

Think about it. And then pray.

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The New Year’s Resolution Hoax

Welcome 2013!

Have you got that sheet of paper in front of you, ready to make your annual list of New Year’s resolutions? I’ll bet you’ve got some good ones. Just like last year. And the year before.

Before you start writing, I’d like to take this opportunity to burst your bubble. It’s a hoax. All of it. The whole New Year’s resolution thing was something somebody made up ages ago so you could, for a few minutes on January 1st, feel good about yourself. Anyone with half a brain knows that nothing ever really comes of making those resolutions.

Unless . . .

. . . you have a plan.

Let’s say you’re a fiction writer and you want to get that novel finished in 2013. You can write the goal down on your resolution list, but unless you have a plan to make sure that happens, it will still be on your list at the end of the year. I know this. You need a regular writing schedule. A goal with the number of words you must compose.

Or maybe you want to lose weight or spend more time with your family or get a great new job. You’ve got them written down on your list and you’re smiling. But how will you take that weight off, or be with your family, or find that new job?

Along with every New Year’s resolution you identify, you have to have a plan. A good plan. One that is reasonable and will work for you. Writing down that plan is just as important as coming up with the resolution in the first place. Maybe more.

Then do a checkup on your plan once a month or so to keep yourself on track. Do some tweaking if you have to.

Above all, don’t fall for the New Year’s Resolution Hoax. The goals on your list don’t just happen. There is thought and prayer involved. Planning. And hard work.

At the end of 2013, you want to look at your list and smile in satisfaction.

Happy New Year!

 

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Seasons

Someone told me today that they were ready for this season to be over. They weren’t talking about a season of the year or a stage of life, but rather a set of negative circumstances that have gone on far too long. I’ve been there. More than once. And it’s not a fun place to be.

Seasons like this come in everyone’s life. No one is exempt, even if it seems like they are. The problem is that the world has fed us a bunch of lies that can keep us trapped if we accept those lies as truth.

The world will tell you there is no way out. But you don’t have to accept that. Just refuse to get tired and stay disappointed. Do the right thing with energy. Work hard. Trust God. And whenever a negative thing  does come your way, cry out to the Father. When you do that, He obligates Himself to hear you and to act on your behalf. So if you’re in a situation you don’t like, don’t let that situation remain the way it is – call out to God! And I mean OUT LOUD. Sometimes He’ll correct you. Sometimes He’ll adjust things. But no matter how He answers your prayer, the end result will be deliverance from whatever it is that has kept you in that place.

Something happens when you choose not to be quiet during the stormy times of life. Something happens when you chose to declare, “God, I want you to help me.” When God hears you cry out to Him for help, He immediately goes into action. Because that’s all God has been waiting to hear. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, His message is always the same: He wants to be your God. He doesn’t want either you or anyone else to fix your problems. It’s simple: “Lord, I want You to help me. I don’t know what to do in this situation, and I don’t know how to do it. I don’t have anyone to turn to except You.”

God will make your crooked places straight. He will make your rough places smooth. He will fill your valleys so you can walk on a level plain.

You’ve dwelt in that season long enough.

It’s time to move into your future.

Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Isaiah 43:18-19 (The Message)

 

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Purpose and Power

I talk to my friends and family quite often. Some more than others, but I try to keep in contact. Keep the communication lines open. See what is going on in their lives. Make sure they have what they need and offer assistance where I can. Sometimes I just miss a particular person and want to chat for awhile. I have long conversations with some people and small talk with others, but the end result is that I actually communicated with that friend or family member. It all helps to ensure that my relationships are sustained and we know what is happening with each other. The good, the bad, and the ugly, so to speak.

The same thing happens with God. And the communication is called prayer. Two people talking to each other and making requests of one another. Keeping in touch. Knowing what’s happening with the other person.

I’ve heard a lot of people pray.  Some are so eloquent that you feel totally embarrassed to pray out loud in front of them. Others just say what is on their heart. Some of my own prayers have been the long and fervent and weeping-on-my-knees kind. Other prayers have been a short sentence, or even just one word. I have whispered a prayer, said it aloud in the shower, lying in bed, in the car while driving. It doesn’t matter. It’s all communication.

The conversations I have with God are similar to the conversations that I have with my friends and family. But just as I don’t call those friends every time and only when I want something, I don’t talk to God only when I want or need something. I am sustaining a relationship. I am letting Him know how I am doing. He is my friend, so I call Him whenever I want to talk my friend.

This is the purpose of prayer.

And prayer gives you purpose. You won’t understand God’s purpose for your life or walk in the fullness of your destiny without prayer.

Prayer gives you power. There is no other way to experience the power of God in your life.

We don’t think enough about prayer. We don’t focus on prayer. And sometimes we get so far away from God’s voice that we can’t even hear it anymore. It’s ironic, really; our lack of interest in prayer. Because it’s the very thing that sustains our connection with the Father. Prayer should be woven into the very fibre of our being.

It’s not about eloquence. It’s not about religion. It’s about a relationship with the living God.

God can’t stand pious poses, but he delights in genuine prayers. Proverbs 15:8 (The Message)

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How to Pray

I don’t like formulas much. Especially ones that tell you how to pray.

I’ve read and heard dozens of opinions on how to get your prayers answered. Maybe hundreds. Step-by-step instructions that outline everything from exactly what to say right down to describing the appropriate clothing to wear if you really want a prompt response from God. Kind of extreme, I know, but it’s out there.

Matthew 6:5-15 includes the Lord’s Prayer and gives us some pretty good instruction on how to pray. Here it is, from the The Message:

And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
    as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
    Yes. Yes. Yes.

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.

It’s simple. Really.

My daughter wrote a blog post about prayer this past week, and I like what she said.

“Pray big.  You dream big, I know you do, I’m a woman with big dreams, too.  Why don’t you pray it?  We pray to God as though it’s a fast food drive-through and He can only answer the prayers that He has an answer for in the warming tray.  We pray for grace to get through the day.  That we’ll be patient with our children.  That we won’t be too tired to do all the things we need to do.  We’re selling God short.  Be honest – all of those prayers don’t need God.  For the most part, we can accomplish those with a bit of will power and discipline.

God is waiting for your big prayers.  I see Him in heaven, watching you pray, and waiting for you to ask for something real.  Healing.  To be debt free.  To open a door that seems glued shut.  To help you accomplish something that you can not do without Him.  PRAY BIG.  God can handle the big prayers.  Stop patronizing Him with inconsequential, barely thought out prayers.  Pray from your heart.  Pray from your dreams – God gave them to you in the first place!  There is a place for the prayers for grace, patience, strength – there are days when we truly need His help with the day-to-day.  But get the big picture in your mind.  God is waiting to answer big prayers.”

No formula. No “how to’s”. No perfect day when all your ducks are in a row and God happens to be in a good mood.

Just tell Him what’s in your heart.

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