Tag Archives: prayer

Prayer

I’ve had times when I’ve tried to do a series of posts that I hit a brick wall. Writers block, so to speak. I hit the wall and then miss the achievement of my goal of writing so many days in a row. But, not today. I decided to just start writing and see if enough words would come out that would eventually hit my topic. And, like the title says, today’s topic is prayer.

The author of the devotional talks about her complicated relationship with prayer. I’ve had one too. There are many verses in Scripture that say if you pray in faith, you will get what you’ve asked for or some variant of those words. In the early years of my faith, I thought that meant I would get whatever I asked for, and when I didn’t, I was told I didn’t have enough faith. That’s hard for someone to hear especially when the people saying it seemed to be continually blessed when all that was happening to me was bad times which included sickness and financial downturns. It also hurt when those same people implied they were better than me because of their blessings.

As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve come to know better. Prayer doesn’t exist so we can get all our wants and desires met. Like the author says, “Prayer is this amazing opportunity to connect directly with the greatest Being who has always been.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) It is a way for all of us to connect directly with our Lord and Savior. But, here is what I didn’t realize before. When we begin to pray about a situation, we usually don’t know all of the particulars and we definitely don’t know what is going to happen in the future. In other words, we don’t know what God knows. God wants us to come to Him in prayer as it says in 1 John 5:14. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

But, He also wants His very best for us and not what we think is best. He also doesn’t want to give us the same thing as the church member who lives down the street. So, this is where I need to have courage and confidence. Courage that God will take my prayers and use them for His glory and confidence that I am in the palm of His hand no matter what happens.

I am so thankful that we have this vehicle of prayer to connect with God and that He is always available even if no one else is. I am also thankful He knows what’s best for me even if I sometimes don’t. May we all connect with our Lord and Savior today in this glorious thing called prayer!

 

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

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Safe Place

Last week, I started a series related to the questions my pastor asked in his New Year’s Eve sermon, and I thought I would continue it today. Last week’s question was “What does this trial expose in my heart?” (https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/refined-like-gold-and-silver/) It brought out a lot of good words and uncovered some things that needed to be exposed in my heart. Just like I’m sure this week’s question will.

So, without any further adieu, here is this week’s question. “Am I a safe place for hurting people?” I would like to think so. I’ve experienced many hurts within the church over the course of my life, and I would like to think that people could talk to me without worrying what would happen to their words.

But, then the question spurs more thoughts. Thoughts I’m not comfortable dealing with. Thoughts I’m not sure how to deal with. They begin with an offhand comment someone gave me after service last week. A friend of mine had gone up after service wanting prayer. I knew she had been struggling so it was a no-brainer. I went up and laid my hand on her shoulder as our pastor prayed as did a few other people. I hugged her when he was done and went back to my seat. After the service was over, another friend said she had noticed I had gone up and that I was a real prayer warrior. I wasn’t so sure about that. I’m not as comfortable when I don’t know the person wanting prayer, and sometimes, I feel like they wouldn’t want my support because, well, they have the support of the staff or the elders.

These thoughts brought me back to a few years ago when someone didn’t want me to pray with them; they wanted me to help them find an elder. I wondered why. Wasn’t I just as capable of praying? I know I am now, and I’ve gotten more comfortable with my own prayer life over the past few years. People still have their opinions though. If they’re at the church and want prayer, they would rather have someone on the staff or an elder pray for them. It’s like people who are lay members and want to serve don’t even exist. I don’t understand.

This brings me to more thoughts, and they are more of the selfish kind. I’ve watched people go up wanting prayer, and they were surrounded by a sea of people. It’s almost like I was seeing a popularity contest come alive right before me. And I wonder why I don’t get that kind of support when I ask for prayer. Before anyone says anything, yes, I know that’s a selfish thought. I’m just wanting to explore it and put it back in the place it needs to be. There are a couple of reasons, I think, that this happens. One, yes, there are people in the church who are more popular than me, people who have a better handle on their faith than I do. They are held up as an example to the rest of us, and I can understand why people flock to them. Two, people have a tendency to flock to trauma. If they know something bad has happened to someone, they want the person to know they are praying for them. Three, there is a request for people to pray over someone who is leaving the church for whatever reason, and many people tend to go up for those kind of prayers.

Now that I’ve explored why many people go up to pray for certain people, I want to state why I think some people are prayed for alone. One, no one knows what is going on. How do you support someone when you don’t know what’s going on? Two, some people have an innate sense of privacy that keeps them from wanting other people to know what is going on. Three, some people just have a need for someone to pray with them, and they don’t care if anyone is with them or not. I’m not sure what category I fall into. Sometimes, it’s two, and sometimes, it’s three. Sometimes, it’s a combination of all three.

I’ve gone far afield of the question I first presented, but it was necessary to explain my thoughts to get to the conclusion I’ve come to. I think my best service to God is not going to be in the church. It’s going to be in the relationships I form and the writing I do. God wants me to put my words about Him and about my faith out there so people will know I’m not perfect. So people will know that I am a safe place. I shared a quote from an article on my Facebook page last week that I want to share here. “My desire now is to be the woman that God calls me to be. No more. And no less.” http://yellowhammernews.com/faithandculture/called-childlessness-surprising-ways-god/  I wrote this in response to the quote. “Though I did have the opportunity to be a mother, this spoke to me greatly especially now that my children are grown. The church expects women and men to fit a mold that they were often not made to fit. Thank you, Jesus, for being a mold breaker!”

Praying God’s blessings on all of you today!

Praying for Our Daily Bread

Many of us learn the Lord’s Prayer early in our believing life and recite it automatically when asked to do so. I’ve recently been challenged by a sermon in which these verses were used and have been convicted to really think about the words when I pray this prayer. Western Christians have a tendency to reflect their culture, and since financial planning is a part of that culture, this is reflected in our work lives, our personal lives, and in our church lives. When we plan in this way, we tend to think that we are responsible for the work we have done and don’t give God the credit where credit is due. We also have more of a tendency to worry when things aren’t going the way we want them to. Like when the price of stock goes down or when the interest rates go down. Or when our salaries don’t meet the expenses of our lives. Or when we want to do something in our churches, and no money is available.

I listened to this minister on Sunday, and when he said that there were people in Third World countries who prayed the Lord’s Prayer asking for their food for the day, something clicked inside my head and my heart. These people weren’t saying this prayer by rote; they meant every word that they said. They did not know where their food was going to come from, and they rejoiced and thanked God when He did provide for them that day. My heart hurt when I heard this. Though I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination, I have prayed the Lord’s Prayer by rote. I’ve been worried and anxious when we’ve gone through bad times, and there have been times when I’ve taken care of things on my own and forgotten to thank God when everything turned out all right.

It’s easy to be grateful when we have full pantries and money to pay our bills, and when we’re doing all the things our culture says we should be doing. We’re not depending on God though. We’re depending on ourselves.  And then we judge when we see someone who doesn’t have all the things we have and say that it’s their fault they don’t have a place to live or food to eat. I think I understand better now why Jesus said it was difficult for a rich person to get into heaven. We’re more “worried” about the resources we have here and how to keep them in our hands.

I’ve not made a secret of suffering from depression or anxiety in this blog. I’ve had to hang on to God a lot through the turmoil of my life over the past few years. I’ve  prayed more during the bad times than I have during the good. I don’t want to be so focused on the future anymore though. I think if I can pray the Lord’s Prayer each morning and be focused on each day as it comes, I will have an easier time with my depression and anxiety, and I will remember where my true provision comes from.

I will leave you with the Lord’s Prayer so you can pray for your daily bread as well.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” – Matthew 6:9-13

 

Giving it to God

How many ways have we tried to solve tough situations on our own? Going through a tough situation is against our nature so when it comes upon us, we do our best to get away from it as quickly as possible. We do such things as talk to the people involved and ask others for advice. We feel such emotions as worry, anxiety, and depression. We pray too, but we are mostly just consumed with what is going on. I’m sure all of us have had these same emotions and thoughts and sometimes, more than one at a time which can get confusing.

God doesn’t want our lives to be like this though. He wants us to leave our burdens at His feet and find rest as it says in Matthew 11:28-30. “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.”

Christ’s burden–I like that better than the burden of feeling left out because there was no room in the car or the burden of trying to convince a family member that God loves them even when nothing about their situation changes, and they keep dealing with the same fears over and over again.

Earlier in this post, I wrote a list of the things people do and the way they feel in tough situations. One of those things is beneficial–something that God wants us to do along with releasing the burden to Him. Prayer. Talk to our Lord and Savior about anything and everything. He wants that deep relationship with us, but sadly, most of us just include prayer in a list of things to do in a tough situation and don’t believe there is power in prayer only offering up a superficial prayer, at most.

There is power in prayer though, and I’m starting to think God is wanting me to take it off of the list and depend on it alone.  Jesus says this in Mark 11:22-25. “‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.'”

Wow! The power in these verses. The power of the words can be heard when they are said out loud. I want that power in my life. Shouldn’t all of us who are believers want that power in their lives? Now, before anyone says they have prayed and prayed to God and nothing has happened, let me offer some disclaimers. I know I’m not going to get everything I want by praying, and I know for sure that money is not going to pour out of the sky in my direction. Everyone would be a Christian if those kind of “pie in the sky” prayers worked. 🙂

No, God wants our prayers to be honoring to Him. He wants out prayers to honor Him and to honor our faith in Him. He wants our prayers to be the “Even if” and the “Your will be done” kind of prayers. Those are the kind of prayers which have power.

Some of you might remember me speaking of the song “Even If” by Mercy Me several weeks ago, and I think the chorus of the song is the perfect way to end this post.

“I know You’re able, and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.”

My hope is in my Lord and Savior alone, and today, I give everything in my life to Him!”

 

Praying for God’s blessings on you all!

Comfort for a Hurting Heart

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve written in here, and I do apologize for that, but there were reasons. You might remember the last post I wrote.  https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/dealing-with-a-chronic-illness-even-if/ For the last twelve days, I’ve been in a caregiver and management role. There is something wrong with my husband, but we don’t know what it is yet. We are waiting on the results of a scan and for him to go to a specialist this Friday. Waiting is hard. Harder this time than it’s been for a while. It’s even harder because he’s our sole income, and we don’t know what’s going to happen. He is working this week because he has to, but I know it’s at the back of his mind just like it’s at the back of mine.

That’s not the reason I’m writing this morning though. I’m writing because I missed an opportunity yesterday. I missed an opportunity to be ministered to by my Christian brothers and sisters. I’ll be honest here. I have been overwhelmed by all the possibilities of what might be wrong, some of them very serious, some of them requiring surgery. Between being overwhelmed, feeling like I have to pretend everything is all right, and having a natural reticence to talking about what’s going on because others are uncomfortable, it was hard for me to communicate exactly how much I was hurting. It didn’t help that yesterday was Mother’s Day which is supposed to be a wonderful holiday, but is not for me for many reasons. I didn’t feel like I could truly express my hurt because I didn’t want to spoil things for everyone else.

So, I didn’t use words like I should have used them yesterday which is why I’ve turned to writing them down. I didn’t know the words to use. There is an example in Scripture though of not being able to use words. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” That comforts me. God heard my prayers and those of the ones who did pray for me even though I didn’t communicate well.

It was also hard, I think, for the people I did speak with to understand how I was feeling because my husband was at church. And that goes back to dealing with a chronic illness. Sometimes, he is okay, and sometimes, he isn’t. When he’s okay, it’s hard to impart that something might be serious at another point, and my feelings are just considered to be feelings of worry which, of course, God has told us not to do.

From Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I acknowledge the reality of this Scripture. I do. I have prayed it a number of times in my life, and God’s peace has been there. But, when I state my concerns and they are dismissed as worry, I feel discounted by my Christian brothers and sisters. My heart hurt badly when one of them stated this exact thing yesterday and walked away from me. I quit talking then. There wasn’t a point anymore. I left church with my family, and they celebrated me well. We went to lunch, and then I went to spend the gift card they had bought me. It was a good afternoon, and God comforted my hurting heart. And isn’t that the point when we’re hurting? God is always with us, and He comforts our hurting hearts. I pray, if you are hurting, that He comforts your heart as well.

 

God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

Our Refuge and Strength

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” I write these words and think about how true they’ve been in my own life. God has been my refuge and strength through unemployment, illness, financial stresses, and through the uncertainty of life.

With all of the noise of this world though, it’s hard for me to think past the uncertainty of the latest stressors. That’s why I think a verse that appears later in this chapter can be paired with the first verse. Verse 10 of Psalm 46 says, “He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'”

I think these verses can be paired with one another because I can feel God’s presence most when I am still. When I go down to the lake near my apartment, I can feel His presence in the wind, in the water, in the blue sky, in the trees, in the quiet of this place. I can hear His voice in a way I can’t hear it when I have noise all around me. I can hear Him speak, and I can talk to Him too.

I wonder if that’s why Jesus told us to go into our prayer closet when we want to speak to Him. Matthew 6:6 says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Quiet and still–that’s how He wants it to be when we pray to Him. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with public prayer. Far from it. We need to pray to God and praise Him when we’re together.

But, when I pray to God when it’s quiet and still, I feel His presence more strongly. I know, for a fact, that He is my refuge and strength and that I can come to Him any time I need to. When He speaks to me in these moments of quiet, I hear Him more clearly and know the next steps He wants me to take in whatever situation I am praying over. He is there in the stillness, and there is no pretense in how I speak to Him.

And that’s the point. No pretense. God wants us to speak to Him honestly. There is no reason to pretend when we’re with God. He knows everything anyway. Besides, how can we trust Him to be our refuge and strength if we haven’t been honest with Him? A question for us to consider this week.

 

Praying God’s blessings for you all this week!

Prayer

Wikipedia defines prayer as “an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication.” There is so much more, but quoting Wikipedia is not my purpose in writing this today. My purpose is to give you my thoughts and my feelings about prayer.

Prayer is talking to my Father, my Father in heaven. Telling Him how my day is going, telling Him when I’m happy and when I’m sad. I don’t have to pretend with God because, by the time I get done pretending with everyone else, my “pretend meter” is empty. He knows it all anyway so what would be the point of pretending.

There are many ways to pray and many types of prayers. The way I pray best is when I write my prayers down. That way I can remember all of the details and make sure I’m telling them to God through my words. God has given me this gift of words so it makes sense for me to use it when I praise Him, when I thank Him, and when I petition Him. My prayers have also been more thoughtful and complete since I’ve started writing them down.

When most people think about prayer though, they think of speaking it–either out loud or to themselves, and that intimidates them. This results in hastily mumbled prayers, to bless food, for example, or long, flowery prayers that don’t have much meaning. Praying out loud can also be intimidating to people because they don’t know what to say, they don’t think they’re saying the right thing, or they think that a church elder or staff member should be praying. Women also have the added burden of thinking that men should be leading the prayers. I confess that I’ve had some of these thoughts and feelings myself which is why I started writing my prayers down.

I know God doesn’t mind if I write my prayers down. He wants to have a relationship with me, after all. But, I would like to get better at speaking them because God doesn’t care how we speak our prayers. He wants us to talk to Him, and He wants to talk to us. No magic or formula necessary. Just a conversation. It’s important to Him, and it should be important to those of us who are people of faith.

Prayer has become important to me in the last few years because God has sometimes been the only one I could talk to. He has been with me in the pit, and He has been with me on top of the mountain. He has been with me as I’ve scribbled words in my journals, and He has been with me as I’ve said clumsy words aloud. He has been with me as people have spoken words over me even when I didn’t have the courage to speak aloud. Prayer is all of that and more. God is just waiting for us to take the first step towards Him like it says in Revelation 3:20. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

This is the relationships God wants us to have with Him. Close enough to eat and close enough to talk, i.e.,prayer. May we all know the true meaning of prayer!

God’s blessings on all of you today!