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How to be at peace when we pray

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Years ago, my teenage daughter had to deal with a conflict at school. I wanted to charge in, confront someone, and resolve the matter. But, I didn’t want to be hasty so I asked my spiritual mentor, Loretta, what I should do.

She looked me squarely in the eye and said, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

 “I know that Loretta,” I whined. “But, what should I do?”

“There you go again,” she said. “You always go back to the doing.”

I raised my eyebrows and waited for some practical advice.

She repeated Isaiah 26: 3, leaving a huge question mark in my mind. Could the answer be that simple? What if I actually applied that verse to my situation?

I opted to pray about my daughter’s conflict and wait for a green light despite the Tiger Mom in me growling to straighten everything out. When I kept my eyes on the Lord, my anger cooled and a soothing peace settled over me. I knew to not get involved. My daughter handled the matter on her own, and in the process I saw how God used that situation to work in her heart too.

Since then, I’ve had to apply this verse repeatedly—keeping my eyes on the Lord instead of my circumstances. And more recently, focusing on Him instead of my prayers. Here’s what happened:

Last night, my heart felt heavy because I’d spent much of the day fasting and praying for several people facing somber issues. When I told my husband how drained I felt, he said, “You don’t just pray for others, you absorb what’s going on in their lives even when they’re not related to you.”

“That’s true,” I said. “So why can’t I pray without feeling so desperate?”

“Because you feel responsible for the outcome!”

His comment was spot on. I’ve always felt responsible for my loved one’s well being and happiness. I try to fix them or improve a situation. So it makes sense that I pray for others with the same mindset. I want to control the outcome of my prayers. I want this person healed. That person to find a job. This person to draw near to God. That marriage restored. Despite my human limitations, I think I know what’s best for each person.

But what happens when God doesn’t answer my prayer requests that way that I’d like? It’s not just my disappointment and concern for the individual, there’s a part of me that wonders if I could have done something to make my prayers more effective. Maybe I should have fasted to show how important this means to me. Or, rounded up more prayer warriors to storm the heavens.

Then again . . .

  • What if I stopped praying as though the outcome of these prayers hinged on my efforts? 
  • What if I stopped praying to persuade God to do things my way and left the outcome in His capable, sovereign hands?
  • What if I interceded for others knowing God can use my prayers to change me too?
  • What if I trusted God to hear the cry of my heart as I laid these petitions at His feet?
  • What if I focused on the depth and breadth of God’s love for these people that I pray for instead of fixating on the length, depth, frequency of my prayers?
  • What if I believed God’s sees and knows it all. He’s got a plan for these folks that exceeds my imagination?

When I woke up this morning, my prayer requests still remain and the list continues to grow. But when I read Isaiah 26:3, I was reminded that I need to keep my eyes and thoughts on the Lord who is trustworthy and orchestrates a thousands details in people’s lives to achieve His purposes. Imagine the difference when I’m focused on Him instead of fixating on the prayer requests and their outcome.

God may not give me the answers I’m looking for when I pray, but He gives me what I need in that moment. He gives me His perfect peace. And I trust the Almighty God to breathe His peace into the people I pray for.

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them” (1 Timothy 2:1 NLT).

Are You Grieving This Season?

I wrote this three years ago. I still think about the families who lost loved ones that year. And this December, I know several more families who are in the midst of grief. I pray these words encourage someone’s heart.

Even In This

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There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home for the holidays, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated…

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Which Voice Do You Believe?

 

depression-1250897_640You know how it’s difficult to taste food when we have a head cold? Well, my horrible health during the winter months affected my senses. I could taste and see the Lord’s goodness in my friends’ gifts to me: cards, meals, prayers, visits. But I couldn’t feel God’s presence or hear His voice.

I might have cried, “God, why have you forsaken me?” But two things helped me tread the deep waters while I waited for my good health—and a renewed spirit.

1). I can’t trust my emotions, but I can trust God.

My mentor/friend, Loretta, once said, “I can’t count on my emotions when I’m feeling low.”

True. I’ve seen how my negative emotions make it impossible to think clearly. They can also steer me down a destructive path. Pity party. Hopelessness. Spiritual lethargy. Does anything good come from viewing life as a half-empty cup? Or questioning God’s goodness?

I learned to trust God back when I had three miscarriages. Satan (father of lies) took advantage of my grief. He filled my mind with doubts about God’s love for me. He accused me of being unworthy. Grief spiraled into despair. I had to sort through my emotions and identify the lies. And then, I renewed my mind with God’s truth.

I’m glad I learned that lesson because this year, when God seemed silent while I lay ill, I refused to trust my emotions or listen to the enemy’s lies. Instead, I trusted God’s character and His promises.

Throughout scripture, the Lord tells His children: Do not be afraid. I am with you. You are mine. You are loved.

I choose the voice I listen to.

2). I can’t manufacture spiritual highs, but I can believe God.

Being ill is part of the human experience. I was willing to endure anything if only I could sense God’s comforting presence. I prayed for His peace and joy to buoy my spirits while my body healed. I read Psalms. I listened to praise music. But for all my efforts, I could not manufacture that mountain top high, or afterglow, that comes from spending time with God.

So I stopped trying so hard to hear God’s voice. If I didn’t have the energy to walk, or the ability to concentrate, then I needed to give my spirit permission to rest. And be comfortable with God’s silence. Knowing this too shall pass.

Spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible reading are opportunities to meet with God and hear His voice. But God doesn’t ask us to jump through hoops (or bust a gut) to get His attention. He sees us. He knows our name. He knows when our health suffers.

God says, “Believe.” Believe I’m present. Believe I love you. Believe I can use all things (even the silence) for your good and My glory.

Which voice do I believe?

Who do you listen to and believe when you’re going through a trial?

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