How to be at peace when we pray

Green Floral Illustration Spa Valentine's Day Facebook Post (1)

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).

Three Things Helped My Quiet Time

I wake up with a mental to-do list, but the first thing I always need to do is be still.

Photo Credit by: Maranatha Devotionals

This means having my quiet time…reading my Bible and praying. This might sound boring to some folks. Or, like a chore to others. And I agree that doing something every day can be cumbersome even when I know it’s beneficial. However, stick with me here and I’ll show you how I turned my quiet time—or morning devotions—into something I treasure.

First, I change my attitude. Instead of saying, “I have to read my Bible” or “I should pray,” I remind myself that “I get to meet with God.

Meeting with God is a privilege. Christ paid for that privilege with His own blood. Our time with Him isn’t some “thing” that must be accomplished so I can check it off my laundry list and get on with my day. Or feel good about myself because I made God a priority. God loves us and invites us to meet with Him so we can speak with Him. Cry. Confess. Implore. Rejoice. Listen.

Which brings me to my second point. Notice I said, speak with God. I used to pray nonstop as though I were dictating a letter. Meet my needs. Fix that person. Change my circumstances. Remove that thorn. Resolve that dilemma . . . Can I hear an amen?

I’m learning to cultivate silence to get the most from our meeting time. I ask God to…

Open my eyes and speak to me through His Word.
Open my ears so I can hear His voice.
Show me how to apply what He’s teaching me.

Then, I close my mouth and meditate on a Bible verse or a short passage of scripture. My calendar might be full. My life might feel like it’s on fire. However, when I make the time to be still and listen, I’m able to hear God’s voice more clearly. And doesn’t everyone need/want direction and peace in life?

Thirdly, I ask God to increase my desire for Him instead of striving to be self-disciplined.

Discipline trains me to behave a certain way. The word is often associated with a task I dread doing, but need to do for my own good. Like exercising and eating right, or maybe, having morning devotions.

Desire is a strong longing for something to happen, or wanting someone. When I desire God, I’m eager to read my Bible and pray because I know God will meet me there, speak to me, and satisfy my heart’s desire.

How do you keep morning devotions fresh and something you desire to do?

God Ain’t a Genie in a Bottle

My college son texted: Have question. What’s good time to call?

My heart soared. Yeah, I get to talk to my son. Or should I say, listen.

Although we’ve had lengthy, meaningful phone calls, I knew this wasn’t one of those moments. He had an agenda.

When my son called, I listened. Answered his question. Sprinkled a word here or there to help him process his thoughts so he could make a sound decision. And then our final words before goodbye…

Mom: “Nice hearing from you. Everything’s fine here. Love you”

Son: “Great. Love you too!”

I’m not trying to pick on my son because if I’m pointing my finger, there’s three fingers pointing back at me.

Yesterday, I poured my tea and went to my quiet space, prepared to talk to  the Lord.

IMG_7225

I got straight to the point.

“God, I have a question. Should I do this? If so, how? What’s Your will? Because I really want to see this happen. Maybe you could give me a sign?”

I stopped short. I imagined God rolling his fatherly eyes at me. Waiting for me to pause for breath. What about my attitude going into prayer? No worship. No confession. No thanks.

Heaven forbid I treat my Lord like a…

  • Ouija board as I search for answers.
  • Genie in a bottle, there to grant my wishes.
  • Cosmic Vending Machine

God didn’t tell us not to ask for things.

Philippines 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God.”

However, I don’t want my quiet time with the Lord to be all about me. Spouting everything that’s brewing inside of me.

Never asking what He desires to see changed in  me. Where He wants to lead me. What He wants to teach me.

Never listening.

God is Spirit and He’s patient, but I wouldn’t blame Him for sighing after I’ve hurried through my prayers and said, “Amen.”

I know the Lord desires our fellowship. Loves hearing our prayers. The same way I love listening to my son’s voice. However,I need to remember…

God speaks to us through His Word. Are we willing to listen?

Here’s what I did when I felt my quiet time was too one-sided:

  • Stopped talking.
  • Read a small portion of scripture.
  • Focused on God’s character in that passage.
  • Praised Him for those attributes.
  • Asked for ears to hear His Word
  • Allowed enough time to welcome and receive whatever God, the Holy Spirit wanted to reveal through scripture.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.…” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV)

After everything is said, what a blessing to know God loves us even when we talk His ear off. 

Photo: JennyWredePhotography

 

 

 

Why Pray if I Can’t Have My Way?

When I was raising my three children, I’d ask them what they wanted for Christmas. If it was within my power…and budget…their heart’s desire would show up beneath the Christmas tree.

Birthdays were no exception. Ask and it shall be given to you.

“Make a Wish” became the norm in our household even though giving/receiving gifts isn’t my love language. I prefer acts of service. However, what parent doesn’t enjoy playing fairy godmother where their children are concerned?

My grown children plead the fifth. They’ve often said, “Just because I say I like something, DOESN’T mean I want it.” Then again, they didn’t have to ask for anything because I was the one askingWhat do you want?

It was no different when I was a child. Our family didn’t have excess income, but I was pretty much guaranteed (within reason) to get what I wanted twice a year. Christmas and my birthday.

My parents delighted in giving gifts. My dad loved photography, but he gave me the 35 millimeter camera. However, this display of sacrificial love and giving was passed onto my children and probably explains why….

I’m surprised or upset when I pray and ask God for something and He doesn’t give me what I want.

I justify being disgruntled and blaming God when he says, “NO or NOT NOW!”

“The purpose of prayer is to get ahold of God, not of the answer.” (Oswald Chambers)

My Christian mentor, Loretta C. told me. “Prayer prepares our hearts so we can meet with God and receive His Word.”

I know from experience her words are true. Prayer effects my attitude. Softens my heart. God’s Word becomes more clear, more applicable to my current circumstances. There are hallowed moments when the Lord speaks directly to my heart.

Prayer

Yes, prayer prepares our hearts, but can we be honest?

I’m still tempted to skip prayer (or rush through it) when I’m staring at a busy day. Besides, reading the Bible seems more tangible to me than praying.

For instance, I can tell you what I’ve learned after I’ve read John 17. Whereas prayer can feel like a one-way conversation where I’m either whining about life or dictating a laundry list that God “needs to do” to meet my needs.

When in fact, the only thing we really need has already been given. Have you received it?

images-3

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”

John 3:16 shows up on football players’ foreheads and the bottom of fast food cups. When I worked with the homeless, they recited that verse because they felt it was the prerequisite to a hot meal.

Only to say, God knows our needs. He’s already given us the greatest Gift…His Son, Jesus…who offers us abundant life.

“Wait a second!” Some folks might say. “I received the gift of Jesus and I still have needs.

I need that job. I want a spouse. I need a baby. I want a bigger house. I need my adult child to be rid of depression.

I need…I want…

Isn’t that how we tend to pray? Like beggars desperate for crumbs.

And then wonder why we come away from prayer as though we’ve drank a flat soda. No fizzle, no joy, no aha moments.

That’s why, it’s imperative to get ahold of God in our prayers, and not the answers. To prepare our hearts. Get our focus off ourselves. And that begins with worship.

Sing. Praise God for Who He is. Thank Him. Meditate on His wonders.

When our prayer life is wanting more of God…instead of the means to get what we want…we will see a difference in ourselves and our day.

Because then, we’ll have what we truly need. The abiding presence of the Triune God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

 

I begged God to come to the rescue.

My prayers weren’t for me, but someone else who needed to know that God is real. He cares about every detail of our lives.

Please God! Show Yourself in a mighty way that will remove all doubt; strengthen faith.

I stopped praying when a wail rose deep within that person and hit the room like a Tsunami.

God didn’t step in to save the day.

So it was left to me—or so it seemed—to make My presence known and comfort a crushed spirit.

Although God’s purposes (Romans 8:28,29) are certain, I knew these words would fall on deaf ears. For even I struggled to make sense of the situation.

When the person’s pain morphed into anger…
I made excuses for God; explained why He might have allowed this “unfair thing” to happen.

IMG_7081

Have you ever had to defend God?

Or fortify someone’s faith instead of allowing God to do the work—how ever slowly?

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

I know this to be true. Multiple miscarriages once left me flailing like a fish out of water.

My faith remained intact, but anger and bitterness enslaved me. I kept God at a distance because my unmet expectations had led to disappointment with Him.

However, that season of pain showed me that God remains faithful even when I am faithless.

The Lord also used my miscarriages to eradicate my misperceptions of His character, and the false beliefs that I was….

–Entitled to get what I want, when I want, because I’m a Christian.
–Able to manipulate God with my “good deeds.”

Years of trying to earn God’s love and approval had also led to the assumption—God doesn’t love me when bad things happen or He appears silent.

Finally, sick of my own belly aching and missing the Lord, I confessed my anger and false accusations.

I asked God for His peace and claimed Psalm 27:13,14

“I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

Those faith lessons came to mind as my friend clenched fists and spewed venomous words. But my own experience told me, “This wasn’t the right time.”

Besides, spoon-fed faith won’t result in spiritual maturity. Eventually, folks have to learn for themselves that…

  • God is near,
  • He’s able to save
  • He uses all things to teach and mold us

Until we come to a place we can submit to God’s sovereignty. And trust Him even in the senseless, worst of times.