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.

 

When Do We Give In?

Lord, can you hear me? How much longer till you send help?

My previous blog described how I’ve been praying for—victory, direction, wisdom—anything to know God’s listening and will rescue the hurting people in my life.

I KNOW I’m powerless to fix people or remove their problems. However,  prayer can feel like a losing battle; a waste of breath.

How long should I pray before I raise the white flag?

whitteflag

Or do I heed Sir Winston Churchill’s challenge, “Never give in. Never, never, never!”

The Bible says, “Don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night. Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke 18:7)

After I prayed on Saturday morning, it felt like God kept “putting them off.” I remembered someone telling me “Perhaps God doesn’t answer our prayers because He’s busy with more important matters.”

That’s not Biblically correct, but a busy signal (beep, beep, beep) seemed more acceptable to my friend than silence on the other end.

Likewise, I felt exasperated with the lack of answered prayer which really means I didn’t see tangible progress or what I thought people needed. So I decided to have fun.

After all, their problems aren’t my problem, right? 

Only, how could I have fun knowing the enemy (Satan) wanted me to give up intercessory prayer?

Instead of attending a Mandarin Festival, I drove to a retreat center where I could stroll and pray beneath an outdoor cathedral of autumn leaves.

 

12271422_10153185825145913_76546265_o

Although I’m not Catholic, I appreciated the Stations of the Cross along the ivy-lined gravel path.

One statue in particular made me sigh.

12287364_10153185823845913_611246374_o

As Jesus stands there, shouldering a heavy cross, Mary looks up at her son with imploring eyes and clasped hands. I imagine Mary begging Jesus to save Himself. But his response is an outstretched hand (like a sweet benediction) to calm his grieving mother.

Why do I ever assume God is deaf to our pleas or immune to our pain? 

God became flesh and lived among us. He learned firsthand about human pain and anguish. Not only for himself, but the people He loved.

Jesus could have said, “Enough! This isn’t my problem.” 

But on that dark, smothering night when…

  • Jesus knew He’d be crucified.
  • He was in “such a great agony of spirit”
  • Everything in Him pleaded, “Father, Remove this Cup!” 

Even when it appeared to others like a losing battle, Jesus didn’t give in.

“He prayed more fervently.” (Luke 22:44)

More fervent prayer empowered Jesus to overcome temptation and carry out His Heavenly Father’s will rather than surrender to the prince of this world.

Even now, Christ Jesus doesn’t give in or give up on His people. “He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf. ” (Hebrews 7:25)

If Christ is our example, when do we give in and stop praying for others?

Never, never, never.

 

 

Sound Like a Broken Record?

I have an ongoing prayer request that makes me sound like a broken record.

Ever heard a vinyl record with a deep scratch? The phonograph needle gets stuck in the crack so the same lyric or tune gets repeated over and over and over.

vinyl-761592_640

That’s me.

I’m a weary prayer warrior…losing patience…losing hope…for the people I’ve been praying for all these years.

O ye, woman, of little faith.

That’s how I feel sometimes when I open my dog-eared prayer journal, write the same prayer requests down, and remind God that according to His Word:

“He is more than able.”
“Nothing is impossible for Him.

I KNOW God loves the people I’m praying for, and can use all things for good; to draw them to Christ and mold them into His likeness.

I KNOW the Lord can restore broken lives. For I’ve heard the testimony of Christians whose chains were broken and they were set free from sin, shame, bad habits, and despair.

I KNOW, but do I BELIEVE.

Or maybe, if I was a squeakier wheel, I’d get the grease.

I need to keep knocking like that old woman in the Bible who kept pestering the judge till he got out of bed and opened the door.

Only, I’ve been pestering God for a decade—pounding my fist, down on my knees begging Him—to no avail.

woman-1006102_640

Ever been there?

Been so discouraged by what you see in people’s lives, that you don’t know how to pray? Or maybe you’ve given up prayer.

After I watched the movie The War Room, I vowed to pray more, pray harder,and claim God’s promises for someone. A month went by and nada!

Things got worse.

I thought the power of my prayers would persuade the Lord to make everything alright, overnight. After all, it worked in that movie.

LIfting their problems to the Lord, trusting Him to act, submitting to the consequences of their actions. I won’t spoil the story ( I’d encourage you to watch it) but hey, I’m still waiting for my happy ending.

I’m waiting and weary, but I won’t stop praying because C.S. Lewis was right when he said,

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

Prayer changes me because…

  • Even though God doesn’t answer my prayers according to my expectations, I know there’s a bigger, eternal picture that I can’t see.
  • Even though, there’s a lack of evidence that God is working in someone’s life, I know He will complete the work He began in them, and me.
  • Even though I’m bewildered, I know God loves His children with an everlasting love. He’s called us to pray for one another. Not become their god.

Therefore, I can praise God and trust Him….

Even in this—seemingly endless prayer request.

 

Photos by: Pixabay

How a Blue Jay Convicted Me

They come. The Blue Jays, Woodpeckers, Finches.

tit-874031_640

In a drought-ridden land where the color brown defines much of the landscape, birds flock to my man-made waterfall and birdbaths.

Desperate for water but wary of me, they keep their distance. They don’t know my intentions are good.

IMG_4543

Meanwhile, I recline in my patio chair, praying to the God who weaved me in my mother’s womb.

I know His intentions are good. However, without a healthy “fear of the Lord,” I’m prone to act cavalier. Other times demanding.

Lord, could you, would you? And while you’re at it, why don’t you….help, fix, cure, resolve….this and that!

I assume God is listening; that He wants to meet my needs and more.

The same way I enjoy providing Premium Sunflower Seeds for my feathered friends. To my delight, they keep returning even if it’s not for me. No ruffled feathers here.

But I wonder how the Lord feels when my prayer life resembles a Toby Keith song, “I wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I, wanna talk about number one.”

woman-825154__180Would anyone watching me from a bird’s eye view find me…..

  • Returning to God because I need something.
  • My prayers filled with petitions instead of praise.
  • My intentions purely self-seeking rather than pure.

I cringe to think audacity trumps humility when it comes to my attitude towards……

~A holy God whose grace prevents me from receving what I really deserve.

~A faithful God who loves me even when I keep my distance.

~A patient God who longs for me to return and spend time with Him.

Even in this moment, a Blue Jay perches on the edge of my waterfall. He bends down and fills his beak with the cool water rushing over the moss-covered stones. His head tilts backward as he swallows.

bird-763685_640

Satisfied, he flies away.

I reach for my water bottle to quench my own thirst because I love the Lord, but I see myself….

Swooping in and out of prayer when I see fit.

And I’m convicted.

Would I pray as often if I could only praise God instead of dictating what I think He needs to do?

How would you answer that question?

Photos: Pixabay

Unexpected Gifts

I was 13-years-old and horse-crazy.

The fact that we lived in a suburban house with a small backyard didn’t dissuade me from asking my dad if we could buy a horse.

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because you just don’t buy a horse. You also have to find a place to board the horse. Not to mention food and veterinary costs.”

End of subject.

Decades later, two horses graze on my rural property. I stand beside the black horse…my arm extended, hand open with an orange peace offering.

His nostrils flare when he sees the carrot. He brushes the palm of my hand with his moist, soft lips. My skin tickles; stirring memories of a young girl’s dream.

I don’t own these horses. They’re temporary guests, lodging here at the request of our neighbor. It’s a win-win. My neighbor won’t have to purchase hay. We don’t have to mow the field grass.

This gentleman’s agreement isn’t what I had in mind when I asked my father for a horse. But while I rinse dishes and watch these ambling horses from my kitchen window, I realize this is answered prayer from way back when.

Even though the answer looks different than I imagined.

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen God answer prayers as though He were thinking outside the box.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to become a schoolteacher. Who knew I’d homeschool my children? Homeschool was a foreign concept when I was young.

I also dreamt of being a writer. Who knew my words would appear on a website Blog and online magazines? There was no internet back in the day.

The Lord knew. He had a plan.

Silly me when I think a subject is closed just because it doesn’t happen according to my time table and expectations.  

My desire for a horse waned like many youthful dreams. However, the Lord has gone above and beyond to give me the desires of my heart. Mostly, He’s shown me that desiring Him above all things meets my deepest need, satisfies my greatest longing.  

Even in this moment…

When my hands are buried in warm dishwater and I’m grinning because the Red horse is rubbing his neck against the Oak tree like it was a scratch post,

I’m reminded of God’s goodness. And I praise Him for unexpected gifts which sweeten mortal days.

 

 

Share a time the Lord answered your prayer in a surprising way.

Photo by: Jonathan Foster

 

What Do You Hope For?

My youngest child left for college a month ago. With the exception of some furniture, his bedroom is empty as a conch shell lying on a beach.

The occupant left. There’s nothing but a hollow space where there once was life.

View bigger - Conch Shell FREE for Android screenshotGone are most of my son’s clothes, his laptop computer, his Bible, the scent of his cologne. Even his lava lamp traveled East to get plugged into a college dorm.

So I decided to renovate the room. I stripped posters off the wall, and removed the camouflage curtains that I hand sewed.

Then I patched the holes in the wall with caulk…as if keeping myself busy with a room makeover could fill the empty spaces of my heart.

 If only moving into the next season of my life was as simple as replacing the fan blades in the ceiling fan.

Years ago, when our two older children left home at the same time, our nuclear family of five was subdivided. The sensation was like ripping a plant out of the earth, and then tearing the entwined roots apart to create three separate, smaller plants.

Transplanting my last child across the country feels like an amputation.

I’m still a mother, but there are no longer any children beneath our roof. I’ve severed my apron strings that held them within reach.

Those thoughts hovered in my head while the ceiling fan stirred the air which brushed my cheek like a child’s butterfly kisses.

This room never looked so good. But new paint won’t bring this room to life.

People make a house a home.

What happens when they’re missing?

I tell myself, come Christmas vacation, my son will return and this room will look lived in again—an unmade bed, socks scattered on the floor, the closet door ajar, a cup of water by the bed.

Family reunions, that’s something to hope for, right?

Isn’t hope hinged to every goodbye? If not this world, then the next….we’ll be together again one day!

“Faith is.the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I pull the brass chain hanging from the light fixture as the fan blades spin round the globe like planets revolving round the sun.

Who’s the center of my universe? The light of my life?

Have my children and house become the center of my attention…my affection?

If faith is the assurance of things hoped for….what am I hoping for?

Am I hoping my children will move closer? Visit more often? Stay safe? Be happy? Grow strong in the Lord?

“God Himself must be the one object of our hope and trust in our work, our needs, and our desires.

“Just as God is the center of the universe, the one guide that orders and controls its movements, so God must have the same place in the life of a believer.

“With every new day, our first thought should be: Only God can enable me this day to live as He would have me live.” ~~Andrew Murray

When will I learn, its indispensable to meet with God every day in prayer, and allow Him to renovate me.

I can long for the past or fret about the future, but my time is best spent praying for those I love.

So I pray for my children. I pray for my husband of 35 years who walked beside me during the child-rearing years.

And “I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in our hearts as we trust in Him.” (Ephesians 3:17)

Even in this…..season of life.