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Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

FullSizeRenderIt is an age old question …

Does prayer, does praying, make a difference?

I heard a line in the movie Shadowlands, many years ago, that has become my own understanding and belief for why I pray:

“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.”

Though I cannot find evidence of CS Lewis actually saying those words, Lewis does lead us to a model for prayer: “for most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model.”

It was in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed “my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). His  request, offered up, to his God and Father, was offered up three times, and was denied. This reality of God not answering Jesus prayerful request, is a reality that we must remember, for if God would deny Jesus … we too will sometimes be denied.

Lewis also reminds us, “prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted.”

At Gethsemane, Jesus also gives us an example of how to make such a request to God in saying “if it is possible” and “not as I will, but as I will but as you will.” I believe that this is what the author of Philippians is referring to when he wrote,  “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). We need to seek to have the mind of God as we pray, acknowledging that he is the author of life, that his plan is sovereign.

Even those things that we pray that we think could have only a ‘yes’ response, for it to be the ‘godly’ outcome. I remember laying on a hospital bed, awaiting just one more sonogram. I remember praying that God would allow us to see that heart beat, to show his power, to allow us to praise him for a miracle. The following day, recovering from surgery to remove that heart that remained still on the sonogram, as I looked up to the sky, I tried to gripe and complain to him … about his denial of my request, but all I could say were the same words from Gethsemane … “not my will, but yours”.

I can think of recent times when it seemed as though God was silent in response to my crying out to him. Yet, in the days and weeks and months that past, my prayers were indeed being answered, by other people, who God has used as vessels for encouragement, to meet real needs, to cheer on and to be the hands and feet of him. These people, being our Aaron, holding us up to God, so that the enemy would not have the victory.

God’s mind, his will, is never for the enemy to be victorious.

Prayer makes a difference.

It causes us to acknowledge God’s sovereignty.

It is request … and we have to accept that the response to a request is in the hands of the one we ask.

It is submission to the answer.

Prayer of others, for us, is the support that keeps us from failing, that keeps the enemy from victory.

It is an evolution of our human minds to God’s own mind.

I pray to change me, to change my heart and mind and will, but not change the unchangeable God.

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I feel so honoured when people ask me to pray for them. It is as though they are drawing me into an intimate trust relationship. Most often, when someone does ask me to pray I start whispering intercession immediately from my heart to the heart of God (partially because I have a short memory and I don’t want to forget).

Recently I had a day … a dark and stormy day (and night … and day … on repeat). One of those days we all have once in a while, when everything seems to go wrong, fall apart and weigh fully on our shoulders.

I was really down, and knew I did not want to stay in the mire of that day. So I did what I usually struggle to do … I contacted a handful of friends, told them of my dark and story countenance, and asked if they would pray.

It was still dark and stormy, there were still things that went wrong, that fell apart, but the load was lighter … because the load was lighter.

Praying for each other is drawing each other into an intimate trust relationship, it is sharing the load … the load of real life, that we were never intended to carry alone.

As I drove to work, the next day, the clouds parted (literally), showing the bright light of the sun and the clear blue of the sky. It was as if creation was reminding me of how the dark clouds had parted the evening before, when I swallowed my pride and asked for prayer.

“In the same way,
prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare.
Pray hard and long.
Pray for your brothers and sisters.
Keep your eyes open.
Keep each other’s spirits up
so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
Ephesians 6:18

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“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

It was a day … a day of thinking, and worrying … a day of anxiety over something I had no control.

We all have those days.

Sometimes we share our worry with people around us, sometimes we lock it inside, as though it is precious to us (though, if anxiety is precious, we would hear it said from the lips of Gollum in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings).

We all know that the Bible tells us over, and over, and over again to not be anxious, not worry. We are reminded again, and again to pray, to give our concerns to God.

Yet, we worry and fret.

I found it interesting that, though I prayed frequently, that day, each time there was an interruption, or some sort of diversion away from my attempts to lay my worries at the feet of God. It was as though there were a force keeping me away from my intended act of prayer and submission.

I believe there was a force keeping me away from offering up my cares, my worries, to God. I believe it was (and always is) Satan.

James 4:7 has a powerful reminder:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

I read the Matthew Henry Commentary for this verse and found great context … for the verse, but also for my interruptions to prayer:

“Submit to God (ver. 7). Submit your understanding to the truth of God; submit your wills to the will of his precept, the will of his providence. Submit yourselves to God, for he is ready to do you good. If we yield to temptations, the devil will continually follow us; but if we put on the whole armour of God, and stand out against him, he will leave us. Let sinners then submit to God, and seek his grace and favour; resisting the devil. All sin must be wept over; here, in godly sorrow, or, hereafter, in eternal misery. And the Lord will not refuse to comfort one who really mourns for sin, or to exalt one who humbles himself before him.

I love that this commentary reminds us of the empathy and comfort God provides (italics). For we are in great need of that when we are anxious. But he does not just offer us comfort and a warm embrace, he offers a solution.

The amor of God (Ephesians 6:14-17) includes the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit (word of God).

For me, the ah-ha moment came when I read verses 10-18 (Ephesians) from the Message. I pray that you, too, will hold to this as a reminder of what to do when worry has got you like a weight on your shoulders.

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

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The planning, preparations and practise began last summer.

My daughter was desiring to have a vegetable garden and a clothesline.

Both desires sounded great, and so we dabbled our toes into the practises of many generations before us.

A rope was tied between our deck post and a tree, and we both utilized the natural drying and whites-bleaching power of the sun.

We made our veggie purchases and planted them in containers and enjoyed harvesting potatoes, veggies and herbs into the fall.

This spring, we have kicked it up a notch.

Pulleys and clotheline were purchased and (this weekend) installed.

A frame was constructed, filled with soil, and vegetables planted.

These ideas, dreamed in my daughter’s imagination, have come to fruition (hopefully literally in regards to the garden), and I stood back, last night, smiled … and thought of one of my grandmothers.

My memories of her were of quilting, baking bread, hanging laundry on the clothesline and gathering food from from the gardens of her generous neighbours … like the gleaners in the Bible.

She was confident and content. She had her opinions, and was not shy in sharing them. She (in her mid 80s) still picked up ‘the old ladies’ on her street so that they could get to church on Sunday mornings. She made the effort to see her kids and grandchildren, never sitting at home, glumly waiting for them to come to her. She loved to sing in her little church choir … even though she sounded like Lucille Ball. She loved to watch Carol Burnett in hysterical laughter. She loved to have her back scratched. She prayed.

After her husband died at a too young age, I remember having sleep-overs with her, in her fresh-air-smelling bedding. Before the light was turned out, she reached for her Bible and her Daily Bread devotional. She would read the verses appointed for that day, followed by the application in the devotional. Then, we would pray, each of us silent. Me, silently waiting for her to give me a good night hug, signifying the end of our silence. She concentrating seriously as her lips moved silently.

Last night I felt her absence, felt the absence of her faithful prayers for my life, for the lives of those I love.

Yet, the fruit of her prayers continue to ripen, in the lives of those who snuggled by her side in her dried-on-the-clothesline sheets, and those who never knew such delights.

May the harvest of those prayers of dedication and trust continue this summer, and may I be as faithful in my silent prayers … that the best dreams come to fruition.

 

 

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So much confidence, so much assurance and security can be achieved by having a plan that is in case of emergency.

Having:

  • an escape plan, in case of a fire
  • a box of goods, in case of an earthquake
  • a back-up home for your kids to go to, in case you are not home
  • life, house, and medical insurance, in case you have need for financial assistance

all help to provide such confidence, assurance and security.

What about prayer? Is it your in case of emergency plan?

Cheryl Zelenka, in her post, Is Prayer Your Spare Tire, would seem to think that prayer should be our steering wheel, not our spare tire, always on hand in case of emergency.

The following is her post, from her blog, Facing Trials :

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

“For this is God,Our God forever and ever;He will be our guideEven to death.” Psalm 48:14 (NKJV)

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?

So what did Corrie ten Boom mean when she wrote these words?

While you are in prayer, do you take time to listen for instructions? One of the ingredients to prayer is listening to the voice of God. By listening during your prayer time, you will find guidance given by the Holy Spirit. Directions will be sent your way so that you can navigate and steer your spiritual wheel in the way God wants you to go.

Now if prayer is your spare tire, it probably means you pray ONLY when you get a flat and need God’s assistance. Making petitions of God is never a bad idea. He will always listen to sincere prayers of repentance and requests for help. Lovingly, He will direct you out of your trouble.

However, wouldn’t it be better to learn ways to avoid repeated pitfalls or flat tires? This requires a listening heart and an agreement to not only hear His instructions, but to receive them with an intent to carry them out.

Why not decide today to make prayer your steering wheel in life?”

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One of our kids was maxed out! You know, more assignments than time, more bills than money, more work than hours to rest. This child was down, discouraged and dreading the next day to come.

I was left feeling powerless. There was nothing I could do to change the circumstances. There was nothing I could do to tangibly assist with all that was needing to be done, without acting as a rescuer … and we all know that, that does not help long-term. There was nothing I could remember from all of those parenting books. I was feeling powerless, and yet I felt such a desire to lessen the load for this child.

So I did all that I could do.

I prayed.

I prayed that this child would sense God’s presence.

I prayed that this child would put all trust and faith in Him (because we all tend to grab the steering wheel of life at times).

I prayed that this child would find a way in the busyness of life to take a Sabbath rest (don’t we all need that reminder?).

And I prayed more specific things for this child.

And I prayed every day, multiple times a day. It seemed that the more I prayed, the more this child was in my consciousness to remember to pray.

And just a few days later, this child came home telling me stories … stories of answered prayers.

This child did not know that these stories were ones of answered prayer, until I shared that. But, this child did not know the weight of that reality like I did.

You see, I pray for my kids each and every day. Most days, I admit, I do so out of robotic habit. And most days it seems the answer is

“wait”

But, this time I prayed differently, I prayed out of the desperation of a mother’s heart. There was simply nothing I had any earthly power to do to change the circumstances, and so I bowed to the One who I knew was the ONLY one who loved this child more than I do. I humbled myself, and offered my child up to God, in desperation.

God’s answers do not always come this quickly, or this joyfully, but we do need to remember that, on our knees (physically, or mentally) is the best way to parent.

And the prayer offered in faith
will make the sick person well;
the Lord will raise them up.
If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

James 5:15

 

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“And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
James 5:15

This year I have spending my work days primarily in a grade eight classroom, but yesterday I had the opportunity to hang out in a grade six class, for the opening of the day and devotions.

There is a huge developmental leap from grade six to grade eight. The best way to describe this development is metamorphosis. Like a furry caterpillar who goes to sleep in a cocoon, then emerges a winged butterfly, a student enters middle school in grade six a child, and emerges at the end of grade eight an adult in process.

This developmental stage both baffles and fills me with wonder.

But yesterday, it was the opening of the morning, the start of the day with devotions and prayer that made me realize how very understated the beauty of the caterpillar is in our world, who longs for the emergence of the butterfly.

The teacher had a section of the board already filled with prayer requests and praises, from previous days.

When she asked if there were any updates on the prayer requests listed on the board, or new ones, hands went up all over the room. The students eagerly, confidently shared their stories of surgeries, of travel of a dog about to have puppies. There was never eyes darting in fear that their request would be made fun of, never a snicker or a giggle from anyone.

Once their stories were told, the teacher began to pray, then paused …

one by one by one

their early adolescent voices raised, their prayers prayed.

The confidence, the faith, with which they lay their requests at the feet of Jesus was awe-inspiring, wonder-filled.

And my prayer request …

that the ‘awakening’ of emerging from their cocoon in the next few years to come, would not steal their faith.

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