Friday, July 28, 2017

The Lord's Prayer?

            “Our Father in Heaven, (if You really are listening and care at all about what’s happening here on earth),
            hallowed be Your name (even though I carelessly say “Oh my G**" and “G** D*** it” and “J**** C*****” all the time),
            Your kingdom come (just so long as it doesn’t interfere with my kingdom),
            Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (as long as You don’t ask me to do anything that I don’t want to do and You do everything that I ask You to do).
            Give us today our daily bread.  (And to ease my fears that I might not have enough, why don’t You also give me tomorrow’s, next week’s, and next month’s daily bread right now?  Or at least give me more than my neighbor.  It’s not fair that they have so much more than I do.) 
            Forgive me my trespasses,
            which are not nearly as bad as the trespasses of others against me.  (So I don’t think I can really forgive them or that I should have to.  In fact, make sure You bring down on their smug, little heads all the pain that they have caused me.  Make them pay!)
            And lead me not into temptation (for I spend enough time looking for it myself),
            but deliver me from the evil one. (Even though I sometimes invite him into my life with my choices and make all sorts of compromises with him.  And I’m not even really sure if there is an “evil one.”  It’s too mystical-sounding.  So it probably doesn’t even matter how I live my life because I am a Christian and You love me and You wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.)
            For Yours is the kingdom, but let me have the power and the glory for now, and I’ll worry about “forever” when I get there.  Amen

            Something just doesn’t sound right, does it?  But is there any part of this prayer that’s convicting?  Read it again!  Is there any part that honestly fits with how you are living?  Do you really think about the words that you are saying when you pray?  Do you let them deep into your heart?  Do you remember that you are talking to the God of the Universe?  The God who desperately wants a genuine, life-changing relationship with you?  Or have your prayers become repetitive, mindless words that you say so that you can check it off of your To Do list?  Do you live like prayer matters?

                                           - Heather K (Joshua 24:15, Psalm 46:10)  


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My Everday Prayer

            I want to share with you a prayer that I wrote, my personal version of The Lord’s Prayer with verses that mean something to me and reminders that I need.  And then I will explain this prayer after I share it.  I call it My Everyday Prayer.  It’s the one I go to in the morning, especially when I can’t think of where else to start.  (I don’t manage to do it every day, but I try to say it often.  The other “go to” prayer:  The Lord’s Prayer.  I’ll say that when I don’t have any words of my own.)  And then I just continue to talk to God spontaneously the rest of the day.  But I like to say this one first because every line means something to me and is there for a reason.  So here it is, My Everyday Prayer: 

Heavenly, Holy, Gracious Father,

            Thank You for another day.  And for loving me enough to send Jesus to die for me.  May my life be a Thanks Offering for that beautiful, priceless gift.  And I truly, deeply thank You for the wonderful blessings of a good marriage, good children, and our good health.  Life is sweet!  You have been so good to me to grant me these things.  Anything else is just bonus.  Please protect them!  Protect my marriage, my children, and our health.  With these, I am rich beyond belief! 

            Guide me today according to Your Will and for Your glory.  Fill me anew with Your Holy Spirit.  Help me discern Your leading and grant me the strength to obey.  Help me walk in wisdom and gracefulness. 

            Give me eyes to see and ears to hear what You want for me and from me.  And help me to notice and be thankful for the blessings and gifts You have given me.  (*Thank Him now for specific things or after the prayer.)  Help me also to notice how I can be a blessing and a help to others.

            Search my heart and reveal any sins or obstacles between us.  (*Pause and listen now or after the prayer.)  Forgive my sins as I forgive others.  Create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

            Provide all we need for today.  And help me to be content with it, for You have decided that it is enough.  You are enough!  Help me to glorify You with what You provide today, with what You give or take away.

            Pour out on us Your love, grace, and mercy, for we are bankrupt without these.  Protect us from evil and surround us with Your Heavenly angels, for we are desperate for Your care and protection.  We cannot fight this battle without You!

            Help me to follow and not lead - to surf and not ski - as I humble myself under Your mighty hand, trusting that You will lift me up in due time.  And help me have enough faith to never “shorten Your arm,” but help me rest in Your wisdom, power, and timing.

            Take the little that I can do and offer, and multiply it for Your glory and Your purposes.  Make something beautiful and useful out of my shortcomings and weaknesses.  And help me be more like Jesus!

            I once again commit my family and my path to Your gracious, wise care.  May Your Will be done in and through our lives.  And may all we do be for Your glory.  Help me remember to live for eternity, and not for the temporary.

            Guide and protect our country and call us back up to being a nation “under God.”  Have mercy on us and do not give us what we deserve.  But send Your Spirit to start a revival, for we are in desperate need of You!

            Be with my boys as they grow, and with their future wives.  Guide them all to being humble, wise, intelligent, strong, godly adults.  Keep them all safe and pure until marriage.  Help them to find each other at a young age and to commit to godly marriages.  And help them to discover what it is that You want for them and for their lives.  Bless their families.  And I ask that You bless Jason and me with many more healthy, enjoyable years.

            Is there anything right now that I need to commit to Your hands?  (*Pause, listen, and pray it over to God.)  And speak to my heart right now about anything that You want me to know, do, or pray.  (*Pause and listen.)  And I pray all of this in Jesus’ most holy name, Amen       

(And then, I try to spend some time praying for other people and just talking my thoughts, feelings, and fears over with God.  And I do this all throughout the day because I need to talk things over with Him.  I just can’t face the day, the discouragement, or the Enemy on my own.)

So now I’ll tell you why these lines are so important to me. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

If God's Making You Wait, There Is A Reason

            As I reflect back on my spiritual journey so far, I have to say that the most growth seemed to happen during the times of God’s deafening silence, the long waits.  These usually started with me praying about some request.  And then, when the answer wasn’t coming and I couldn’t even feel His presence anymore, I would end up desperate, pleading to just have any sense that He was even there, that He cared and was listening, and that He hadn’t abandoned me.  What started out as a request for something I wanted or “needed” became a search for knowing that God really cared about me.  God’s silence forced me to move from wanting my request to just wanting Him. 

            It’s ironic to me that the greatest levels of spiritual growth come out of the times when I struggle the most with doubts and fears about Him and myself and my faith.  And the greatest growth I experience in my understanding of prayer comes when I feel like I am totally failing at it.  But it takes time.  It takes commitment to walk through the pain and silence and doubt with God, instead of bailing on Him because He is “too slow” or too silent. 

            I think that there are at least five reasons why God remains silent for stretches of time: 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Waiting for Answers to Prayer

            As I grow through the times of unanswered prayers and the longs waits for answers, I’m learning to not let my faith in Him hinge on how He chooses to answer.  I’m learning to let Him be God! 
            In the name of transparency and dependence on Him, I do pray for specifics and I pour out my desires.  I believe that He can do what I am asking . . . if He chooses to.  I have no doubt that He is capable. 
            But in the name of humility, I have to allow Him to answer as He wants.  And sometimes this means waiting a long time for Him to answer or to work things out.  More often than not, God moves a lot slower than I want Him to.  And learning to let things happen “in His time and in His way” has been a really hard lesson to learn.

            So how long should we continue to hang in there and pray for something that doesn’t seem to be happening?  When it seems like God is not listening and it hurts us to have to plead again about a certain request? 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

UPB #9: Summing it all up

Understanding Prayer Better #9:  Summing it all up

            Summing up all that I’ve learned so far in these posts on prayer, I’d have to say that our prayers are most effective…

UPB #7 and 8: Sin/Abiding in God

Understanding Prayer Better #7/8:  Sin/Abiding in Him

            Here’s one for husbands.  1 Peter 3:7:  “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect . . . so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” 
            The degree to which we treat others with consideration and respect, particularly regarding a husband’s treatment of his wife in this verse, is the degree to which our prayers are unhindered.

            And here are three that scare me:
            Proverbs 21:13:  “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”
            James 4:17:  “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” 
            Romans 14:23:  “. . . everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

            Yikes!  The first verse tells me that God does not listen to us if we ignore those in need.  And the second two broaden the definition of sin.  Sin is not just doing things that we know we shouldn’t do; it’s also sin to not do what we know we should do and to do anything that doesn’t come from faith.  And sin hinders prayer. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

UPB #6: God's Not Listening

Understanding Prayer Better #6: God’s Not Listening

            Okay, now this is a lot to think about already.  But there is more.  (And even more than what I am saying here.)  On top of all that I’ve already said, there are many more verses that shed light on why our prayers may not be effective.  We have a much greater responsibility than we realize in making sure that our prayers get heard. 
            For one, maybe part of the reason that our prayers aren’t “working” and that it seems like God isn’t listening is because . . . God isn’t listening! 
            Psalm 66:18:  “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;”

UPB #5: Idolatrous Prayers

Understanding Prayer Better #5:  Idolatrous Prayers

            On a similar note, how many times do our requests and our desires for an answer become idolatrous pursuits, taking our focus from God?  I think sometimes this is why many of us end up in the furnace of refining, long waits.  To purify our hearts, to help us weed out wayward desires and idols, and to help us refocus on what we should be focused on: God! 

            And most of us don’t do this on our own, not when things are going good and we are getting what we want.  Because when things are going our way, we are content to float and to live self-centered, temporally-focused lives.  And we think our relationship with Him must be pretty good for things to be going along so nicely.  And so He allows us to face “the furnace of unanswered prayer” so that we can discover the idolatry, selfishness, pride, self-sufficiency, and sin in our hearts, so that we learn that we need to be pursuing God - not a comfortable, little life - and letting Him fill our hearts and lives with what He wants for us. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

UPB #4: Prayer is not a Blank Check

Understanding Prayer Better #4:  It’s not a blank check

            In order to best understand verses like Mark 11:22-24, it would be wise to do a quick review on other “prayer verses” to see what they add to our understanding.  This will help us see some of the pitfalls in the “name it and claim it” interpretation of the Mark verses and the dangers of isolating verses.   

            1 John 5:14-15:  “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him.”

            James 4:2-3:  “. . . You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

            John 14:13-14:  “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

            Yes, this last one sounds like the Mark 11 passage:  Ask for anything and Jesus will do it.  Wow, that sounds great!  What an awesome power - to be able to get anything we ask for.  But!  I don’t think that’s what Jesus really meant.   

Monday, July 17, 2017

UPB #3: Claiming Answers to Prayer

Understanding Prayer Better #3: Claiming Answers

            Another problem comes when we “claim” answers to prayer that He hasn’t given us.  And I think we need to not be claiming specific answers or blessings as much as “instructions” or “help along the way.”  (We definitely need to ask for what we want and need, with thanksgiving, according to Philippians 4:6-7.  But it says nothing of claiming a particular answer.  We ask.  God answers.) 

            Sometimes, the problem is just that we are focused on the wrong thing.  We are focused on the end when we should be focused on the journey.  We are asking for what we want instead of seeking what He wants for us.  We are waiting for a particular answer instead of accepting the one that God gave. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

UPB #2: It's Faith in God, not Faith in Faith

Understanding Prayer Better #2:  It’s “faith in God,” not “faith in our faith”

            John 15:7:  “. . . ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”

            Mark 11:22-24:  “‘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.’“   

            Verses like the ones above can make prayer sound so neat and tidy, like a blank check or order form.  Until you look deeper and at Scripture as a whole.  Because there is so much more to prayer than “ask for what you want and you’ll get it, if you believe.” 

            First off, I think Mark 11:22-24 is best understood when we bring it all back to what Jesus said at the beginning: “Have faith in God.”  Our problem (at least, my problem) is that oftentimes, we are putting our faith not in God, but in our faith. 

UPB #1: Prayer is not a magic formula

Understanding Prayer Better #1:  It’s not a magic formula!

            When a desperate prayer is not answered the way we want, it can destroy our faith in God.  All of a sudden, we question our faith, our God, how He views us, how we view ourselves, etc.  We feel like our faith was weak, like God didn’t care, and like He let us down.  And many people end up retreating from God in confusion and bitterness. 

            Trust me, I have had disappointing answers to prayer, too.  And these were times I was praying earnestly and with great faith that God could do it.  And yet, He did not.  The adoption never happened.  My young aunt and my mother-in-law still died, even though I was sure that healing them would help unbelieving family members believe in God.  Families still broke apart.  Most people I pray about salvation for still refuse to acknowledge God.  I prayed for years and years about financial strain, only to have years and years of continuing financial strain.  (It has only just recently relaxed a little.  Thank You, God.)  I know how it feels to have many important prayers go “unanswered.” 

            (And of course, when I say “unanswered,” I mean “not answered the way we want.”  God always answers, just not always the way we want Him to.)

            But the problem is not prayer or our God.  The problem is our understanding of prayer and of God.  We will all have disappointing and confusing times.  None of us are immune, no matter how strong our faith is.  So this is not an issue just for the weak or new Christian, but for all of us.  But if we can get a clearer, biblical picture of prayer and of God, it will help our faith survive the disappointing and confusing times.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Prayer Misconception #7: "Prayer is just too hard."

            Misconception Number 7:  Prayer is just too hard.  I don’t know why, but it is! 

            I think that from time to time we all struggle with prayer.  Maybe we grew up with parents who didn’t listen to us or care about what we had to say.  Maybe we felt like burdens when we had to ask for anything.  Maybe we are afraid to say the wrong thing or ask for the wrong thing.   

            We know that the Bible says to ask and that we should pray about everything and that God will only grant the things that He wants to grant, but sometimes we have a hard time just getting the prayer requests out.  For some reason, we don’t feel like we can approach Him or ask for one more thing. 

            And I think that it may help sometimes to sit down and really sort out the reasons behind why we feel like we can’t come to Him or to ask for what we need.  Because, many times, it’s our own feelings and misconceptions that are blocking us from praying prayers that God is more than willing to answer.  (Maybe He won’t answer in the way that we would like Him to, but He always answers in the way that is best for us and His purposes.) 

Prayer Misconception #6: "God will get His message through to me even if I don't pray."

            Misconception Number 6:  But if God wants to get a message through to me, He’ll do it.  I don’t really have to put so much effort into praying and listening, do I? 

            While we may not hear His voice with our physical ears or see His presence go by as they did in the Bible times, God is still active in this world.  He is always speaking.  But . . . we only hear Him if we listen.  Matthew 11:15:  “He who has ears, let him hear.”

            Actually, I should say, more accurately, we only listen if we want to.  I think that many of us do hear Him, but we ignore it.  I do not think that He forces us to listen to His voice, but His message only gets through to those who tune their ears to listen.  (God waited for Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah to show their willingness to listen before He spoke to them.  He caught their attention, they tuned in to Him, and then He spoke.)  I want to look a little deeper into a passage that taught me about learning to listen for God’s voice and the process that we oftentimes have to go through to get there.  I wrote this when a friend was going through a hard time, to encourage her through the trial.  So there may be some parts that sound a little out-of-place.  But just go with it. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Prayer Misconception #5: "Prayer is just talking, right?"

            Misconception Number 5:  Isn’t prayer just talking to God, as we were taught when we were young? 

            No.  Another important part of prayer is listening.  This, I believe, is a severely neglected skill - learning to hear the voice of God and the nudges of the Holy Spirit.  And this depends on our desire to hear, on whether or not we obey the nudges that we do get, and if we remain in Him and let His words remain in us.  This leads to powerful prayers. 

            And prayer is also about opening up our full lives and hearts to Him and to the Holy Spirit.  And this can only happen by honesty and transparency with ourselves and God.  If we close off any part of our hearts or lives from Him, we limit the influence and effect and healing that He can have in our lives.  We limit also our effectiveness.  Humility demands transparency.  Anything less is trying to pull the wool over God’s eyes.  And I think that if we are living this way, He may be forced to withdraw His presence from us until we see and admit the true conditions of our hearts and lives.  And prayer also, as I said, is about getting God’s Will done.

            So how do we “hear” God?  How does He speak to us?  There are a few ways that I know of, and there may be more.  But let me list some of the ways that I have experienced God’s messages:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Prayer Misconception #4: "Prayer is just 'name it and claim it'... right!?!"

            Misconception Number 4:  Prayer is sort of a name-it-and-claim-it thing, right?  Ask for what we want and get it? 

            I’ll admit, the “name it and claim it” mentality is very attractive.  And it sounds pretty Scriptural if you focus only on the verses that say, “Ask what you want and you’ll get it.”  But you have to take Scripture as a whole.  And when you do this, it becomes a much deeper, more complicated issue than just “ask and you get it.”  And it also becomes less about getting what we want - and more about getting what God wants. 

            I’ve noticed that a popular teaching out there is that because we are the children of the King, we should be living in royal abundance.  Yes, this is an attractive idea to us because we all want things: more things, better things, impressive things.  We don’t like to do without, to be in need, or to settle for less. 

            But this kind of teaching is off-base biblically, waaaayyyy off-base.  Because when you look at Scripture, you see that the purpose for everything is God’s glory, not our comfort or pleasure.  Even the Son’s purpose is to bring glory to the Father.       

            John 14:13:  “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Prayer Misconception #3: "God always does whatever He wants so prayer doesn't make a difference."

            Misconception Number 3:  God will just do what He’s going to do, right?  Prayer doesn’t really have an effect if God is all-powerful and does what’s best in every situation.  So then our prayers must just be formalities, for our own benefit, or just for showing our dependence on Him, right?   

            Yes, prayer is a way to acknowledge our dependence on God and to draw close to Him.  But it is so much more powerful and critical than that.  It gets God’s Will done on earth.  And there are times when God’s Will doesn’t get done without it.  This is just the way that He has ordered the earth to work.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Prayer Misconception #2: "God already knows it all so I don't have to say it"

            Misconception Number 2:  God already knows all that we are going to say, so what is the point of saying it? 

            I think that a lot of us tend to look at prayer as just a mental exercise that we are supposed to go through because . . . well . . . because that’s what Christians do.  So we do it!  But somewhere deep down, it feels like a waste of time.  It feels like an unnecessary task because God already knows what we are thinking. 

            Deep down, we think things like, “Well, God knows what we need” … or “He knows I’m sorry” … or “He knows what I am going through and how to best handle it” … “so then why do I have to say it?  What’s the point?” 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Prayer Misconception #1: "It has to be just right"

            Misconception Number 1:  Prayer has to be “just right” or God won’t like it.  And that makes me freeze up because I don’t know what to say. 
            I have to say honestly that I used to believe this.  It wasn’t so much a spelled-out, conscious thought.  But it was always there in the back of mind, causing me to edit my prayers or to try to word them in pleasing, faithful-sounding ways. 
            I felt like there were so many things that Christians were supposed to be - faithful, joyful, trusting, not envious, not complaining, not doubtful, etc. - that I couldn’t just be honest about what I was feeling and thinking. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Prayer Misconceptions: Intro

            I think that many of us in America nowadays do not see the immense value of prayer.  And so we do not engage in it like we should.  And this might be because of misconceptions we have about what it is and what it isn’t.  (Or it could be because we are preoccupied with self and being self-sufficient.)   
            In the next several posts, I want to look at some of the misconceptions that many of us have about prayer.  The things that prevent us from praying like we should.  And many of these come from my own experience.