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Remembering to Stop

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She barely braked as she sped through the stop sign.

I could smell the cigarette smoke wafting out of her slightly opened window as she zoomed down the road.

I was immediately offended as I huffed under my breath, “Way to slow down for a pedestrian, lady!”

It shocked me because most members of our small community would have stopped at the stop sign, waved me across the intersection, and then proceeded on their way.

Her disregard left me insulted.

It didn’t take many steps down the sidewalk, however to feel a conviction in my soul. How many times do I ignore others in my path on a daily basis?

I’m too busy with my to-do list to notice their need for help. I’m too consumed with my own problems and trials that I forget that others are struggling nearby.

So I stopped and prayed for her.

Prayer is probably one of my weakest spiritual disciplines.

I’m not sure why, but I can consistently read and study God’s word and forget to ever talk to Him about it.

I can offer a listening ear and counsel to a friend, but disregard the opportunity to pray with her.

I rattle off gospel facts and theological truths to my children, but often hurry back to my household duties without approaching the throne of grace with them.

This video caused me to pause.

Prayer is a beautiful thing. It is a gift earned through Jesus’ death and resurrection for me. Even as a broken, prideful human being, I can approach my Father freely. How can I take it so flippantly?

I spiritually speed through the stop sign of prayer moving on to the “more important” things of my day. I ask the Lord to forgive me for my disregard for communing with Him and am overwhelmed that unlike my offense at the speeding driver, He offers mercy after my wayward heart once again fails Him.

At the start of a new year, I know that this area of prayer needs my attention. My desire for 2018 is to echo the words of David in Psalm 63….

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.

Amen.

Praying Together {a review}

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I don’t recall the first time I prayed.

Since I was born to two believers who pray often, I’m sure it was around the age when my language started developing in other ways. I can remember taking time to pray as a family each Sunday morning over homemade cinnamon rolls. In high school, I joined a group of students each morning before the 1st period bell to pray for our teachers and classes. In college, I attended a prayer meeting each Tuesday night focused on the needs of missionaries around the globe. As a pastor’s wife, I continue to pray regularly with my church family.

I guess I could say that prayer has become second-nature to me. I easily volunteer to pray out loud in social situations. My husband and I share times of prayer with both each other and our children. It has become natural thing to take my concerns and praises before the throne of God.

Praying Together{a review}In my comfort, though, I have lost my awe of the privilege and calling of prayer. That’s why I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to have recently read, Praying Together, by Megan Hill. She beautifully reminds us of the foundation of praying together, the fruit of corporate prayer, and the practical outworking of the first two in our churches and homes.

She begins by emphasizing the fact that prayer is all about relationship. Many of us have heard teaching and preaching on the need to go beyond lists of requests and complaints in our prayer times remembering that we are participating in a two-way conversation with our Heavenly Father. I was especially struck, however, with Megan’s point that we are never alone in our praying because we are interacting with the entire Godhead – the Trinity. This removes the pressure of praying perfectly because “the one-in-three in whom we trust lovingly takes all our prayers, cleanses them of sin, and reorients them to match his holy will.” What a reassuring point!

Many look at the modern Church and see strife and discord among her members. Could it be that many of our local congregations have forgotten the importance of joining together with a common Savior and an common cause? We have forgotten the rewards of praying together. Megan spends time discussing the sweet unity and deep bond that develops when people from different backgrounds take time to approach the throne of grace with one another. The result can only be a unified relationship which allows us to truly share in both the joys and burdens of our brothers in Christ.

The final third of Praying Together focuses on the how-to of corporate prayer. What does prayer look like in our church services, with our best friend, or with our dinner guests? I especially loved the section on praying with your children. According to the book, “As Christian parents, our first responsibility to our children is to pray in front of them and on their behalf“. It is from our prayers as a family that our children learn both how to pray and key theological truths that will deepen their knowledge of God. When praying, both the parent and the child approach the God of the universe on equal footing (through the blood of Jesus) and with the same neediness.

This book is packed with both theological truth and practical points for all believers. It could be used for a small group study using the discussion/reflection questions at the end of the book. She reminds all of us (whether we’ve been praying for 3 days or 30 years) that praying together is a treasure worth cherishing. Personally, it filled my heart with a renewed passion to value this privilege and use it often with my brothers and sisters.

Purchase your own copy at Crossway or Amazon.

**I received a free digital copy of this book from Crossway for review. 

 

 

Spiritual Sticky Notes

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When I was in Jr. High my Sunday School teacher helped us make little prayer journals to use in our quiet time with God. It had sections for new requests, ongoing requests, and then one for answered prayer.

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I didn’t think about it much at the time (I was a 13 year old girl after all), but that “answered prayer” section and what it represents could be vital to my relationship with the Lord.

Why? Because I’m ridiculously forgetful. I’m not just talking about the “Where are my keys?” and “Why did I walk into this room?” kind of forgetfulness. This is a mindset that plagues my walk with Christ by feeding insecurities and doubts of His faithfulness.
I’ve had conversation after conversation with my much wiser husband about my frustrations with answered prayer. I complain that my prayers feel like they’re hitting the so-called ceiling. These are the kind of talks that you wouldn’t expect to hear from your pastor’s wife.

“God just NEVER clearly answers me.”
“I just wish God would write His plans in the sky for me to follow!” 
“I feel like God is so far away!”

Those ideas can spin out of control quickly leading to some pretty depressing and self-focused thoughts. That’s why it’s so important to document even the smallest answers from my Father.

One day, I was in the middle of cooking dinner when I decided to thank God for a small leading in my life and to ask for His continued blessing in a couple specific areas. It was a prayer lasting maybe two minutes before my thoughts went back to the food before me.
Later in the evening, I hopped on Twitter and found a direct message from an old blogging friend confirming EXACTLY what I had asked God for at EXACTLY the time I was praying in the kitchen! I couldn’t believe it!

My smallest and most insignificant requests are heard and answered specifically by a sovereign God!

I love what Colossians 4:2 says,
 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Paul reminds us to be watchful for God’s smallest answers with a spirit of thankfulness. I know I can’t be completely alone in my spiritual forgetfulness. Why else would we find verses like I Corinthians 15:1?
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand…….

stickynotesquote

It’s critical to leave ourselves spiritual sticky notes as a reminder of the deep riches we have in Christ and the answers our Heavenly Father readily gives to our prayers. Without them we will forget the goodness of our God and step quickly into a realm of amnesia-induced distrust. 

Do you keep a journal, blog, or other source to keep track of even the smallest answers to prayer? I’m attempting to be more consistent in “remembering” the small things and I’d love to hear your experiences with praying and receiving answers! Share in the comments section below!

When my prayers aren’t answered…

I may be the last Christian in the country who hasn’t seen the War Room movie. It’s certainly not because I wouldn’t want to see it, but three kids and a movie theatre an hour away made it a little difficult for a movie date. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to rent it on DVD.

I’m glad for films like this that remind Christians of the power in prayer. Our access to God through Jesus is one of the distinguishing characteristics of our faith when compared to the other religions of the world.

But many of us are left wondering what happens if our prayers aren’t answered as clearly as movies like this portray. What if the requests of our life aren’t left wrapped in a pretty bow after we pray about them?

What happens when….

Your marriage is not only still broken but seems to be on the fast track to divorce.

Your cancer seems to be growing rather than shrinking.

Those relationship issues still aren’t solved and it seems like they may never be in this lifetime.

Your spouse seems to have no interest in coming to church with you, let alone embracing the gospel.

What then?

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To better understand the purpose of prayer, I think it may help us to look at a the most famous prayer of all – the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6. You may be familiar with these verses already, but I hope you’ll stick with me! Jesus says,

 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

 1. Prayer isn’t primarily about us. 
Notice the beginning and end of Jesus’ prayer. Hallowed be Your name reminds us of the holiness of our Heavenly Father and how His name prompts our reverence. He also refers to power and glory that belong to our King. The bookends of this prayer focus on the greatness of our God.

 

2. Prayer recognizes God’s sovereignty.
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We will never know the mind of God. Scripture reminds us that His ways and thoughts are far above our own plans and supposed wisdom. The trials, joys, and questions of life come to us only after being sifted through the fingers of an all-knowing, purposeful God.

 

3. Prayer trusts God for today.
When Jesus prays about our daily bread, it reminds us of the manna God provided for the children of Israel in the Old Testament. They were not to store up this special bread, but instead take just enough for that day’s needs. They woke up each day with the faith in Yahweh that He would provide. In the same way, God will often supply our needs both physically and emotionally on a seemingly short term basis. This forces us to rely on our Father in a more urgent, needy way and cultivates a dependent relationship where He can amaze us with His provision.

 

4. Prayer is fueled by the gospel. 
Forgiveness of debts – freedom from sin’s bondage -Sound familiar? We should constantly be rehearsing the truths of the gospel in our prayers. Until our own hearts are overwhelmed with God’s forgiveness, how can we ever expect to offer it to our debtors. Until we realize our deadness before Christ, how will we ever seek purity over that tempting sin? Our prayers are a chance to preach the good news to our own hearts.

 

I believe that prayer is more than rattling off a list of requests. The gospel gives us a supernatural desire to approach God without expecting anything in return. Gospel-fueled prayer enables us to be content with both the yes and no “answers” taking joy in the fact that we have just spent more time in His holy presence because of Christ’s accomplishment on our behalf.
We can trust our prayers to a sovereign Father who has proven His love to us in the greatest way imaginable already. Christ is the ultimate answer to any prayer.