Tag Archive | prayer

Refrigerator Prayers

sorrow bwI have friends who are preparing for ministry overseas, and recently they distributed prayer cards. If you’ve been in the evangelical world for any length of time, you know what I’m talking about–those cards that look like photo Christmas cards with a photo of the family and then the family’s specific prayer needs. I put them on my fridge so I’ll remember them.

Because this family is in preparation mode with another year or two here in the States, the card was filled with prayers that might apply to anyone. Prayers for family unity, marital unity, spiritual growth, financial needs to be met, and transitions to go well. Now, lest I sound like I’m putting down these prayer cards or the specific prayers, I’m not. However, as I read the card, I wondered what it might be like to have a prayer card for everyone in my church.

The idea behind the refrigerator card (my term, by the way) is that a family that’s out of sight is out of mind, and we need to see them to remember to pray for them. Makes sense. But a lot of my church family I see on Sunday and no other times. I have to admit I fall into the out of sight, out of mind mentality a lot. Sure, my body rallies around one another in times of need, but sometimes, in times of regular life, we’re absent from each other’s lives. I don’t like it, but that’s the culture we live in.

I wish I was better at regular, organized prayer. I get that Satan hates us praying, and it is one of the most intense battlefields out there, but I am a child of the King, and I should be able to overcome. Too often, though, I get lazy and don’t include regular prayer in my life.

But what if I did? And what if I had a prayer card in front of me for every family in my church? What if I knew my church family had a prayer card for me? What if once a year I could let someone know what struggles are forefront in my life, and I could know that maybe once a week or once a month or even just once a year everyone in my body would lift those prayers to God on my behalf?

My friends’ prayer card is on my fridge. I need to find a better place for it, a place devoted to prayer, a place devoted to God. I need to arm myself and fight for my Bible reading and prayer life. My friends will soon head into a new world with new difficulties, and they need to count on my prayers to get them through. Right now, I’m not reliable.

And in lieu of a booklet of prayer cards for the rest of my church family (Wouldn’t that be awesome?), I need to find a way to keep each of them in prayer. Not just during the times of struggle, but during the mundane times. Why do I limit my prayers to big items and not pray for my friends’ children’s salvation, their marriages, their personal walks with God? And how can I remind myself and push myself and be the prayer warrior my church family–and my biological family needs?

We just had a wedding at our house, and in a few weeks my oldest will be purchasing a house, so two of my crew will be leaving. Only three of us will be left here. My life is going to slow down. I will have even fewer excuses than before for the lazy state of my life with God. As we transition, I hope and pray that I will put new safeguards into place and once again reorganize my life around my main priority, the God who loves and rescued me. The armor has slipped, and it’s time to cinch it up, get serious, and head back into battle. I’m not sure what that looks like since I fail more than I get it right, but I have to try again. Every failure must be followed with another try. I’m so glad God covers us with grace so we can always, always, always start again.

Battle, notecards, prayers for drought and rain

notecard blogI’ve mentioned that I’m learning about prayer this year, both personal prayer as well as intercessory prayer (praying for others) during weekly communion at my church.  During the week I find myself praying again for those I pray with on Sundays, and I decided I want to acknowledge that connection.

I’m not the kind of person who picks up the phone and calls people. In fact, at the moment we have no phone in our house, either landline or mobile. So calling is out. Emailing is a possibility, but I had this idea that I wanted to do this old school. I wanted to write a quick note to people God brought to my mind during the week. The kind of note that requires an ink pen and a stamp.

So, I went online and started to look for note cards, specifically note cards good for writing about prayer. I found a few. Some were expensive, although most of those were gorgeous works of art. Some were average. Some had images and some words. But nothing jumped out as the perfect prayer card. Sure, a simple piece of paper would do, but there is so much more going on here, and I want even the card to symbolize what happens when brothers and sisters pray for one another.

Okay, if you’ve read enough of my blogs or know me personally, you might have figured out I never, ever, ever do things the easy way. I had this amazing idea while searching–I would make my own cards! There are online printers who could print them inexpensively, and then my cards could perfectly express my feelings about what a prayer card should be.

If you’re laughing, that’s okay. I’m some odd mix of perfectionist/control freak/crafting freak/crazy person. And this card idea got all those different parts of my personality drooling. A new project.

First, I wanted a Bible verse, because I believe there is power in the Word of God. Turns out there are a lot of Bible verses about prayer. A whole lot. Tons. Somehow, I found myself in James five. The old classic is there, about the prayer of a righteous man availing much. However, that entire section of James is about prayer. It’s about Elijah praying for drought because Ahab was worshiping false gods. Then three years later he prayed for the rain to return, and after a big brouhaha between Elijah and the Baal worshipers that included fire from heaven, God sent rain.

James recounts this in simple terms, his point being that a normal guy can pray and expect big things to happen. Some of that passage is very commonly quoted. But one verse, one simple little verse, hit somewhere in my gut, and I knew that was what I wanted to express on my cards. The truth of this verse was the truth I’d been looking for, the one I want to share with anyone I pray with.

James 5:18 says “And he (Elijah) prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”

It’s about the meeting of heaven and earth, of the otherwordly and the wordly, of physical need and higher need. The phrase “heaven gave rain” might simply mean the sky, but I suspect it means more, because rain has a lot more meaning in scripture, too. Rain has to do with life, with growth. And usually mention of rain is tied to the fact that we can’t control it. Rain and drought are in God’s hands, so rain is a gift from above.

So, Elijah, a man like us, first prayed for drought against the wicked. We still pray for that–for justice, for fairness, for evil to be curbed. We pray against false gods, false philosophies, leaders who lead their people astray. We pray that the kingdom will expand, because that will require the old, sinful world to contract.

But then we turn around and pray for restoration, for a return to the garden where we began. In that garden we knew perfect health. We experienced unbroken relationships with people, and we walked closely with God. We labored with success. I realized this week just how many of our prayers are for restoration–health, family, relationships, jobs, physical needs, rest, salvation for loved ones… Almost every prayer takes us to the garden. It takes us to our need for rain from heaven and fruit from the earth.

Prayer note idea 2Second, I wanted something pretty. The person who opens this card needs to feel special. He or she needs to know I  am taking him/her to God’s throne. My prayer friends need to know how much I value and treasure the opportunity to do that. They need to know they are worthy of God’s blessings of beauty and comfort, whatever situation they find themselves in.

I’m leaning toward images of flowers, maybe because it’s spring, and I’m already thinking flowers and growth and warmth and life. I  want to send not only words of hope and restoration, but images of it, too. Beauty is part of the kingdom. So why not tuck a little beauty into my envelopes?

I need to pray for people all week long. I plan to listen closely and see if he wants me to pray spontaneously for those he’s put in my life, maybe those whose needs I don’t even know. Regardless, I’m soon to be armed with my little cards. Then, of course, I have to use them. Spiritual battle is real, and even my silly little cards will bring it on. But that’s okay. Elijah was an ordinary man, and he fought evil with prayers on a mountain and saw fire from heaven and then rain. I plan to battle with short Sunday prayers and note cards, and I hope to see a few fires and some rain myself.

 

 

 

Not Quite a Warrior

sorrow bwRecently I felt a call to join our church’s prayer team. What this means is that during communion, I am available to pray with people who wish to pray with someone.

This sounds simple. However, if you’ve ever read any of my blog posts before, or if you know me personally, you know it’s not that simple. Praying out loud with people isn’t exactly a skill that comes naturally to me.

I’ve waffled about this ministry. Do I truly feel a call to this? I don’t pray that well in my own life. I’m reading and learning and soaking in what I can about prayer, but I still don’t make the time to do it like I should. I admitted to someone recently that I fear praying for some things because if I don’t ask, God can’t say no, and I feel like I hear more nos than yeses in answer to my prayers. I’d love to be a prayer warrior. However, I’m not there yet. Not even close.

And yet, I still feel this niggling call to do this. Go figure.

For the first few weeks I planned to listen more than speak. You know, learn the ropes. Hear how it’s done. Hide out because I was afraid to do it myself, if you want the truth. And you probably want the truth. How silly this would be if I just wrote lies to you all the time. Regardless of the logic, the plan was to listen and not speak for a while.

But someone had a prayer need, and I understood it. I related so much I wanted to jump up and down and say “Me Too, Me Too.” I didn’t do this, but I did pray. Out loud.

Funny thing, this praying out loud in the back of the church during communion. First, I have no idea what I said. Knowing my great skills at small talk (NOT!), my total inability to speak on the fly, I suspect the words weren’t elegant. Or clear. In fact, I might have spouted complete nonsense. The person with whom I prayed might have returned to her seat scratching her head and wondering if nonsense prayers count.

I, however, had an epiphany that day, because I suddenly realized yes, nonsense prayers do count. In my head, I knew exactly what I was talking about. The words might not have reflected this, but the thought was there. The idea was sound. In my head, I was speaking with complete cohesion, and He knew what I was saying.

In other words, praying with people isn’t that much different than praying alone. It’s still about God and me. When I draw close to God with others at my side, they get drawn, too, even if I say the wrong words. It’s the heart that matters. The thoughts in my head. The beliefs in my soul. When I take someone’s hand and lead them to God with me, I can’t fail. Not really.

I dislike blog posts about the wrong things to say to people. The idea that if I don’t carefully count each word, I will destroy people who are hurting, people who are single, people who have lost someone, people who are different than me. The idea is that I must always get the words right. Yes, words are powerful. Yes, I should wield them carefully. But I get them wrong enough to know that it’s not simply words that matter. If that was true, nobody would ever speak to me, because I bungle words. It’s the meaning behind them. When I lost a baby, sometimes people said the wrong words, but not one of them ever, in any way, meant to hurt me. Never. We just have limited words to express big, deep thoughts, and sometimes the words don’t cut it. I can choose to hear the words and get offended, or I can choose to hear the heart that speaks them. I tend to choose the heart, mostly because I want the favor returned.

I hope people who pray with me understand that. I might say exactly the wrong thing from my mouth, but my heart and head aren’t failing. I promise. God hears the words of my heart. My spirit and His Spirit are communing. Let me take your hand and lead you there, even if the words get in the way. And if I have no words and simply take you with me to his throne in silence when you don’t have the strength to get there yourself, God hears both our hearts. He hears our desires. He delights in us coming together to meet with him, and he will always take time out to visit with us.

Today, don’t get caught up in someone’s words. Words are silly. (Says the writer!!) They’re limited. They don’t always reflect reality. Get caught up in someone’s heart, in their intentions. Pray with someone, even if it’s rough. Love someone different, even if you don’t completely understand. The Spirit can let us understand one another and help one another if we come with love and bear with each other’s weaknesses. For me, the spoken word is my biggest weakness.

But the love in my heart, placed there by God, is my biggest strength. Probably yours, too. Be bold. Let it out. Sometimes it clashes with the weaknesses, but that’s when we have to have patience with one another and know that we are family, in this together, wanting the best for each other. Regardless of the words that might slip out. And know I will always extend the same grace to you. I get it. I really do.

Safety Quest

MountainsI’ve been trying new spiritual disciplines during lent, and one is silent prayer. As a writer who deals in words all the time, I have been looking for a way to silence what goes on in my head so I can listen to the Spirit. Honestly, I don’t know what to put in my head when I’m not putting together words. Of course, reading and contemplating Scripture is always a way to hear God, and usually I begin in silence and end up in Scripture. But sometimes I find myself using images to help me focus on God and not the noise in my head.

I read a book where a woman equated the human soul to dirt–I am soil waiting for God to plant seeds to grow. I like to garden, so this image stuck with me. Sometimes, when I need to still my noise in prayer, I find myself imagining a plot of dirt. Imagine lying in the lawn looking up–that’s my perspective. Trees are around me. Grass is barely in my line of vision. The sun moves overhead. Rain comes and goes. The only sound is distant running water and the occasional bird. It’s a peaceful image.

I love the book of Genesis. I suspect I spend as much time imagining the world of Genesis as anything else in the Bible. The world was new. What was life like before the flood? What was the garden of Eden like? I would love to glance back and see it.

Now, this is where my visualizing sounds crazy. I promise I’m not channeling past lives or heading into strange New Age waters here. I simply love the idea of visiting the world of Noah or the world of Adam. When the world was huge and the population of people was small. When all of history was ahead. I know sin was there just like it is now, so my image is flawed. But in my head, when I find myself in a pasture somewhere, it’s there in the past. I’m waiting for seeds to grow, alone at the dawn of time, and it feels safe.

And that’s the magic word. Every time I imagine this, I think about safety. I know that Adam’s world lasted. He died a natural death. I have this strange fear of the end of the world. I imagine chaos and evil and destruction. I look at Revelation and shudder. It doesn’t look like a fun time to be alive, and yet it feels more likely every day that I might see that. Sin seems to be winning a lot of battles, and God won’t allow that forever.

So I head back to Adam, when the world was new, when it was possible to wander so far that one could be the first human to see a thing. A world filled with the sounds of birds and animals and wind and water and not man. And I realize the reason I keep going back there, flawed as the image might be, is because I have some trust issues. I want to feel safe. I don’t want to watch the world burn.

There was no safe period of history. I know that. Safety comes from God. That field of silence, rain, safety–that’s Him, not some place in this world, some place in history. I have come back to the 23rd Psalm a hundred times this year, and I realize that is Him, too. God will allow me to feel that safety here, in the midst of the burning, if I will be his lamb and let Him soothe me.

I continue to pray with both words and silence. I continue to wander that garden, that safe plot of soil, to feel the gentle rain, hear the cool waters, nibble in the green pastures. I am learning to trust its reality, to follow the Spirit when he calls me to his peaceful, restful places. Sure, I would still rather not watch the world fall, but I know my place is safe. I can also invite others to that safe place. He has enough green pastures to go around.

Fear doesn’t die easily. Safety isn’t bad–God calls himself a refuge, a rock, a shepherd, a father, all images of safety. I am learning to go to him for safety when fear strikes. I hope you, too, find ways to remind yourself that nothing here in this world has the last word. It will burn, but the pasture with still waters, the rock, the fortress–those are ours, and they will last forever.

 

 

Worksheets and Discipline

sunset rays MGD©Prayer. Worship. Hospitality. Meditation.

Spiritual disciplines. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about spiritual disciplines. Then, in a completely not surprising move, a woman at church offered a short group study on spiritual disciplines. Really, the Spirit has tossed all subtlety out the window lately when it comes to speaking with me. Like I’m three and he has to speak in short, simple sentences with big gestures. And if you think I’m complaining, let me assure you I am not. I love it. I’m not proud, and I’d rather be a three year-old who hears than a sophisticated adult living clueless.

Anyway, the spiritual discipline study started with a worksheet to try to discover where my heart is right now, where I want to meet God, what the Spirit might be saying to me. I love worksheets. I sat down with it and realized right away that at the moment I’m living in a bit of a spiritual fervor. I want to try ALL of them. Now. Today. Cancel all my prior engagements, like making dinner and cleaning the bathroom and preparing for teaching tomorrow, so I can delve into God’s Word, into his heart, learn about my heart, hear from him, bask in him…

This is a change. This is a huge change. I know it’s huge enough that it can’t last, not the way it is now. Life isn’t a constant spiritual high. But right now, suddenly feeling God in ways I never have before, suddenly able to ignore the voices in my head that try to convince me I’m not good enough, not really his daughter, I feel so free to get close to God. It doesn’t feel like a burden. It doesn’t feel like I’m giving up anything to spend time with Him. The Spirit, who has been peripheral in my life at best and ignored for the most part–I want to know him. I want to listen to Him. I want more of Him.

And he seems pretty happy about that. I’m seeing connections in my Bible reading. I’m also connecting with a few people with my writing and in friendships, so it’s both inward and outward. It’s exciting.

However, I can’t do it all right away. For now, I have to make some choices. Because I have spent a lot of years lying to myself about who I am and whether God loves that person, I’m leaning toward spiritual disciplines like prayer, silence, meditation. I want to know what Paul hoped for me, that I would see the depth and height of Jesus’ love for me. I think that’s my starting point. Once I’ve got some background there, once that is settled in my head with Scripture backing and prayer time, then I’ll be ready for other things. More outward things.

Because, and I’ve said this before, I fear turning so far inward that I’m useless to God. I’m human. I am more than happy to be the center of my own universe. For now, I need to settle in God’s arms a little bit and learn from him. I need to find a place where I am hearing the Spirit on a regular basis, well beyond the spiritual high of this moment. And then it’s time to add things that reach those around me. Hospitality. Mentoring. Conversations with people about God’s love and his son. All those can happen because I am safe here in God’s love.

Baby steps. For now, I’ve got my spiritual discipline worksheet in hand, and I’m looking for ways God might engage with me to show me his heart and his love. Whatever he has planned for me, I’m pretty sure knowing his love will be the foundation, and I’m excited to sink further and further into it. Come, Spirit, come.

Prayer for the Wandering Child

This is a treasure I bring to you, asking you to love and cherish it more than even I do.Before my child took a breath, I prayed for you to love him. As he grew, safe beneath my ribs, I called on you for his future, his life, his soul. When he was too little to care I read to him of your love, prayed over his crib, brought him to your throne time and again.

As he grew, I did my best. His education included your name in every subject. He spent time in church. He understands theology and doctrine. He had friends who cared for you as well as those who didn’t, so he could see the world for what it was. In some ways, he was sheltered. In others, he was free to make his own way. He attended youth group, which some days I regret to the depths of my core, and some days I remember with fondness.

And yet, he wanders. My prayer is for him to settle in your bosom, to love you first and foremost. I don’t care if he succeeds in the world. I don’t care if he buys a house or owns a nice car or lives in the suburbs. I’ve only ever had one goal for him, and yet it’s the one goal he hasn’t settled on, not with any passion.

This is where my theology falls by the wayside. This is where I don’t pray as I’ve been taught to pray. I don’t have the faith of a mustard seed. I bargain: If you’ll just draw him to you, I’ll do anything… As though I have some kind of leverage. I scour your Word for a guarantee, a three-step program that will ensure that everyone I love will walk with you when the final curtains are drawn.  I’m looking for a spell, truth be told.  A few magic words, an eye of newt, and clicking my heels three times, and I won’t have to wait on you. I plot, imagining ways to lure him to worship, lure him toward truths, make this happen, as though changing the state of a soul is within my power. Patience is difficult, moments of exquisite pain where I don’t display any fruit. In this matter, I am fear. I am doubt. Was I a bad parent? Where did I go wrong? Should I pray more? Do more? I tremble as I wait for your final word on the matter.

Because this is one where an answer of no isn’t acceptable. My stomach heaves to imagine it.  My head spins, and the world grows dim. This means everything. This is a treasure I bring to you, asking you to heal it, love it, enfold it in your palm and cherish it more than even I do. And in the face of that, I lose all sense, all doctrine, all discipline, all dignity. Faith goes quiet. Hope flickers. Darkness curls from the depths and my heart stutters.

In that darkness Satan sings songs of victory. Remember the sons of David, he chortles. Or the sons of Eli. Men of God who saw their children wander off the edges entirely, no last-minute saves. This could be you.

I have no answers. I have tears. I cast my cares and fears on the one who cares for me. God says if I love him I will love his son.  I hope the flip will prove to be true, that He will love the sons and daughters because He loves the parent.  Perhaps I will learn patience after all.  Perhaps today is the day the angels will rejoice over the lamb restored.  Perhaps the coin will appear through the cracks of the house, and the neighbors will hear the victory cry.

Mothers brought their children to Jesus, and he said to let it happen, that he wanted to bless them.  The leper said If you are willing, cleanse me. I ask the same words, hoping your answer then will be your answer now, even though I ask by proxy. I am willing. Say them to my child, Jesus. I am willing.

I am not alone, Lord.  For all of us waiting, for all of us craving the victory cry over lost lambs and missing coins, whether they be children or spouses or parents or friends, I ask from my knees, please be willing.  And come quickly, but not before you heal the souls of those we love, our treasures in jars of clay we wish to see shine forever in your presence.

Break their hearts. Pierce their darkness. Guide their steps. Bring them home.

Amen

Next steps (The Date: part three)

dreamstimefree_662199I headed to day two of a conference about the Holy Spirit (check out day one here), less worried than the night before but still a little anxious, because that’s what I do.  I sat with people I knew this time, and I listened and waited while someone explained words of wisdom and healing prayers. Sometimes he gives us specific messages that will build up those around us. Sometimes he wants to use our prayers to heal others of their afflictions.

A woman from my church approached me that morning and suggested God had spoken to her about me, and she thought God wanted to heal me of my physical trouble here at the conference, my diabetes.  Strangely, although I would have loved that, I didn’t think it was the case.  But again, I know the mean girl in my head says I’m not worth much, that something huge like healing a decade-old chronic illness was more than God would do for me, and I’m trying to shut up that girl, so I pursued my friend’s words and asked her to pray for me.

Within five seconds of the prayer, I knew I was right, and this wasn’t about diabetes.  And I knew she’d heard from God about me, even though she had a couple details wrong.  As she prayed, she mentioned the belief that God was about to use me for something, to grow me up and send me out, and she prayed that things in my way–like a chronic illness–would be removed, that stumbling blocks and hindrances would be removed.

But I know me.  Diabetes is a pain, but it isn’t what stops me from doing what God wants.  If anything, it adds something to my life by humbling me and causing me to think through my priorities.  Doubt slows me down.  Fear slows me down.  Lack of trust, too.  They were what I wanted healed when I’d walked through the doors on Friday night, and now a woman of God was praying for them to go, even though she didn’t quite know that.

After my friend prayed with me, she took me to the front and asked another couple people to pray with me, and I admit I was afraid.  One of the men who was about to pray with me kind of scared me to death.  He is a wise man of God who seems more in tune with the Spirit than most people.  I had been afraid of him ever since I’d met him, because I was sure he’d look at me and say What are you doing here?  You don’t belong here.  You’re a pretender, a false Christian playing at being a daughter.  Go away.

But I approached him.  He put his hand on me.  And one of the first things he said was The Holy Spirit is all over you.

Bingo.  I could have gone home at that moment, because I’d gotten what I’d come for. I needed to hear that.  I feel a little bit ashamed that I didn’t trust those words from the Bible, that I had to hear them from somewhere else before I truly bought into them, but I guess that’s why God puts us in community, to encourage each other to believe truth.  And I believed.  And the tears poured.  And the man praying with me talked to me a bit, and I think he realized where I needed healing, because he asked for God to send me more joy, deepen that knowledge that I was loved, give me more of everything the Spirit has to offer.

It was an amazing weekend.  I wish I could remember every second of it. I wish my family had attended.  I walked out renewed, knowing that yes, I have things laid before me, likely things that aren’t easy for me.  One result is that I’ve chosen to blog again and share what God does in my life.  Another has to do with deepening my prayer life.  Being more diligent in the Word, both studying it, meditating on it, letting it–and the presence of God–infuse my life in new ways. Being less fearful of people so I can perhaps again hug a stranger or pray with someone and share words from the Spirit with him or her.

I don’t know what’s coming, not in the short term.  But I’m more confident of the long term than I’ve been in a very long time.  I’m a daughter.  Dad has plans for me.  Time to stop making excuses and listening to wrong voices and let his love for me drive me.  As someone said recently, the Spirit is all over me.  And that should affect every bit of my life.