Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Prayer: Does God Answer Retroactively?

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

I am puzzled tonight about the mysteries of prayer–the unknowable things about how prayer works.  How I wish that Jesus would have explained it more.

I had a strange experience today.  I had sent a text to my oldest girl, asking how her day was going.  She replied that she had a huge anatomy test during the 3rd block of classes.  I know she has been working hard at getting ready for this test.  I texted her back that I would pray.

And then I forgot to pray.

At around 2:00 (after the high school is dismissed) I remembered.  I felt terrible that I had forgotten to pray.  But even more than that, I began to think about prayer.  HOw does it work?  Since I forgot to pray, could I still say a quick prayer and God would answer retrospectively?

Here is what I know:  I remain confused and frustrated with wrapping my mind around God and the subject of time; also, God and the subject of hearing prayers.  I know He answers prayers, but how does He hear them all, and what does time (knowing that God operates outside of time) have to do with prayer?

I also know that God is not Santa Claus, he is not a magician.  He won’t “magically go back and change answers on Keli’s test” because I pray.  That would be ridiculous.

I pulled out my favorite book on Prayer, simply titled Prayer by Philip Yancey, and while I found re-reading many of the highlighting that I did in that book, I didn’t find what I was searching for.

Maybe that’s just it.  Maybe I’m not supposed to be able to wrap my mind around these questions.  But being the person I am, it is very hard not to ask these questions time and time again as they bounce around inside of my mind.

However: 20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me! (Psalm 66:20)

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Cultivating Stillness

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Maybe you are like me.  My mind seems to never be still.  I lie awake at night struggling to sleep because I can’t still my mind  Or I wake up at 5 to spend time with my God, and yet I can’t still my mind down enough to be able to still my soul, creating a sense of….of….Inadequacy, or even failure.  Or something like that.

I’m currently reading Jesus Through MIddle Eastern eyes.  I’ve sampled some of the chapters when I have done specific scripture work addressed in this book, but I’ve never read the whole thing through.  I’m finding it to be very thought-provoking.  I do not agree with all of the author’s (Kenneth E. Bailey) interpretations, but I’m gaining invaluable background of Middle Eastern culture that permeates the gospels.  It’s one thing to read the gospel’s through a western mentality, it’s quite another to read them with even the small amount of Middle Eastern cultural understanding that I am gaining from reading this book.

But that is the background for what I want to write about tonight:  Cultivating Stillness.  This is a subject that is selfishly important to me, because I struggle with it so.  In my reading on the The Lord’s Pray in Bailey’s book, I was struck by this quote of Isaac Syrian:

“In the seventh century, Isaac Syrian wrote about “stillness”, which in his writings has been summarized as “a deliberate denial of the gift of words for the sake of achieving inner silence, in the midst of which a person can hear the presence of God.  It is standing, unceasingly, silent, and prayerfully before God.”

Oh, to be able to achieve that level of silence in my soul, where I could hear the presence of God.  Note that Syrian does not say “sense” or “feel” the presence of God, but “hear” the presence of God.  What a gift!  What would that sound like?  Would it sound like peace?  Would it sound like shhh?  Would it sound like Joy?

And note how we are to be before God: standing, unceasingly, silent and prayerfully.  Standing—standing fast. 1 Thess 3:8.   Unceasingly—-continually, patiently.  Silent–without words, with stillness of mind and soul.  Prayerfully—anticipatory, relationship, waiting.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 puts it this way:  “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon the earth; therefore let your words be few.”

My words are often not “few”.  Often they are “many”.  Pages and pages and pages of my thoughts on scripture, my thoughts on God, my prayers to God.  The volume that I write is tremendous.  But my words are so inadequate for my God, and often are a way to run from Him, not to Him.  I read a tweet this week by someone-I don’t remember who-that stated that we can stuff our heads full of facts and knowledge about God, yet completely miss a relationship with our Abba, Father.  I know that to be truth.

I imagine I will always struggle with stillness of my mind and soul.  For many reasons.  But I hope to work at cultivating stillness before my God in the mornings because I want these words to be truth for me:

“Before the Day” by Newsong

Last night when I was sleeping

You were watching over me

While I dreamt about tomorrow

You knew my every need 

Now another day is waiting 

For me to make it through 

And there’s no way that I could face it without You 

Before the day slips away 

I want to stop and say I love You I love You 

Before the world rushes in again 

I want to stop and say there’s none above You 

There’s none above You 

I’ll just be still and know You are God 

Be still and know You are God 

There’s something about the morning 

The stillness of it all 

It calms my heart to hear You 

When You gently call 

Here I am in Your presence 

Where I long to be 

Alone with You in the silence 

Bring down Your love and Your mercy 

Whisper softly to me

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Prayer–Does it Make Any Difference?

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Phillip Yancey’s book “Prayer; Does it Make Any Difference”  Is currently on sale for the Kindle at the price of $3.99.

If you struggle with doubt, with prayer, with Christianity, then I urge you to read this book.  It was a key book in opening my mind up to the possibility of there being a God.  Yancey does not mince words, he is direct in his writing.  I often felt, while reading this book, that Yancey was writing and addressing my questions personally.

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Dealing with Disappointment, Discouragement and Depression

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

A Blog is an interesting phenomena.  There’s a certain amount of vulnerability in blogging.  Should one be completely honest?

That’s where I am tonight.  I’ve had a most discouraging day, fighting to keep the monster of depression at bay.  I would have to say that it has been a failure of the day, and my only option now is to go to bed in hopes of redeeming the day tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the last day of 2011.  Another year is gone, another long year lays before me.  I truly appreciated and grasped on to Jon Bloom’s “Year End Prayer for Weary Waiters“.  Here is an excerpt, though I encourage you to read the entire prayer:

O Jesus! When will “soon” be? We know that you are not slow to fulfill your promise “as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3:9). Forgive us when it feels slow to us. You know we are dust (Psalm 103:14) and that our brief years are full of toil and trouble (Psalm 90:10). Many of us are weary and struggle to keep perspective. Our indwelling sin plus trouble plus waiting tempts us to cynicism as “soon” unfolds over millennia. We do believe, Jesus; help our unbelief (Mark 9:24)!

So our prayer at this year’s end is simply, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)! We will wait for you as long as it takes. We trust that you will come when the time is full. May that time be soon. You said it would be. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus

I, like so many others, am a weary waiter.  It has been a long life.  I long for home.  I long for Jesus’ return.  On the day that I go home, the fight against doubt and unbelief will be over.  The fight against depression will be over.  The fight against failure will be over.  The fight for joy will be over, because I will inhabit a joy unspeakable, unexplainable, unfathomable.

I’m not a patient waiter.

 

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When I Don’t Know What to Do: 2nd Chronicles 2:12

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Several months ago I came across a verse on a blog that I follow, that I had never seen before.  The author of the blog titled the verse “A Practical Prayer for Many Situations That I Find Myself In”.

The verse is 2nd Chronicles 2:12.  You’ll want to look it up to read the entire verse, but the part that stands out is the cry “O our God…..we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

How many times do I find myself in that exact same spot, where I am at a complete and utter loss as to what to do?  Sadly, so often when I reach that point, that bewildering place, I do not pray these words here.  No, instead I try to reason it out, I try to think it through, I try on my own to develop a plan.  Shelly always has a plan.  If I just think hard enough, if I just try long enough, if I can just do this or do that, I’ll figure out what is next.

What must God think in those moments that I deliberately refuse to put my eyes on Him?

The last several months, if I were to be completely honest, place me right there:  right on the edge, the precipice of knowing not what to do.  Life is beyond me, all control of my life-what I have known life to be-has been wrested out of my hands, similarly to Job.  And yet in my stubbornness and pride, I still find it difficult to turn to my God and say the words in John 6:68:  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  Or, as 2nd Chronicles 2:20 expresses it—-I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you God.  Help me.  Show me.

Tonight one of the songs being sung at worship is Tommy Walker’s “When I Don’t Know What to Do”. I remember listening to that song over and over and over again in the days directly after my life as I knew it collapsed.  I was fortunate enough to be in Hawaii at the time, and I would walk for hours, listening to this song over and over and over again on my Ipod, studying the sky, the ocean, because I didn’t know what to do.

But I’ve gotten away from coming honestly before my God and pleading these words to him:

When I don’t know what to do, I’ll raise my hands
When I don’t know what to say, I’ll speak your praise
When I don’t know where to go, I’ll run—-not walk—-to your throne.

O, even now, even tonight, I don’t know what to do, but to try to place my eyes on my God.

When I Don’t Know What To Do
By Tommy Walker
Lord I surrender all 
To Your strong and faithful hand 
In everything I will give thanks to You 
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan
Chorus
When I don’t know what to do
I’ll lift my hands
When I don’t know what to say
I’ll speak Your praise
When I don’t know where to go
I’ll run to Your throne
When I don’t know what to think
I’ll stand on Your truth 
When I don’t know what to do

Lord I surrender all 
Though I’ll never understand 
All the mysteries around me 
I’ll just trust your perfect plan

Bridge
As I bow my knee 
Send Your perfect peace 
Send Your perfect peace Lord
As I lift my hands 
Let Your healing come 
Let Your healing come to me

Ending Vamp
Lord I love You 
Lord I trust You 
Lord I lift my hands to you
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Neglect…..

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve turned to my blog in order to sort out my thoughts on any subject.


I’m not sure why, but I’ve entered a realm where I am tired of thinking.  My mind is not sharp, it is quite dull.  But I’ll post a story here from recent weeks:


I have been receiving several documents in the mail as of late, in preparation for an upcoming court hearing.  I’m being sued by a lawyer for the legal fees incurred by my husband.  Since he is incarcerated (I think that is the first time I’ve shared that on this blog) and will remain there for another 13 years or so, his guardian ad litem (court appointed attorney in the civil case, not his criminal case) is seeking payment of the legal fees.  My lawyer is pretty confident that the judge will rule that the state will pay the fees as opposed to me paying them.


All that to say, as a result, my mailbox has been receiving a renewed onslaught of legal documents.


The latest was a notification from my lawyer to the other lawyer, acknowledging the date set for the hearing.  Pretty standard stuff, except for this time the wording caught my eye:


“And the defendant will ever pray, etc”


That was the closing line of this newest document.  The defendant will ever pray.  Now, I understand that this is legal terminology, that history has dictated in the formal respect driven world of law.  But those words made me pause and think:


Defendant refers to “the party against which an action is brought”, acccording to the American Heritage Dictionary.  An action has been brought against me.  It reminds me of Psalms, so many of them, where the author of the Psalms pleas with God to protect him from those who would bring an action against the author.  I am a defendant.  But not just in this civil case, I am a defendant in this world.  This is not home, this existence on earth.  How I long for home.


“And the defendant will ever pray, etc.”
Legal jargon yes.  However, it caused me to examine my mind and soul and to reconsider prayer, real prayer.  This sentence does not say that I might pray.  It does not say that I should pray.  It says that I, the defendant, will EVER pray.  Difficult English to understand, maybe.  But I take it to mean that the defendant will continually pray.  What other choice is there?  There is none.  Unceasing prayer.  1 Thessalonians 5:17.


Do I continually pray?  No, far from it.  Do I need to be continually praying–O yes, because where else do I have to go?  What other options lead to sanity, to peace, to direction, except through prayer, the catalyst for relationship to God.  It’s the stuff John 6:68 is made of–To whom shall I go except to Jesus?  Because He has the words of eternal life.  I do not.  I do not.


I mostly am writing this story, so as to preach it to myself.  Tonight I do not feel well.  Tomorrow is another long day away from my kids, working all day.  I, the defendant, need to ever pray, etc.  And that etc.?  My personal et cetera must incorporate scripture work, must incorporate quiet time alone to pray, to write, to think, to study, and to pray again.  I have neglected these things as of late, out of fatigue.  But they must take priority, if this defendant, by the grace of God, is going to survive.

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Serious Saturday–A Praying Life by Paul Miller

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

I recently started reading Miller’s “A Praying Life”.  I had been warned that it would mess with me, push me around a bit.  The warning is substantiated.  I can only read the book in small sections at a time.  The author forces the reader to look to a very personal God, a personal Jesus, as opposed to the unreal manifestations we create God to be–big, standoffish, much too important to deal with my broken heart.
Instead, Miller shows us a completely different picture of God and of Jesus.  Here are some quotes that strike hard at the core of my being:

“That’s why He came–there aren’t supposed to be mute children, abandoned wives or thoughtless bosses.”

“Jesus is, without question, the most dependent human being who ever lived.  Because He can’t do life on his own, he prays.  And he prays.  And he prays.

“Mature Christians are keenly aware that they can’t raise their kids.  It’s  no-brainer.  Even if they were perfect parents, they still can’t get inside their kids hearts.

Paul tells us “We don not know what to pray for as we ought, ut the ‘spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

/Anxiety is unable to relax in the face of chaos  continuous prayer clings to the Father in the face of chao.

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Book Review: Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

I started reading Kauflin’s book, with the expectation that what I was about to read, would be geared mostly toward Worship Pastor’s–those minister’s whose calling and responsibilities encompass the music/drama/worship service details of a church body.  I was wrong.  While obviously that audience is the primary target, I found the material to be hugely engaging, theologically sound, and hugely educational for a person such as myself, a lay member involved in the music/worship ministry of our church.  Kauflin seems to cover all details, big and small, that make up a sound worship ministry.  He truly gives credence to his title “Worship Matters.”  It matters because it is commanded.  It matters because it is Biblical.  It matters because God delights in it.  We must be professional in our attention to details, while open to flexibility and sensitive to what is happening in the moment.  We must examine our hearts, our motives, our plans to make sure they are Christ centered, to make sure they are scriptural centered.

Kauflin has written an easy to read, thought provoking treatise on worship, out of his own personal experiences and wealth of knowledge.  I am grateful for his willingness to share his thoughts and by doing so, bolster a continuing dialogue in our churches to emphasize that worship is not just the music on a Sunday morning, nor is it a battle between contemporary verses traditional styles of worship.  Rather, it is the all encompassing meeting of the church, to worship God through music, prayer, tithes, scripture, Biblical preaching and responsiveness to God.  It is all worship, we would do well to remember that more often, as Kauflin urges his readers to do just that.

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A Practical Prayer for Many Situations I Find Myself In

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

A Practical Prayer for Many Situations I Find Myself In

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