Devotional Thoughts: Sloppy Prayers

There are right and wrong ways to approach and ask God just like there are right and wrong ways to approach other human beings. Prayer isn’t for selfish desires. Prayer is conversation with God. Prayer is just as much listening as it is speaking. We do much more speaking than we do listening. I need more silence in my life, not just for the sake of silence but to be able to hear God.

So how do we pray?

Scripture gives us examples of prayer as well as what we should and should not do in prayer. We also have commands to forgive before we pray. We are to pray in solitude and in secret.

Jesus ‘ greatest example of prayer is perhaps what we call, The Lord’s Prayer. It’s a staple prayer for us to learn and pray. It’s found in Matthew 6 or Luke 11.

God knows our hearts, our thoughts and our desires. There’s no escaping an omnipresent God. I always thought it strange so many people ask God to be with this person or that person when God is omnipresent! Perhaps we should shift our prayers to asking for God’s will to be done in a person’s life instead of asking God to be with them. God is already with us.

One thing I know is God loves us, each and every one, regardless of our sloppy prayers. God longs to hear from us, spend time with us and connect to us. This is done in prayer. We can pour out ourselves to God in prayer. It’s appropriate to share even our raw emotions with God. It’s right to ask God for help. It’s fine to ask for our daily bread and for forgiveness. It’s awesome to take part in praying someone into God’s family. These things are all things God wants.

We err in praying for revenge, for riches or for a certain someone to fall in love with us. These are all examples of prayers that are inappropriate. I’m guilty of all these in my younger years. Now instead of praying for revenge I hand that person over to God and ask God to act in their life. Instead of praying for riches I thank God for what I have. And that last one? Do we really think God will control another person and make them fall in love with us?

Let’s spend some time thinking more about how we pray. Let’s be intentional. Do I have to wonder if God wants me to pray for someone to come to faith? No, God always wants this. Some things should always be in our minds to pray. God desires to bless us, but many times these blessings aren’t exactly what we had in mind!

Devotional Thoughts: Twisted Prayers?

Does this verse mean belief is the secret to having God’s power? I can pray for a million dollars and if I believe in that enough it will be mine? This verse has been used in exactly that way before even in certain Christian circles. Can you imagine the pain this has caused? My son died because I didn’t believe enough when I prayed? My daughter is making wild, sinful lifestyle choices because when I prayed I didn’t have enough belief. When we stop to really think about this verse some huge questions arise. Prayer isn’t for us to control everything around us. Can you imagine trying to work out all those prayers if you’re God? Each human being throwing out all their wants to you and many of them contradict one another! Two people who hate each other praying for the other to die. Does God grant the wish of the one who believes the most?

Nonsense! It’s important when we interpret scripture to measure and study verses like this alongside what else the Bible says. The purpose of prayer isn’t so we can satisfy our selfish desires and get what we want. Here’s some other verses we might read to bring this text into a deeper understanding:

1 John 5:14 says, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

Here it’s made obvious that our prayers should line up with God’s will. How do we know God’s will? The first question is asking, “Does my prayer goes against what scripture teaches?” Asking revenge on another human isn’t in God’s will. The very next verse after this one instructs is to forgive.

Here’s another verse for us: James 4:2, 3 says, “You do not have because you do not ask, you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions.” Our passions or selfish desires are not the will of God, so I can say goodbye to my prayer for a million dollars!

Here’s an explanation by John Piper: “”How is such undoubting faith possible?” The only answer I can think of is that such undoubting faith is only possible if we know what God intends to do for those who believe. Or to put it another way, we can have undoubting faith if we know what God’s will is in a particular situation. How can you keep from doubting if you don’t know what God intends to do? “ Piper also points out that the verse that follows this one tells us to forgive when we pray. If I’m instructed to forgive, this takes care of desires And prayers I might have I have to zap another human being I’m upset with.

How about if we aren’t sure what God’s will is? Here’s an example of something I’ve prayed before,”Lord, I’m not sure about this situation. Here’s what I see needs to happen. I know I don’t see this as You can, so I trust You with this and ask You to act and for the best thing to be done.”

I pray this has cleared up something for someone today.

Devotional Thoughts: Asking & Abiding

Asking, prayer, abiding… only those who abide in Christ know how to ask. Of course, anyone can ask but those who abide share God’s desires. They are called to live the life God has laid out for them. This kind of praying is deep. It’s connected to the Kingdom. It’s not even from this world. Those who abide know this place. They have experienced the deep pain that only God knows and sees. Those who abide also know God is alive and well and listens. God guides and directs those who abide. Those who choose not to abide do not understand. Here’s the verse that precedes this verse:

6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. ESV

Those who abide are like a flourishing greenery. Those who do not abide are withering away, dry. They seek what those who abide have without even knowing it. God loves each one. Life is a supernatural gift given by God. We cannot waste this gift. It’s short, our time here.

Abide, draw near to God. Listen to the soft, holy voice waiting to speak into your soul. This feeds the soul like nothing else can. This gives peace. This gives purpose and this gives a life that flourishes by God’s standards.

So, when I ask I first need to abide. Then my asking is aligned with God and is granted. When I’m able to see this in this life it’s amazing and confirms I belong elsewhere. Our asking truly reflects our faith. God is faithful.

Devotional Thoughts: Keep Praying

Never stop praying, how do we do this? I don’t think this means all we do is pray. We are to be active in our lives but we can pray as we go along throughout our day. We can have a continual conversation with God who is omnipresent. God is with us whether we acknowledge this or not. When we don’t connect with God throughout our days we miss out on all God desires to give us. God is good. God will give us what we need. We lack many times because we do not pray.

The verse after this one says to give thanks in all things, give thanks in everything. Give thanks on the good days and give thanks on the bad days. No matter what’s going on I can choose to look around and be thankful. I can see light even in the darkest times. This is a spiritual discipline. It doesn’t come naturally.

I am a work in progress. I haven’t arrived at praying without ceasing yet. Our journey here on earth is challenging. Setting spiritual goals is vital to our survival. Time with God is essential if I’m to be a warrior for the Kingdom. I’m deployed for now, here on earth, but one day I’ll be home where I belong. In my deployment I choose to pray and walk with God or not. The cowardly apathetically disengage. It’s the brave, the strong, the empowered that are engaged in prayer and obedience. It’s the strong who resist temptation, the weak give in. Prayer is a vital tool to resist temptation. Those following the ways of the world doing as they please are the weak. Their lives lead to destruction. The world thinks they’re strong and cool. Irony abounds! Let’s pray today, maybe we’ll make it to praying without ceasing!

Devotional Thoughts: Prayer

Some seasons of life are harder than others. I find myself praying  more in the difficult times. When I engage in prayer in those hard times I am on guard watching and waiting for change, healing or whatever I’m praying for. After releasing my petitions before God I often find myself expressing gratitude just like the Psalmist does as each Psalm, especially the laments, have what’s called a vav adversitive. It’s a tiny word that acts like a hinge. Psalmists cry out to God with many serious problems. They write many verses of pain, sorrow, fear and frightening things. After this is expressed to God the tone changes and flows into gratitude.

Prayer that ends with thanksgiving brings me into another realm, another mindset, another place emotionally than I was before I prayed. Prayer changes me.

If we are praying steadfastly as this verse says this means we have no need of gossip or burdening others with what we should take to God first. Laments, expressing our deepest hurts, are meant for God first. Those who practice this discipline probably won’t feel a need to talk to 100 other people about it. God can meet our needs. Humans aren’t meant to be our God. Going to humans first is leaving God out of the equation, seeking fulfillment and change anywhere else will disappoint and leave us lacking.

Ending in gratitude helps us focus on the positive life giving things that are essential to press on. Lord, I’m grateful for my home, my job, my calling, my husband, my children, my family. Thank You for providing for me even when I had no idea how things would happen. You are the Creator, the Sustain-er and I trust You.

Some seasons of prayer take years. Keep praying like this verse instructs. Praying isn’t just talking to God but talking with God. This requires listening too. If I’m watchful I’m looking for open doors, I’m actively, mentally engaged in seeking out what God wants from me in this circumstance. Praying without listening and without gratitude is just spewing out our grievances and pain to God. If we stop there we are missing out. We won’t ever experience what God is desiring to bless us with. Let’s pray all day in our minds as we go about our tasks, watching for what comes next and be thankful.

Holy Week Devotional Thoughts: Darkness

Suffering stopped for Jesus today as His broken body gave out. Jesus was human. His followers were devastated, confused, grieving, hiding. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen in their minds even though Jesus had tried to prepare them. We look at the disciples like they were crazy acting like they did because we know the full story.

We look even worse than the disciples because we know the full story but sometimes live like it’s not true.

If I believe it’s true I strive for Kingdom things. My suffering comes because I live as a citizen of God’s Kingdom and not what life here requires or values.

Today darkness overcomes because Light Is gone. I too have moments of darkness. Soon the earth will shake, the veil will be torn and the opportunity to have a relationship with the Living God will present itself.

There’s no resurrection without suffering.

God sees our suffering. God cares far beyond what we can imagine.

Step into the Light of the living God today. Let go of darkness. It doesn’t love you. It will ravage you just like it did Jesus. We cannot purge darkness alone but only after reaching out to God.

The main goal of darkness is to keep us from God so we are ineffective, disbelieving, numb, apathetic and complacent. Make your move today from darkness to Light through this simple prayer expressing 3 things to God:

1). I’m sorry – confess your sins and ask for forgiveness.
2). Thank You – for sending Your Son Jesus to pay for my sins. I accept this beautiful gift.
3). Please – please take my life, guide my life, I give it to You.

This is the beginning of transformation. Do not be afraid. You’ll wish you’d done it before now. That’s what everyone says on the other side.

 

One Foster Mom’s Lament

A lament is a difficult conversation with God.  Laments are meant for God and not for other humans, but I share this lament I wrote years ago in hopes of educating others about what foster care felt like to me.  When you become a foster parent you invite children into your home who have experienced deep traumas in their lives, some of them ravaged by sin.  I feel like I have absorbed some of their pain and that was a privilege.

Lord, I cry out to You!

O powerful One who holds the whole world in His hands

Giver of peace and redemption, hear my cry, Oh Lord.

 

My foster daughter has been spiritually mangled,

She is a tormented soul.

She clothes herself with shame.

She sees no worth in herself and rejects kind words and compliments.

 

Her father is incarcerated for heinous sexual crimes.

May he receive the punishment he deserves!

May those in prison do to him as he has done to others.

May justice happen to him on this side of eternity.

 

Her mother all dressed up like a slut, focused on her looks and herself instead of her children.

Selfish ways and sexuality taught way too young.

Bathing her children in bleach telling them their dark skin is ugly.

Bound by the craziest superstitions.

Kissing her infant son’s penis and the department just calls it motherly affection!

 

The little one doesn’t even speak.

Her sibling, he holds it all inside.

They don’t want him so they shipped him to Mexico to aunty and grandma.

He’s back here now, lost as ever, about to turn 4 or 5 and doesn’t speak.

Stunted growth and maturity, failure to thrive.

He cried out while dad locked himself into a room with him.

To dad he is sexual pleasure.

 

Hard, calloused knees and callouses on the tops of their feet.

Punishment by kneeling in corn meal scattered on the floor.

 

Children, stay away from strangers!

They’re all bad!  We don’t associate with anyone but our family!

This family lived just one building over from where I run an after school program for at-risk kids.

We never knew each other.

Just within an arm’s reach.

 

The younger girl is the favorite.

The older girl and her mom just decided they hate one another and that’s just how it’s going to be.

Vicious physical fights of hair pulling and screaming in front of the younger kids.

 

The younger girl gets gifts; she has a different dad.

The older is ignored, abused and neglected, but she cares for the little baby boy like he is her own.

 

Mom let’s sex offending dad back in the home when he gets out of jail for abusing another girl.

It starts all over again.

The baby boy crying locked up in a room with him.

The oldest plots what she will do when the police come.

She knows it’s just a matter of time until they find out he is back.

 

No one can help BUT YOU oh LORD!

You rescued these precious children and brought them into Your light.

You brought them to me and I pointed them to You.

These girls made faith decisions and have tried to follow Your ways.

 

Sorrow is the staple of their souls.

Free them God from the pain.

She wears a mantle of shame that consumes her.

She feels more comfortable suffering and feels she deserves to suffer.

Free her LORD!

MAKE of her a beautiful testimony of Your hesed!

Help her to trust!

Help her to let go and define herself according to Your Word and not by what her family has said about her.

Protect her God.

Give her a strong desire to follow you, no matter what.

Reach her hands, heart and mind out to You.

May she not be afraid of true love: YOU.

 

God, I give her to You because I know I’m not enough for her.

Heal her LORD.

Take away the unhealthy desires she has.

May she seek YOU and not the pleasures of earthly men or things.

Care for her sweet baby LORD.

May she raise her head and follow YOU.

For YOU oh LORD are the great divine healer!

YOU are the only One who can set us free!

You are the one who commands all things on the earth.

Save this one LORD!

May she be a part of YOUR Kingdom for ever and ever Amen!

 

Forgive me LORD.

I have hatred and bitterness towards their parents.

I know You love them too.

Redeem them LORD.  I know You can.  Draw them close through Your Spirit.

Please heal Holy Spirit, heal, like only You can!

Reign in all the earth LORD Reign!

Jesus YOU are King!

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