Our family watched Finding Neverland the other night. I love that movie. This was the third time I’ve seen it.
If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you go watch it before you read the rest of this post. Just sayin’—I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.
Finding Neverland is based on the true-life story of how J.M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan. At the beginning of the movie, Barrie befriends four young boys who are playing at the park, their widowed mother watching nearby. As Barrie gets to know the family, he finds ways to make their challenging life just a little less challenging—and fun! They, in turn, inspire him to write. The movie is a happy—sad—triumphant experience.
This time through, though, I became both fascinated with and frustrated by one character in particular—Barrie’s wife. Viewers will get the impression that the marriage was troubled from the beginning, but they aren’t told how these two flawed human beings came to be a couple. Viewers are shown that Barrie hasn’t given up on the struggling marriage, however. As his friendship with the widow and her sons develops, he tells his wife all about it. Then he invites her to get involved. He suggests they invite the family to dinner. Seeing the possibility of an advantageous social connection, Barrie’s wife agrees. Barrie and the family have a great time, but Barrie’s wife declares the evening a disaster. Boys behaving like boys are not the stuff of fine society.
As she becomes frustrated with her husband’s choices and disappointed in the direction their life seems to be taking, Barrie’s wife begins to withdraw and complain. Viewers often see her sitting alone in her room with the door closed. An affair is implied. Finally, she leaves Barrie altogether.
“Scandalous,” jests Barrie.
I felt a sense of tragedy.
I couldn’t help but wonder how things might have gone had Barrie’s wife been more receptive to the unexpected intrusion into her life. What if she’d set her inhibitions aside and joined in the fun at her proper dinner party? What if she’d taken notice of the widow, both as a friend and as a fellow human being in need? What if she had tried to see what her husband was inviting her to see? What if she’d embraced the adventure?
Perhaps in the end a marriage would have been saved, four orphans would have enjoyed the blessing of a new mother and father, and Barrie’s wife would have shared in the joy of his success as a writer—which, ultimately, would also have blessed her with all the social connections she craved. Instead, she quietly slipped out of the story with an embarrassed apology, seeking something better somewhere else.
Barrie’s wife told him she felt left out. But Barrie and the boys never excluded her. When the unexpected arrived, she chose to exclude herself. I wonder if we sometimes do the same.
What if, instead of feeling left out, we look for ways to join in? What if, when life takes an unexpected turn, instead of withdrawing in fear and fighting for that which we think we need, we choose to turn our whole selves right into the chaos, to see where it will lead? What if we let life overwhelm us in order to see God’s power at work—to learn that with His help we’re capable of so . . . much . . . more? What if we live surrendered, a life of letting God lead?
I’m coming to believe that God doesn’t delight in meeting our expectations for this life. Instead He’s always challenging us to let Him do immeasurably more. He lets us choose whether to accept this challenge or not, but when we do, He blesses us with joy and triumph as we glorify His name.
- Where is God leading you that you hesitate to go?
- Are you feeling left out as His Kingdom rolls on?
- How can you join in?
Father, help us to know when You are inviting us to embrace something new and help us to do so—even if it seems we’re giving up a treasured dream as we do. You’ve promised immeasurably more than we can imagine, but we have to be willing to trust and follow where You lead. Please bless us with courage, strength, and a sense of adventure as we battle our fears. We know You have good plans for us if only we’ll stay engaged. Thank You, Lord! Amen.
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.” -Psalm 9:1-2
I will thank, tell, rejoice, sing praise.
I choose to do so; this is a choice I make.
God is worthy—worthy of more than I can offer.
When I think, when I write, when I move, I can choose to offer my thoughts and words to Him instead of to past and present concerns. Or maybe in sync with these, letting Him align it all.
I can choose to focus on His never-ending Presence, the most priceless gift, and enjoy it as fully as I can—soaking it all in, though I may feel duty-drawn away. My energy, both physical and mental, it all belongs to Him.
I will choose to surrender it in thanksgiving, in stories, in joy, in praise—I love You, Lord! Amen.
Sometimes I treat spending time with God like an extravagance—a luxury instead of a necessity. I feel responsible to do so many other things first. But my relationship with God matters most. He is my life—my strength—my purpose. God first—essential to my spiritual and emotional health . . . His right as Lord of my life. I enter His Presence every morning—I try to remain there always. This is how I trust Him with the details of each day.
Yesterday morning, our pastor included a time of prayer for physical healing in the worship service. He invited people with specific concerns to come forward to be anointed and prayed for publicly. Friends and family gathered around to support them in prayer, too. As I was praying for these, I thought of friends and family far away who also need physical healing. I prayed for them, then, because physical needs are often accompanied by emotional needs, I went on to pray for people who need to be healed emotionally. Of course, this reminded me of people in need of social healing—people suffering relational wounds, attachment injuries, separation from loved ones, loneliness. These need healing, too. I was just beginning to pray for people in need of spiritual healing when prayer time ended and the service went in another direction. But I liked praying this way. That’s why I’m sharing the idea with you today.
Is this a Parachute Prayer? Not really, but it’s close. When we pray this way, we are using a prayer prompt, and perhaps, you never know, God’s Spirit will bring it to mind at some random moment, calling us into God’s Presence to pray for loved ones and acquaintances in need of healing. In that case, it would become a Parachute Prayer.
But I see this more as a tool for a time of more concentrated prayer.* We all know many people in need of different kinds of healing. Sometimes we tell them we’ll pray for them and whisper a quick prayer in the moment but forget to bring the need before the Lord in a deeper way.
I always feel sad when I realize this has happened; I try to remember. I know it’s important. But sometimes I forget. I believe this new prayer prompt can help.
Whenever we go to God with a healing need, let’s take the time to let God’s Spirit lead our thoughts to other people with similar needs. As time allows and as we exhaust one list, say our list of people who need to be healed physically, let’s move on to people who need other kinds of healing: emotional, social, spiritual, mental. There’s no need to worry about saying a lot of words about each need. We’ll just talk to God about each person’s situation, how we feel about it, what we’re hoping He’ll do for them. Then we’ll reaffirm our trust in His perfect wisdom regarding the situation and thank Him for working in and through each person’s life. He loves all the people we’re concerned about, and He’s already working faithfully for their good.
Father, we thank You for teaching us to pray and for calling us into Your Presence on behalf of people who need to be healed. Remind us to pray for them often, enjoying time with You as we do. Amen.
*To learn more about this, read Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Available at Amazon.
I’m sorry I haven’t had much to say lately. I’m in a weird writing place. That’s not a complaint; it’s a statement of fact. Life is getting ready to change, so I’m preparing for its changes. I’m in a waiting place, praying the prayer of waiting. I posted a few thoughts about that last week. Here are a few more:
The prayer of waiting is both a prayer of preparation and a prayer of submission. It is both a prayer of hope and a prayer of surrender. It’s the prayer we pray when we’ve done all we can do and must leave the outcome in God’s hands because, for us, there’s nothing left to do but pray.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my husband and I are preparing to adopt a daughter from foster care. We prayed before we began the process. We prayed as we completed each task. Now we’ve done all we can do but wait and pray. Our all-powerful God is at work! We are excited—we are impatient. We are learning, again, how to wait.
Preparation: We’re praying God will prepare our hearts for our daughter and hers for us. We’re asking Him to show us anything we might have overlooked—anything else we can do to prepare. I’m reading the newest parenting books–and praying for our daughter as I do.
Submission: Just as we had to submit to the adoption agency: taking classes, filling out paperwork, inviting them into our home, accepting their final decision—the one we’re now waiting for, we’re also living in submission to God. He led us into this process. He led us to this waiting place. Waiting is our service right now. We’re praying while we wait.
Hope: This is a time of great anticipation. We’re expecting a child! A brand new family member will soon be moving into our home. We believe she’s out there waiting for us, too, and so we’re praying for her as she does. And we just can’t wait to meet her! Though wait we will—for as long as it takes.
Surrender: It’s tempting to try to hurry God along right now. Instead we must trust. Voicing that trust is part of the waiting prayer. We believe God will bring this new child into our family at just the right time.
It occurs to me that there’s nothing like the prayer of waiting to help us grow closer to God. Waiting is an essential part of our spiritual development. It teaches us to depend and trust. It reveals a lot about the state of our relationship with God.
I’ve also been reading through Ezekiel for the past few weeks. I’ll finish tomorrow. It’s a long book with a huge message, but it hasn’t generated a lot of devotional thought this time around. To summarize: I’m just so thankful that I know the Lord is God. Have you ever counted how many times God tells Ezekiel, “Then they will know that I am the Lord their God?” Throughout the book this phrase always follows God’s declaration of what He’s going to do to show the people that He is the Lord their God. It’s both sobering and prayer-provoking. What’s He doing or preparing to do in order to teach our world the same?
What’s also clear in Ezekiel, though, is that God goes to great lengths in order to help His people live the best life they can, the life they can only live within His Kingdom. God loves us deeply. He wants to bless us completely. But we have to surrender to His Lordship over our lives. It won’t work any other way. He Is capable and loving and worthy of our trust. Ezekiel shows us that even His wrath is designed to draw us to Him for our good.
Finally, regarding my weird writing place, with the new year came a renewed desire to write more. I think this has resulted in a temporary need to write less. I’m throwing off everything that hinders, prayerfully choosing the activities God wants me to continue, wrapping others up, claiming blocks of time for what matters most. Life is changing, and I’m adapting, anticipating whatever is to come with hope and joy.
Father, thank You for the people who will read these words. Help them through whatever seasons of life they are in right now, whether they are waiting or actively pursuing a goal, accomplishing something in Your name. Draw them close to You. Teach them what they need to know. Lead them wherever You want them to go. Please help us all to throw off anything that hinders us as we pursue Your Will for our lives. You are the Lord our God. We are thankful and blessed. Amen.
Note: I originally posted these thoughts at Wildflower Thinking. As I was preparing this week’s The Conversation Begins post, though, I remembered this post from 2009. These thoughts provide a foundation for the post I’m working on, so I’m posting them here for you now.
The phrase is: All we can do is pray.
It seems to me that if prayer is talking to the God Who created the universe and all that is in it, the all-mighty, all-powerful, for-Whom-nothing-is-impossible God of everything, that prayer is doing something pretty big. God raised people from the dead. God fed thousands of people with only a few pieces of bread and fish. God pulled a coin out of a fish’s mouth in order to pay His taxes.
And so I would say that prayer is not a last resort. It’s should be the first thing we do whenever we need help—and, in reality, considering how much power an all-powerful God has, it’s probably all we need to do. We give Him our problems; He doesn’t need our help.
Imagine a little kid facing a big school bully. He knows the bully is bigger than him and will win, but he also knows his big brother is bigger than that bully. Would the kid face the bully alone? Or would he get help from the one who can spare him some pain?
I’m raising boys, so I know they don’t always go for the logical answer there, but, then again, neither do we. We put up our little fists and try to fix the situation alone while God quietly waits for us to pray. Then, when we’ve exhausted ourselves with the effort, we sit back and tell God that the situation seems pretty hopeless, but He’s welcome to give fixing it a try. If God is God and has all the power to do anything, that seems like living backward to me.
Prayer is not our last resort. Prayer is our best first move. It’s the most effective action we can take.
On the other hand, sometimes we do pray first. Then we do what we can do—as we should. God may use us to answer our own prayers, so we should do what we can. Yet sometimes we use up all our ideas and exhaust all our resources until finally we know that praying really is all we can do.
But even then, even when we reach that point, there’s more going on than just prayer.
Paul said, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). I think he must have been writing about just such a situation. As we wait for God to act, we joyfully anticipate whatever He will do, knowing without a doubt that is it God Who will do it, and that He will get all the glory, honor, and praise as He deserves. We joyfully hope for the best because God is in charge, and He loves us.
As we patiently wait for Him to act, we learn that God’s timing is perfect and that His plans may be different than ours. Have you ever prayed, like I have, “Lord, we’re running out of time here. If You’re going to do something, You’d better do it now. Really, Lord, now. Now would be really good.” But only God knows when the timing is right; deadlines mean nothing to Him for He can work around them easily. Or we may see a perfect opportunity for God to fix everything in one fell swoop. So we tell Him about it, then sit back and watch to see Him work. But His plans aren’t ours, so He doesn’t do what we suggest. He’s working on a bigger, more perfect picture than we can see or imagine. So we patiently wait some more, knowing God is truly in charge. Yet while we wait, we faithfully pray—and we grow ever closer to God.
I leave you today with two thoughts:
- Prayer is not meant to be only a last resort–always pray first, then pray all the way through.
- When prayer is a last resort, when it’s truly all that we can do, know God is at work. Trust Him as you faithfully and continually pray.
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” –Psalm 1:2, ESV
What kind of prayer does one write about two days before Christmas when one has already covered worship and thanksgiving? It has to be Bible meditation—a third kind of prayer that’s all about God, Who He Is, what He’s done, asking for, seeking, discovering Him and all the truth He will reveal.
We pray this prayer with the Bible open before us on the table or in our lap. We choose a passage, perhaps just a verse. We ask God to highlight words or phrases, to activate our imaginations so that we can see what He wants us to see, so we can understand something new about Him or what it means to live in His Kingdom.
When we meditate we read God’s Word and let Him talk to us.
Of course, this week I recommend meditating on verses from Luke 2:1-40 and Matthew 1:18-2:23. You may want to start by reading all the way through these passages to get a feel for the whole story, but then go back to whatever catches your attention. Read that verse or section slowly. Consider each word. Ask God about anything that confuses you. Worship, praise, or thank Him if the words call you to it. Then read the words again . . . and again, letting God draw your focus in closer to whatever He’s highlighting for you.
Here’s an example of how this works:
I’m currently reading through the Book of Jeremiah. The other day, my attention got snagged on Jeremiah 36:3. In this verse, God is talking to Jeremiah, sending him to deliver a message to the people. But God tells Jeremiah, “Perhaps . . .” That one word became my highlight for the day. I wondered why God, Who knows everything, would use the word perhaps?
I asked Him. I kept reading. I reread. I considered possible answers and asked God what He thought of them. Finally I let it go, choosing to trust in that moment.
Later, I chose to study the verse a little more carefully, moving from meditation to research. The ESV has God saying “It may be . . .” This shed a little light on the word perhaps. Yes, our God knows everything. But He gives His people choices. He presents opportunities, granting us the freedom to embrace them . . . or not. He wants us to choose Him and His way; He will not force us to obey.
That’s a discussion for another time, though. Today I just want to illustrate meditating on Bible verses as a form of prayer, a form of prayer that opens our minds to receive the day’s message from God. We prayerfully consider the words of the Bible that are before our eyes. We picture the scene in our head, seeking in God’s presence a deeper understanding of truth. We ask questions. We consider answers. We listen with our hearts for wisdom from God.
Father, help us when we read Your Word to see what You want us to see. Help us to read slowly, intentionally, contemplating each word until we find the truth You want us to consider for the day, to take in deeply for our life. We delight in these discoveries, Lord, for they help us to know You and to become more like You! This is our desire, Lord. Amen.
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long . . . Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” –Psalm 32:3 and 5
At the beginning of this Psalm, David writes, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.” The rest of the psalm tells us how to enjoy this blessing. We do so by confessing our sin.
Confession is agreeing with God that sin is sin, talking to Him about any sin in our lives, asking Him to forgive it, and promising to turn away from it with His Spirit’s help. When we argue with God about what is or is not sin, denying the truth that He has placed inside of us, there is deceit in our spirit. We are lying to ourselves and to God. Sometimes we’re really good at this, but God’s Spirit knows the truth and works to reveal it to us. Until we confess, we will feel God’s heavy hand on our hearts (Psalm 32:4).
When we sin, God’s Spirit convicts us—not because He wants to condemn us or make us feel badly about ourselves or our failures, but because He wants to heal us and set us free. Sin is a toxic disease! Whether or not we or our society agrees with God that sin is sin, if we are doing something that God has told us not to do—for our own good and for His glory, we will suffer sin’s effects. Psalm 32 shows this. Until David decided to confess his sin, to stop keeping silent about it and covering it up, he felt the pain of it clear into his bones. David’s sin made him miserable!
But once he confessed, God set him free. David wrote Psalm 32 to encourage others to find this freedom and to enjoy all of its benefits:
“Let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found” (v. 6).
“I [God] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (v. 8).
“Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him” (v. 10).
Confession sets us free from actions and attitudes that cause us—and sometimes the people around us—harm. It also brings us into God’s presence where we’ll enjoy His love, His guidance, and His peace. God offers us an abundant life full of joy, and He has graciously shown us how to receive it. We start by asking Him to forgive and remove the disease of our sin.
Search us, God, and know our hearts;
test us and know our anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in us,
and lead us in the way everlasting. Amen. (from Psalm 139:23-24)
Worship. Praise. Adoration. Acknowledging the greatness of God and declaring our love for Him. This is what He created us to do! What’s more, doing so reminds us of our place and helps us to keep everything else in its place. Only God is worthy to be over all—always! Everyone else, everything else, must be of less importance than Him. Worship helps us to remember this.
But as a form of prayer, worship hasn’t always come easy for me. Sitting down with God to tell Him how amazing He is often feels like a contrived activity. I can make a list of words that describe God, believe with all my heart that these words belong to Him, and present the list as a prayer, but somehow, for me, this always seems to lack something. God deserves so much more!
Of course, no word in the human language will ever be enough for God, so perhaps I’m experiencing the limitations of language and becoming frustrated with them. But David didn’t seem to have this problem. His worship psalms have inspired countless numbers of lovers of God.
So have many modern hymns and praise songs. I was standing next to a new acquaintance at an event that included a time of worship recently. She leaned over and whispered, “I just love singing! These songs are prayers to God.” She was so right.
This is probably why when my words feel inadequate, I turn to the Psalms or turn on my favorite worship music. I hear those words, take them in, voice them myself, and add prayers of my own to them as I sing. I have a few books of written prayers that help me in the same way. The original words may not be my own, but when I consider the words carefully, then express the thoughts to God in my own way, sincerely from my heart, I can’t help but worship God. Music and written prayers are helpful tools when we allow them to prompt prayers of our own.
I’m coming to realize, however, that worship can go even deeper than that. This morning, I read Isaiah 64:8, “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” This analogy is perfect for what I’ve been coming to understand. The clay exists for the potter’s use. It has no say in what the potter does with it. The potter takes it as it is and molds it into something beautiful. Then its beauty reveals the potter’s skill.
When we strive to live every moment of our lives in submission to God, making ourselves totally available for His purposes, then all of life becomes a form of worship. Our lives begin to reveal the majesty and worthiness of God. His work in us shows through our lives, effectively demonstrating His ability, His nature, and His character for the world we encounter to see. Under His authority, everything we do becomes a genuine act of worship.
Living this way isn’t easy; we want to live our way. But our God deserves no less than our belief that His purpose for us is better than anything we can imagine for ourselves. When we truly want to worship, we place our lives in His capable hands.
Father, You deserve all worship, all glory, all adoration and praise. Please help us to surrender our lives to You daily, knowing that the result will be better than anything we ever could think up on our own. You are worthy of our trust. Your decisions are the best. You love us more than we love ourselves. Make us over in Your image for the glory of Your name. Please use us as You will. Amen.