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The Conversation Begins: Thanksgiving

The Conversation BeginsThis post is the first of our discussions about the many different kinds of prayer. Considering the holiday, Thanksgiving seems like a great place to start.

An obscure childhood memory popped into my mind this week regarding this theme. I was only five- or six-years-old when this happened, so the details may or may not have happened exactly as I recall. If my mom reads this and calls to correct me, I promise to post an update. For now, here’s the story as I remember it:

My mother, little brother, and I were at the check-out stand at the grocery store. While mom was paying for our groceries, the somewhat elderly (from my point of view, at least) gentleman who was bagging the groceries leaned over to offer my brother and me some candy. (This was back in the days when this was still considered a nice thing to do, not something that should get you arrested.)

He asked me if I wanted a piece of candy. I looked at my mom. She nodded, so I said, “Yes, please.”

He started to hand over the treat, then pulled it back and asked, “What else do you say?”

What else was there to say? Confused, I said the only thing I could think of: “Yes, I want the candy, please.”

The man gave my mother one of those looks that all moms of young children hate. You know the one. The one that says, “Haven’t you taught your children any manners, Ma’am? What’s wrong with you?” I looked at my mother, too, just because I had no idea what this strange person wanted and figured I needed a cue.

The man repeated his question, “What else do you say?” I told him I didn’t know. He put his hands on his hips and said, “You say, ‘Please and thank you.’ If you want the candy, you have to say, ‘Thank you.’” He gave my mom a pointed look.

I realized this man was confused and needed to be set straight. Evidently, his mother was the one who forgot to teach manners. I said, “I’m not supposed to say, ‘Thank you,’ until after you give me the candy. I say, ‘Please,’ before and ‘Thank you’ after. That’s the rule.” I may have crossed my arms over my chest in stubborn indignation at this point.

The man looked at my mom then laughed out loud. I didn’t know what was so funny and was feeling kind of mad. My little brother just wanted some candy. Poor kid!

The man leaned over again and said, “I’ll let you get away with it just this once. But next time, say, ‘Please and thank you’ when you want something.” He gave us each a piece of candy, refusing to release mine from his grasp until I spoke those last two words. (And, if I remember correctly, my wise mother took the candy away when we got to the car with a promise of something better when we got home. I guess people didn’t completely trust strangers bearing candy for children even then. She handled an incredibly awkward situation with patience and grace.)

1 Thessalonians 5-18Unlike the man at the grocery store, our God gives good things lavishly. He even gives good things to those who deny His existence! Everything we have . . . every . . . single . . . thing . . . comes from Him. The man at the grocery store wanted his please and thank you up front, demanded good manners—by his definition—before giving the offered treat, and gave my mother a hard time in the name of teaching her children. She had nothing to thank him for, and in the end, neither did we. But our God just gives . . . abundantly . . . because He loves us. For example:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”Romans 5:8

The man at the grocery store held on to the candy until I said, “Thank you.” He wasn’t taking any chances that he wouldn’t receive his due. But God sent Jesus to die for us—so He could offer us salvation—while we were still sinners, and He continues to give good gifts to everyone with or without their gratitude.

Does He want us to thank Him? Of course! He loves us and wants us to return His love. He knows us and wants us to know Him. He wants us to recognize His involvement in our lives and to thank Him for all He does. But He won’t insist on a response. Thanksgiving has to come from a person’s heart.

Let’s not wait until tomorrow! Let’s start right now, this day, and continue for the rest of our lives. Let’s learn to recognize God’s gifts, and thank Him continually.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! I thank God for you.

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What Help Do We Receive to Pray?

The Conversation BeginsThe conversation begins . . . prayer. Have you started this conversation yet?

My hope as I write this series is that it will encourage anyone who stumbles across it to discover how easy it is to talk to God. I want people to become comfortable with prayer because I know that the thought of praying to the One and Only, Almighty Creator of the Universe intimidates some people. But God encourages us to come to Him. Anyone who sincerely wants to can talk to Him about anything on behalf of anyone at anytime, anywhere. As we do this, seeking to share our lives with the God Who loves us more than anyone else ever can while attempting to get to know Him better, we’ll begin to recognize His response.

But that’s getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. First we simply need to begin to pray. So, just in case you are still feeling a little bit intimidated about talking to God, today I want to show you the help He provides. That’s right. God will actually help us to pray; He is that serious about wanting us to come to Him.

  • Let’s look at the Holy Spirit first. Romans 8:26-27 is one of my favorite passages on prayer:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

If ever we want to pray but find ourselves at a loss for words, God’s Spirit is right there with us uttering exactly the right ones. He reads our hearts and serves as a translator, of sorts, communicating just what we would say if we could. He knows what we want even better than we do and intercedes on our behalf. I have found this meaningful in times of deep heartache, when I knew that something needed to happen but had no clue what. The Spirit knows what we don’t and intercedes in accordance with God’s Will. This makes crying your heart out in God’s Presence an extremely powerful prayer with few, if any, words.

Romans 8-26

But if you’ve never prayed before and simply want help as you give it a try, God’s Spirit is there for you, too. God understands the weakness of beginning something new. Therefore, you also can claim this Bible promise as you pray; God’s Spirit will help you.

  • Hebrews tells us that Jesus intercedes for us, too:

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”Hebrews 7:25

If you are a child of God, Jesus is praying for you. He gave His life so you could have an eternal relationship with God. Therefore, no one is more motivated than He is to see you succeed at growing in Him daily. If you’re struggling with temptation, He’s praying you’ll claim the strength He offers to resist. If you’re trying to understand God’s Word, He’s asking God’s Spirit to clarify your thinking. If you’re attempting to communicate with God, He’s part of that too. How could He not be? He Is God—God the Son, full-fledged member of the mysterious Trinity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, inviting us to pray, helping us as we do, and praying for us, too.

  • Finally, let’s consider those who’ve gone before:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”Hebrews 12:1-2

I know that some people believe that there is a literal cloud of witnesses watching us and cheering us on. Others say this isn’t possible for one reason or another. Rather than get into that debate, let’s look at the verses just before these two and let them take us to the author’s point:

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”Hebrews 11:39-40

Hebrews 11 is often called The Faith Hall of Fame. It tells about people in the Bible who showed great faith in God. The conclusion of this chapter tells us that God’s plan is still in motion. Whether these witnesses are actually watching us or not, they knew when they were living that they were part of something bigger than themselves, part of something that would continue after they died. Their actions, their prayers, their hopes were all on God and what He would be doing in the future—currently our present (to be handed off to future generations until Jesus comes). In a sense, the people who lived before prayed for us—and may still be praying for us.

And God is adding our prayers to their prayers as He continues His work in our world. Our little prayers are part of something bigger than we can imagine and, one way or another, they are boosted and bolstered by those who’ve already lived their lives.

My words seem very insufficient right now, but I hope I’ve given you just enough of the idea that you can think about it and let the concept grow. God invites us to pray, and He helps us. When we pray, we share our lives with Him, we get to know Him better, we help others to come to know Him, and we participate in His Kingdom in ways we can’t even begin to understand. Our prayers matter more than we know. This doesn’t need to intimidate us, though. God couldn’t have made it easier. To pray, we simply talk with Him.

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When Can We Pray?

The Conversation BeginsTwo more W’s! That’s all I have. Two more questions starting with one of the five W’s and then we’re moving on in this series to explore as many different kinds of prayer as I can think of. (There are 23 on my list so far.) For fun, I invite you to brainstorm your own list, keep it to yourself for now, check off the kinds of prayer I write about each week, then let me know at the end if I missed anything, so I can add it to my list. I may even invite you to write a guest post about it!

Today, however, I want to talk about when. When can we pray? My short answer, of course, is anytime we want to talk to God. He’s always present. He never sleeps. He will hear our prayers whenever we want to talk to Him. One of my favorite Bible verses about prayer shows this: “But Jesus often slipped away to be alone so he could pray” (Luke 5:16, NCV) Whenever Jesus felt the need to talk with His Father, He made Himself scarce so He could. God invites us to do the same.

Though we are welcome and encouraged to talk with God anytime, setting aside a specific time for prayer each day, when possible, is a helpful discipline. What time of day is best for this? Whatever time works best!

I once read a book for women on disciplining every area of life. This book had some helpful tips, but I found myself arguing with the author often as I read. She seemed to believe that whatever worked for her would work for everyone, and so she presented her ideas as rules for all women to follow. When she got to the chapter on prayer, she wrote that everyone must pray first thing in the morning. To make her case, she cited several Bible passages in which people were praying in the morning. Unfortunately, she ignored all the Bible passages about people praying in the middle of the day, in the evening, all night long, and at other random times of day. Using her method, I could have made a case that the Bible says we all have to pray at just about any time of day I preferred.

We Get to Talk to GodBut that would have been a misuse of Scripture. The Bible doesn’t tell us when we have to pray. It simply tells us that we can and that God hears us and that we’re blessed when we do. Remember this: talking to God is something we get to do because He has invited us to. He loves us and He loves it when we want to talk with Him. If my kids or my husband only talked to me because they felt they had to, that they had some kind of duty or obligation to fulfill, my feelings would be hurt. Of course, if that were all I could get I would take it because I adore my family! But I wouldn’t feel we had a healthy relationship. And I would be right. I want the people I love to talk to me because they love me and want to share their lives with me! (And I am so thankful they do!)

God wants us to view prayer the same way. He wants us to love Him, respect Him, tell Him what’s going on in our world, seek His wisdom and help, and enjoy just getting to be in His Presence. King David says it best: One thing I ask from the Lordthis only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). Nothing gave that man more joy than to be in God’s Presence.

That said, I really do like to pray first thing in the morning. I love starting my day with God, and I encourage you to try it if you haven’t already. If you can’t form a complete sentence before noon, though, you might find another time of day more beneficial; that really is okay. I think there’s something to be said for bedtime prayers, ending the day with a conversation with God about all that went right and all that went wrong and all that we’re hoping for come the new day.

Then again, if you have lots of littles in your house, practicing a consistent prayer time may be an exercise in futility. Instead, keep a prayer journal and pen on hand, then watch for those rare moments when everyone is happy and occupied. Grab your journal and pen, sit down quietly, and pray while the moment lasts. Some may think this is just asking for chaos to ensue, but if you’re serious about finding a daily time to pray, ask God to give you these moments on occasion, then learn to make the most of them. Be thankful for however many He provides.

To summarize: we can pray anytime, anywhere, about anything. God is with us. He loves us, and He loves to hear us pray. Whenever we’re ready to talk with Him, God is ready to hear the words we’ll say.

Father, thank You for the privilege of prayer. Call us to it! Help us to choose a regular time for prayer and to develop a consistent routine. Then remind us to talk to You throughout the day. Prayer is how we share our lives with You, the One Who loves us like no one else can. We love You, too. Amen.


I’m sharing this post with the Thought-Provoking Thursday link-up. Click here to read more posts shared there.

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How Do We Pray?

The Conversation BeginsWelcome to the fifth installment of The Conversation Begins, my 31+ non-consecutive-day series on prayer. (If you missed the first four posts, you can click here and scroll down to read through them. The oldest posts will be at the bottom of the page.)

Today I want to talk about how. How do we pray?

We simply talk to God.

God doesn’t make prayer complicated; He loves us and He wants to hear our voices. He also wants us to learn to listen for His, but that’s a subject for another post—or two—or more. Learning to recognize God’s voice is a skill to develop over the course of a lifetime, perhaps the most worthwhile skill we can develop in the time we have on Earth.

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He didn’t tell them to bow their heads and close their eyes, to kneel or lie prostrate. He simply gave them words. We call these, The Lord’s Prayer, of course, and they model prayer perfectly! (Of course.) Many books and sermons have been written on this prayer, so I’m not going to analyze it here except to note that this prayer acknowledges God’s Fatherhood, sovereignty, and holiness, surrenders our will to God’s, asks God to meet needs, asks forgiveness and forgives others, seeks protection from temptation and evil, and ends in worship of our always-worthy God. These are elements of prayer we can strive to cover in our conversations with Him every day.

But we don’t have to cover them all every time we pray. There are a lot of helpful formulas out there that we can use as tools for prayer, but please remember, they are tools—not rules. When you learn about a friend’s tragedy, make that the focus of your prayer. If a conflict arises or a financial need, talk to God about it right away. If you’re fighting temptation or catch yourself in a sin, tell God what’s going on, confess your wrongs, ask Him to help you choose right or to make things right. We don’t have to focus on every aspect of prayer every time we pray. Instead we have many conversations with God covering different subjects throughout each day.

How We PrayAnd we don’t have to wait until we can kneel or close our eyes or get to church to pray. If the clock tells you it’s time for your dad’s surgery or your son’s test while you’re sitting in a meeting, think a prayer right where you are. Kneeling, bowing, and closing our eyes can help us to focus or remind us of our position before God. Praying at church allows us to be heard with other believers who are all talking together to God about the same thing. It’s important to pray in these ways sometimes, but they aren’t essential every time we pray.

There is one how that is essential to every prayer, though. This concerns our attitude. Whether we’re approaching God on our knees or while driving in the car, we need to approach Him with respect, humility, and a sincere heart. If we don’t believe He is listening to us, that He loves us, that He is able to keep His promises, and that His plans are perfect whether we understand them or not, our prayers will be hindered.

Suddenly I’m remembering the climactic scene from Gone with the Wind where Scarlett is ill. She has just suffered a miscarriage after falling down the stairs. She’s been crying out for Rhett, but no one has heard her. When someone finally does, when she finally has the opportunity to ask for him—something he’s desperately waiting for—she says, “Oh, what’s the use.” And that’s the end of the relationship. If Scarlett had only believed that Rhett would come if she called, he would have, and the story could have ended happily.

That said, our God will never give up on us like Rhett gave up on Scarlett, but He will wait until we call on Him . . . in faith . . . with the right attitude. Desperate for more of Him in every area of life, eager to see His Kingdom come and His Will done, that is how we pray.

Father, thank You for making it so easy to come to You. Thank you for encouraging us to do so. Thank You for waiting patiently. You are God, and there is no other. We need more of You. Amen.


 

Today I’m sharing this post at the Thought-Provoking Thursday Link-up. Click here to see what other posts are being shared there!

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We Need Him; O We Need Him

I woke up with a song in my head today. It’s one I haven’t heard in years, so I have no idea where it came from just out of the blue like this. Well, I do have some idea, and I’m thankful. It’s been playing over and over again all day, like a comforting lullaby in the midst of a tumultuous week. God knew I needed this—something I didn’t even know I needed myself. He is so good to provide.

The song? I Need Thee Every Hour. Raise your hand if you know it! If you don’t, click here to listen on YouTube. Here are the words (written by Annie S. Hawks in 1872):

Anytime Anything AnywhereI need Thee ev’ry hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine
Can peace afford.

I need Thee ev’ry hour;
Stay Thou Nearby.
Temptations lose their pow’r
When Thou art nigh.

I need Thee ev’ry hour,
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide,
Or life is vain.

I need Thee ev’ry hour,
Most Holy One.
O make me Thine indeed,
Thou blessed Son!

I need Thee;
O I need Thee!
Ev’ry hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior;
I come to Thee!

It occurs to me that this song answers the next two prayer questions: When can we pray? and Why do we pray?

When? Anytime. Any hour. Every hour. I hope you’re beginning to detect a theme as this series continues. Who can pray? Anyone. Where can we pray? Anywhere. What can we pray about? (I haven’t answered that one yet, but I know you can predict my answer—anything!) Our amazing God is available 24/7 to hear any of our voices talking to Him about anything, anywhere. He loves us that much!

And, not only is He willing, but He’s able to accomplish His Will. That tumultuous week I mentioned earlier? Yesterday I realized that though I’m willing to do a lot, I am not able. I have limits. So frustrating! I wish I could do all I want to do, but I must pick and choose and learn to prioritize carefully. My resources of strength and time, among others, are finite. God’s resources, however, are not. He wants to be available to talk with us anytime we want to talk with Him, and so He is available to talk with us anytime we want to talk with Him. We pray to an infinitely capable God.

The Conversation BeginsWhy do we pray? Because we need Him. We are utterly dependent on Him for every little thing. This reminds me of hearing my children stop what they were doing when they were little to look around or yell to get a response—even if I was sitting right there, just to reassure themselves that I was still hanging around. They needed me; they wanted to know that I was close. And I made sure I was—or that someone else was in my place when necessary—because I love them so much.

Isn’t it good to know God loves us and He’s good?! Being dependent, we’d be miserable if He weren’t. He is, though, and so we can talk to Him to find reassurance that He is there, when we need to enjoy His peace, when we’re fighting temptation, when we’re enjoying something and want to share the experience with Him, when we’re hurting and need wisdom, comfort, or strength, when we need to remember who we are or Whose we are—or Who He Is, and when we want His blessing on our life.

Huh? It’s beginning to look like the why is the when. Like I told you last week, the answers to these questions tend to get all tangled up. That’s okay, so long as we’re grasping the truth about prayer. Because God loves us, any of us can talk with Him about anything, anytime, anywhere. We can do so with confidence that He will respond in the perfect way at just the right time to bring glory to His name and good to us.

Better yet, as we grow to understand this in ever-deepening ways, our reasons for praying will grow, too. We’ll pray not only because we need Him but also because we love Him, we truly enjoy knowing He’s around, and we want to touch Him the only way we can—through prayer.

Father, thank You for touching me with a song today. Please touch my friends who are reading this as well. Your love and Your provision amaze me on days like today. Help me to pay more attention more often; I believe You do something to amaze me every day! Thank You for being my Father, my friend, my confidant, my counselor, my savior, my Lord, my teacher, my king. Thank You for hearing when I pray. Amen.

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Where Can We Pray?

The Conversation BeginsJust in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m starting this 31+ non-consecutive-day prayer series by answering the five W’s and H: Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How—not necessarily in that order, of course. I can’t be too predictable. So far I’ve written about what prayer is and who can pray. I’ve also touched on why and how we pray because it all kind of goes together. That’s okay. Repetition reinforces learning no matter our age.

Today I want to look at the question, “Where can we pray?”

Anywhere!!! Prayer is communicating with God. God is everywhere. Therefore, we can pray anywhere.

We don’t have to wait until we go to church or kneel beside our beds or sit down for a meal. If you feel grateful for something God is doing in your life, thank Him where you are. If you see an accident on the highway, pray for the victims as you drive past the scene. If you receive an e-mail notice with a prayer request, pray over it as you read. This kind of praying is the topic of my book, Parachute Prayer. I invite you to read it for many more prayer prompts like these.

In the meantime, let me throw out a few more ideas regarding where we can pray. These are for when we’re craving times of deeper, more focused prayer:

  • My personal favorite place to pray is in my journal. When I pick up my pen and start writing in that book, it doesn’t matter where I’m seated physically—my mind is focused on God as I’m writing. This doesn’t work for everyone; God has wired us all a little bit differently when it comes to how we concentrate best. My journal just happens to work best for me.
  • Hiding in the closet is another favorite of mine. Until recently, I thought this was unique—maybe strange. It’s not. It’s actually a pretty common mom thing. For some inexplicable reason, a closed closet seems to be an effective kid-free zone. That makes it Mom’s Sacred Space. Maybe there’s just something more personal about talking to God while seated . . . or lying . . . or crying in a small, enclosed place. (Just be sure your kids know where to find you if they need you. We wouldn’t want them to think that you abandoned them.) If there’s no room for you in your closet, try the Susannah Wesley approach and pull your apron over your head. This amazing woman taught her kids to respect this signal that she was taking a time-out for prayer. The concept is the same.
  • One church in our community has developed a prayer trail—a place where people can go to pray as they walk the carefully maintained path. I also know of people who simply pray for their neighborhoods as they walk through them. Studies have proven that we think better when we’re in motion. I’ve experienced this as some of my favorite writing ideas have come to me during long runs. God’s Spirit can also use the opportunity we provide by walking to help us remember things for which we want to pray. I do think our intent matters, though. God may take our prayers less seriously if we’re thinking, “I’m running, so I may as well pray,” rather than if we deliberately go on a walk because we want to pray. Let me clarify just a bit. If I’m running, and God brings a prayer concern to mind, I can pray while I’m running. That’s a Parachute Prayer. It’s a good thing. God gets my attention, and I respond to Him. But if I know God is calling me to a more focused time of prayer and I say, “Sure, God. But how about letting me accomplish two things at once? Let’s talk while I run,” my need for real communion with God probably won’t be met. God will patiently wait until I choose to set my heart wholly on Him.
  • I also like to pray while I’m driving. Sometimes if I have a ways to go, I’ll turn off the radio and have a talk with God. If you choose to give this a try, please remember not to close your eyes. Keep them on the road. Turning off the radio demonstrates an intentional decision to set our hearts on God and pray.
  • One final idea: we can pray in bed in the middle of the night. Sometimes this one really is more of an “I’m awake, God, so I may as well pray” kind of thing. But I don’t think He minds under these circumstances. Sometimes He wakes us up to talk to Him, putting specific concerns in our hearts. Other times He listens to whatever we have to say then helps us fall back to sleep—not unlike a parent who helps a child who wakes in the night.

We really can pray anywhere! God loves it when we choose to set our minds and hearts on Him.

Where do you like to pray?

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Who Can Pray?

Psalm 1As we continue our conversation about prayer, let’s consider the question, “Who can pray?” Anybody can pray! We just might not all get the desired response. Let’s take a step back and think about this.

Some people say God only hears the prayers of Christians. They get this idea from Bible verses that talk about God only hearing the prayers of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29, Proverbs 28:9, Isaiah 1:15 are examples). In fact, David said that if he had cherished sin in his heart, God wouldn’t have heard his prayer (Psalm 66:18-20). These verses are true as presented in their context (the verses that surround them) or under the specified circumstances, but we run into trouble if we claim they present a hard and fast rule that God must obey all the time.

First of all, such a rule would give us the power to limit God. We don’t have that kind of power. We never will. God can hear anything He wants to hear. God can hear everything everyone on the planet is saying all at once. He may choose not to hear, or to ignore or disregard, some prayers, but He does so at His discretion, not ours.

Second, if God only heard the prayers of the saved, no one could be saved. God wants everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), therefore, He hears the prayers of those yet-to-be-saved—especially when their hearts are turning to Him. He welcomes these prayers—maybe most of all! If someone is seeking Him, He hears and responds (Deuteronomy 4:29, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Jeremiah 29:13).

The Conversation BeginsHere’s a simple way to understand the idea of God not hearing some prayers:

Imagine your three-year-old has been on a rampage all day. You served him breakfast; he told you it was yucky and refused to eat. You served him lunch; he yelled, “Yucky! Yucky! Yucky! I want ice cream.” You served him dinner; he leaned over to his sister and said, “Mommy only makes yucky food.” To your frustration, she joined his game and dumped her food on the floor.

When the last mealtime battle of the day is over, your son comes to you all sweetness and sunshine. “Mommy, I love you. Will you bake me some cookies for dessert?”

You think: “I have had enough of this child for this day.” You say, “Guess what, Kiddo! It’s bedtime. Go get your pajamas on.” Another battle ensues, but you are not baking cookies. You don’t even respond to the request.

Admittedly, that’s a very simplistic, very human example. God is neither simplistic nor human. Yet, if someone is constantly calling him unfaithful, unable, or non-existent, encouraging others to do the same, He’s not going to pay attention to that person’s self-centered prayers. He will respond with loving discipline (note: loving discipline, never petty vengeance). He will continue to woo that person toward a loving and mature relationship with Him. He will not take away that person’s freedom to choose nor compromise what’s right to make a deal. He acts in accordance with His child’s behavior, teaching with the kind of patience mothers everywhere wish they had.

So anybody can pray. But God does not receive all prayers in the same way.

Let’s consider the flip side:

You and your three-year-old are enjoying a great day together. He eats the food you serve and asks for more. He even helps you feed his sister. Then he plays with her while you do the dishes. He folds washcloths and matches socks while you’re folding laundry. He cuddles close and listens attentively during story time. When he asks for cookies, you bake them joyfully. In fact, you make up your mind to bake him cookies before he even thinks to ask. Sharing cookies is the perfect end to this fantastic day.

Again, very simplistic, very human, but with a level of truth we can grasp. God created us to love and enjoy Him. When we do so by spending regular time with Him in prayer, He enjoys our company and enjoys answering our prayers—within the scope of His plans—for us, for others, for His Kingdom, for eternity.

  • Will He always give us the cookies if we’re living His way? No.
  • Does He only give us what we want if we’re living His way? No.

That’s not how the analogy works. (And for the record, if ever you think you’ve found a formula for getting God to give you what you want every time, you need to rethink it. You have thunk something wrong.)

God loves each person He has made and longs to enjoy a relationship with each one. He sees what we can’t, though, and answers our prayers according to His Will, for the good of His Kingdom and the glory of His name. Prayer is a conversation with Him about this relationship, about the business of His Kingdom. We pray to develop this relationship, to more deeply understand our loving God and His plans for us. That’s why anyone can pray; God wants relationship with everyone! But self-centered prayers with no regard for God are meaningless and likely to be ignored.

When we delight in God, He delights in us. Our prayers become more effective as the relationship grows. Anybody can pray. But if we want to be sure that God’s hearing our prayers, we have to want God.

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Just a Thought about Intercessory Prayer

Prayer Snippet

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The Conversation Begins

The Conversation Begins“Prayer is keeping company with God.” –Clement of Alexandria

Today I’m starting a new series on prayer. Once a week or so, I’m going to write to explore this practice with you. I’ve brainstormed enough ideas to write every day for a month, but blogging every day would keep me from doing other things I need to do every day, so I’ve decided to keep these to about once a week. For those of you who participate in October’s “31 Days of . . .” blogging event, think of this as “31 [or more] [non-consecutive] Days of . . . Prayer.” Between prayer posts, I’ll continue to write about other thoughts God puts on my heart.

Let’s start with the basics: What is prayer?

Prayer is simply a conversation with God. In fact, it is a conversation initiated by God in the beginning, in your beginning—when He created you.

Just imagine, before you were born, God was there, whispering to you, singing over you, inviting you into relationship with Him. Prayer is responding to this invitation, recognizing the Presence of the God Who Is with you always, and talking with Him . . . about anything . . . and everything . . . all the time.

It is a continual conversation.

I looked up this word, continual, when I chose to use it in the subtitle of my book, Parachute Prayer: the Practice of Praying Continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17, my theme verse, says, “Pray continually.” I wondered why it didn’t say continuously and if it made a difference.

It does!

Continuously never pauses. We must breathe continuously or we die. Continually, though, stops, then starts, then stops, then goes on. This is prayer: an on-going (or continual) conversation with God about life.

My husband and I are currently engaged in an on-going conversation with each other about the process of adopting our daughter. We meet to give each other updates on tasks to complete, progress made, set-backs, hopes, dreams, discouragements, insights. We go our separate ways for a time—Mike to work, me to manage our home, write a book. Together we enjoy our other pursuits, pastimes, and people. Life goes on. Yet we come back to the adoption conversation again and again and again.

With God, though, we never go our separate ways. He is with us always! He is always available to listen and interested in continuing the conversation of life. Sometimes He pokes us, so to speak, letting us know we need to sit and talk. More often, He waits, patiently—faithfully, for us to initiate words with Him, for us to acknowledge His Presence, for us to seek His face, to learn to recognize His voice, to enjoy His company. Approaching Him is the beginning of prayer.

I look forward to exploring this conversation with you in following weeks. Already I’ve gained a new insight to write about soon. I pray God will give you new insights, too!

Father, thank You for inviting us to talk with You! You created us to know You, to love You, to enjoy You forever, and You made it possible for us to start right now! Teach us, Lord. We’ve so much to learn, and we love you so. Amen.


 

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Trusting God with the Moment That Matters Most

Moment That Matters“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” –John 4:39-42

One of my college professors used to say that faith is more caught than taught. I saw this in action when my children were little. As a mom who loved Jesus, I looked forward to the day when I could pray with my children, leading them to invite Him into their hearts, knowing they were saved and walking heavenward with me.

It didn’t happen quite that way. We took our boys to church—that was a given, us being a ministry family. But we would have done that anyway. We studied the Bible together. My husband and I shared our testimonies. We prayed with our boys regularly. As my oldest son entered fourth grade, though, that longed-for moment had not yet come . . . his decision to give his life to Jesus . . . at least as far as I knew.

Then he brought home an essay he’d written for school. He was attending a private Christian school at the time, and his teacher had asked the kids to write their testimonies. Justin told how he’d been alone in his room when he decided to invite Jesus into his heart. He’d prayed all by himself. And I knew from both his character and the words he’d written, that his young faith was absolutely real.

That’s probably when I first realized that God works differently in different people and that Jesus doesn’t enter people’s hearts when they say a few prescribed words. He brings salvation when they believe that He does. Each individual knows when that moment comes, whether another leads them directly to it or not.

Not that we didn’t lead our children to it. Like the Samaritan Woman in Luke 4, we told our children what we’d experienced, what we believed. But like the people of the woman’s community, our children had to hang out with Jesus for a while in order to decide they believed for themselves. This is something all people must do! I still love the sweet sentiment of a mother or father praying with their children to lead them to Christ, but it’s that moment of belief in a person’s heart that’s really the most beautiful thing.

Does this mean we shouldn’t tell others about Jesus, instead leaving them to find Him for themselves? Absolutely not! The Samaritan Woman couldn’t help herself; Jesus had told her everything she’d ever done! We can’t help ourselves either. If we walk and talk with Him daily, Jesus will amaze us on a daily basis! And so, we tell. Who He Is. What He has done. How we experience Him. What we’re learning from His Word. We live it; we talk it. It’s what we do!

Then we pray. We pray that people who hear our stories will invite Jesus to hang out with them for a while, so they can get to know Him, too.

And then we trust that the God Who has done so much for us, the One Who told the Samaritan Woman everything she’d ever done, will speak to our children, our friends, our acquaintances, too. We may not be there for the moment of belief, but the One Who matters will be, and He Is faithful to save.

Jesus, help us to live what we believe. Give us opportunities to show and to tell. Then help us to trust as we pray. You’ve invited everyone into Your Kingdom. Now You’re waiting for everyone who will to accept that invitation. Please wait patiently. There are many yet to be saved. We thank You, Lord, for speaking to each heart—through us and all around us. Use our lives as You will to honor Your name. Amen.