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Finding Grace for Me

Finding Grace for Me“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.”Psalm 103:8-9

My philosophy of illness and injury doesn’t always work out well for me. While I’m usually pretty compassionate with others, telling them to take it easy and get the rest they need, so they can recover more quickly, I’m more likely to tell myself to just walk it off. In fact, I read somewhere that you can run off a cold, so I try to keep up with my running routine even if I have to stop every few steps to blow my nose. I try to keep up with all of my other expectations for myself, too, believing on some level that if I stop to rest, I’ll succumb to the illness or injury. I’d rather outrun it.

But like I said, this doesn’t always work out well for me. This week I had to give in and rest.

I haven’t been happy about this.

At first, I tried to console myself with the thought that forced relaxation was giving me an excuse to enjoy more guilt-free reading time. But even as I was saturating my mind in great books—really great books!—I was scolding myself for not being more disciplined. The floor needed to be vacuumed. I had a blog post to write. Minimum maintenance was not enough! My lecture to myself went on and on.

Then one of the authors of one of those great books I was reading included Psalm 103 in his work, and God drew my attention to the beginning of verse 9: He will not always chide.

Psalm 103 is one of the most beautiful expositions of the character of God and His stance toward His children one can find in the whole Bible. (If you haven’t read it in a while, click here to read it in the English Standard Version at BibleGateway.) It reveals His justice and righteous, His mercy and grace, His love and compassion and patience—all given in perfect parental balance. He expects obedience because He wants what is best for us, yet He remembers that we are dust and provides for us what we cannot while helping us grow stronger every day.

He will not always chide. He knows that would only discourage us. There will always be something we can improve on.

When I realized that I was expecting more of myself than God expects of me, I stopped. He and I had a long talk about the situation. God helped me to see that though I was calling myself undisciplined, there are some things I am extremely disciplined about—even in illness. And so I made a list.

It’s what I do.

I made a list of everything I expect or want myself to do routinely. Then I put stars by the ones I’m already disciplined about, activities I do so routinely that I can’t even imagine not doing them. There were quite a few, and most of these were the ones I would consider most important on the list. I realized that labelling myself undisciplined, especially while sick, was unfair and untrue. I may struggle to be disciplined in a few areas of my life, but generally, I am a disciplined person.

Realizing this, I decided to stop scolding myself. Instead I tried offering myself the grace that God already gave.

From that stance, God and I went over the rest of my list together. I chose one item on the list to focus on for now. My goal will be to incorporate it into my routine as diligently as the items that I’ve already put stars beside. At the same time, I’ll still be aware of the other items on my list. I’ll keep trying to incorporate those as well, but, with God’s help, I will remember that though I’m not doing these as perfectly as I’d like to, I am doing them well enough. At some point in the future, as God leads, when my current focus item has become something I can’t imagine not doing routinely, I’ll turn my focus to another item on my list.

And when I can’t get to everything, I will not chide. Instead I’ll seek God’s grace toward me.

  • In what area of your life is God offering grace while you are not?
  • What do you tend to chide yourself about?
  • What will you do to discover God’s opinion on the matter?
  • How is He calling you to obey?

Father, sometimes I expect too much of myself. I expect myself to be able to do what I would never expect, counsel, or even want other people to do, knowing it is too much. I expect more of me than even You do—and You know what I’m capable of. You created me. You know me better than I know myself. You have good plans for me. You love me just as I am. When I catch myself chiding myself, draw my attention to You. Help me to seek Your opinion on the matter and to respond obediently. I guess obedience isn’t being more perfect than I am. It’s humbly doing what I can as You lead—and trusting You with the rest. Please help me with this. I thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Waiting, Ezekiel, and What Really Matters Now

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:

Prayer of WaitingThe 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.

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Praying When We Feel Hungry

Parachute PrayerAre you ready for the first Parachute Prayer of the new year? I discovered this one while taking my son to the airport last week. It was a long drive, and we were running a little late. Suddenly my stomach started growling. I have no idea why; we’d just eaten a good dinner. But my stomach was hungry, and I didn’t dare ask to stop for food. We needed to get our boy to the airport on time.

My youngest son would call this a first world problem, but I didn’t really see it as a problem. I didn’t need to eat, and I knew when I’d be able to eat. My stomach just had to be patient. Thinking about this reminded me, however, that there are those who do need to eat and who don’t know when they’ll next be able to eat. They became the subject of this new Parachute Prayer.

Hunger ParachuteWhenever we feel hungry but can’t eat right away, let’s pray for hungry people who don’t know when they’ll get their next meal or if they’ll get enough to feel satisfied when they do. Let’s ask God to provide generously. Let’s ask Him to prompt others to pray—and to serve. Let’s ask Him what He wants us to do—on a regular basis—to help relieve this problem . . . in our communities . . . all over the world.

Then, if we have time (or maybe later when we have time), let’s let this Parachute lead us to others regarding needs in society. When we let Him, God’s Spirit will guide our thoughts from one prayer concern to another related concern and to another and on and on. Linger over the ones that most burden your heart. Trust all to our sovereign, loving God—the God Who Sees.

Father, thank You for seeing the needs of Your children all over this world. Please provide food, clothing, and shelter for those who don’t regularly have access to these basic needs. Warmth is crucial in many places at this time of year. Help the lonely find family and friends. Thank You for Your care. Thank You also for letting us participate in Your provision plan. Show us what we can do and prompt us to obey. We love You, therefore we love others. Help us to love generously in both word and deed . . . as Jesus did. Amen.

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The Conversation Begins: Bible Meditation

The Conversation Begins“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.

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The Conversation Begins: Confession

The Conversation Begins“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).

Psalm 32-6When 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)

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Preparing in Advance to Give and to Worship

1 Chronicles 16-29As I walked into the grocery store yesterday, the bell ringer standing outside caught my eye. I was trying to avoid this because I had no cash on hand; I just wanted to sneak quietly by. But he blocked my path just enough to get me to look up, then he wished me a merry Christmas. This determined bell ringer was on a mission to make eye contact with and speak to every person who entered the store. On my way back out again, about forty minutes later, he was still at it. This time he said, “God bless you!” I appreciated the fact that he wanted to offer Christmas blessings to everyone, even those who had no money that was drop-in-the-bucket-able.

I went on about my day and forgot about the whole encounter, but God brought it back to mind this morning. I wondered if that group gets fewer donations now than they used to because people are less likely to carry cash. Then I realized that it is December after all. This is the only month of the year they are out. We know they are going to be there, so if we want to give, why not go prepared? Would it really be so hard to keep a little bit of money on hand for worthy giving opportunities that arise not only for this group, but others we might encounter? —not only in December, but all through the year? God’s instructions to the Israelites on intentionally leaving some of the harvest in their fields for others to gather as they have need comes to mind. (See Deuteronomy 24:21 for one example.)

As I continued to think about this, read, and pray, I came to this verse in my day’s reading: “Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.”1 Chronicles 16:29, NLT

When we give in God’s name, we enter His presence—even if we’re entering the grocery store! As we prepare to give, we’re preparing to worship anywhere! When the Spirit prompts us to follow through, we’re doing so with our Lord.

Father, thank You for giving me something to think about this morning. Please remind me to be prepared. I want to share the gifts You’ve given with others who may need them. I also want to enjoy Your presence everywhere I go. I’ll prepare, You lead, I’ll obey. Together we’ll encourage others and magnify Your name. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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The Conversation Begins: Worship

Psalm 34-3Worship. 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.

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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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Finding the Meaning in Meaningless

I woke up early this morning. Following my usual routine, only earlier, I got my first cup of coffee, sat down with my Bible, devotional books, and journal, and started my day. I asked God to show me His message for me today. Then I opened my Bible to find this:

Ecclesiastes

Our God has a sense of humor. I laughed right out loud. Thankfully, I know that life isn’t meaningless and that the author of Ecclesiastes knew it, too. At least he’d learned it by the time he finished writing his book. From some of what I read today, though, I think he knew it sooner, too.

In chapter 2, verses 24 and 25, he wrote, “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” Then in chapter 3, verse 14, he wrote, “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.”

Before these verses, he had written about all of his failed experiments in finding meaning in life. He concluded that wisdom, pleasure, folly, and toil are all meaningless, meaningless, without any meaning at all. Between these two verses, he wrote about there being a time for everything, about God making everything beautiful in its time, about God putting eternity in the human heart. In 3:13, he came to the conclusion that finding satisfaction in life is a gift from God.

And so, if “everything that God does will endure forever” and “nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it” and if satisfaction “is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” then our lives and activities only have meaning and purpose if we are participating in God’s work at His leading. He doesn’t need our help, but He invites us to join in because He loves us. He created us with a desire for Him. He created us with a need for meaningful work, for relevance. We find the second when we seek Him first.

Wait! Haven’t I read that somewhere else? “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”Matthew 6:33. Those are Jesus’ words from His Sermon on the Mount. To find meaning and purpose, we need to seek God and do whatever work He has for us to do. With Him, daily drudgery becomes a relevant contribution to His kingdom. Challenging opportunities become joyful privileges because we know they show our Father’s recognition of our growing maturity. We find our life’s significance in living every day for Him.

Father, thank You for inviting us to participate. Open our eyes to whatever activities You have for us to do. All of life is meaningful when we’re serving next to You. Please find us faithful. Amen.

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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.