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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.

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Questions to Ask When People Bring Hurt

1 Peter 3-8n9“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”1 Peter 3:8-9

If only everyone would follow Peter’s instructions found in these verses, our world would be a happier place. Just imagine if everyone tried to see the other’s point of view, to be sympathetic, to love, to show compassion, and to act with humility in all situations.

Sadly, not every does. In fact, everyone doesn’t—at least not in every situation all the time. This may be why Peter devoted one sentence to how to conduct ourselves positively and two to what to do when others don’t. In this world, we will encounter evil and insults. We need to know how to respond.

Here are three things to ask when deciding how to repay evil with a blessing:

1. If Jesus were in this situation, how would He handle it? When we don’t know the answer, we can study to gospels and ask God’s Spirit for help. The better we know Jesus and His way, the more naturally we’ll follow in every circumstance.

2. What might God be trying to accomplish in this other person’s life? Depending on how well we know this person, the answer may be obvious or hard to determine. Either way, we can take what we know to God as we talk with Him about the situation and pray for the other person.

3. How might God be able to use our response to this event? Asking this question takes the focus off ourselves and our personal injuries. We can trust God to help us and to heal us regardless of what the other person does or has done. Therefore, we are free to pray for the one who hurt us, to seek that person’s good.

When we repay evil with such a blessing, we enjoy personal peace, we help to bring healing to the situation, we offer good to the one who hurt us, and we send a message to the world. All of these honor God because as Christians, we are being watched every day. Unbelievers want to see, to test, how we handle life. Our reactions to evil and to insults teach them about Jesus Christ.

Father, that’s a sobering thought. When someone hurts me, my response can’t be all about me. But, thanks to Jesus, it doesn’t have to be. I can trust You to take care of me. Help me to offer blessings to others to encourage the world to seek You and to do good. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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We Follow the One We Choose to Trust

We Follow Who We TrustA few years ago I did a series at Wildflower Thinking called The New Spice Rack Recipes. My brother had learned that salt was my seasoning of choice and decided to correct that by buying me a new spice rack for my birthday. I decided to take the hint and determined to find at least one new recipe every month that featured one of the spices from my new spice rack. The series ran until I’d used each spice at least once.

The series came to an end, but my cooking adventures did not. Since then, our family has had to give up soy and gluten, and I’ve had to learn a whole new way to cook. But the spice rack project prepared me for this adventure. I’m not a great chef, but I can no longer say I’m not a good cook. I’ve been practicing and learning to enjoy the process, too. In fact, I suspect my earlier cooking issues came from being impatient, from trying to hurry the science up. (And if you don’t believe that cooking is a science, then you haven’t really learned to cook.)

For Christmas this past year, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a new cookbook called The Gluten-Free Table by Jilly Lagasse and Jessie Lagasse Swanson, aka Emeril’s daughters. I’ll confess, it intimidates me. I’ve only tried one of the recipes so far—but it was so good! Pan-fried Flounder with Lemon Garlic Butter. It totally takes the healthy out of gluten-free! That’s probably why it’s such a hit in our house.

I made this recipe the other day. The sisters excel at step-by-step instructions. (Something I’ll need to remember as I boldly attempt some more of their creations.) But as I was following these instructions, I found myself revising them. I’d see a simpler way to get from one step to another—less mess, fewer dishes. I’d wonder why they included the extra steps. Then I’d figure there probably was a perfectly good reason, but since I couldn’t ask them, I’d do things my way. The recipe came out fine, but I can’t help but wonder if following the recipe exactly would have made a difference—would have made it even better! What do these sisters know that I don’t? (Probably, quite a lot!) I may never know, however, because the fish turned out really good, and I had less mess to clean up. (Remember that theory of my earlier cooking issues? Evidently I’m still a work in progress.)


Mark 8:34 says, “Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Earlier Jesus had called Peter and Andrew to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-20). They did. He called Matthew to follow Him (Matthew 9:9). He did. He told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and follow Him (Matthew 19:21). This man did not. Finally, Jesus called anyone who wants to to follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23). The choice is ours.

This decision to follow Jesus, however, isn’t just a one-time choice. We choose to follow Jesus, then we choose to keep following Him. Just as I had to choose to follow the Lagasse sisters’ step-by-step instructions or not as I worked my way through their recipe, we have to choose to follow Jesus’ leading moment-by-moment, every day, as we work our way through life. Some people in the Bible followed Jesus, then turned back when the journey got rough (John 6:66). There will be times when our journey gets rough, when our journey gets messy, when we think we see a simpler way. In these times, we’ll choose to follow—or not. And life may become easier for a time if we do not, but, unlike with the flounder recipe, in the end we won’t get the desired result unless we follow Jesus and do everything His way.

Earlier I mentioned that as I was preparing the pan-fried flounder, I often wondered why the Lagasse sisters told me to do some things. I don’t know them personally, so I couldn’t ask. It’s similar with Jesus. I do have a personal relationship with Him, and He doesn’t mind if I ask why. But He doesn’t always choose to answer this question. I think this is because He is teaching us to trust. We show our trust, we practice our trust, when we choose to follow Him no matter what. And in the end, this is healthy for us.

Jesus loves us. He wants what’s best for us. He’s continuing the work He has begun in our lives. Let’s cooperate. Let’s follow. Let’s trust.

Jesus, thank You for being perfectly trustworthy. Please help us to follow You faithfully each day.

Disclosure

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Of Dead Keys and Fruitless Fig Trees

The Dead Key BagIn our house, I’m the Keeper of the Keys. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s similar to being the one who is expected to carry every else’s papers and books at church because I’m the one who carries a purse. (I usually refuse to live up to this expectation, but it’s there just the same.) I don’t carry a purse around the house, yet I’m still the one who gets to keep track of all the spare keys.

Whenever we move into a new home, every responsible inhabitant gets a set of house keys—and I get any extras to keep in a drawer—just in case. Every time we purchase a new padlock or security box or file cabinet, I get the spare keys for those, too. And because there’ve been times when a family member couldn’t find a key and the spare key couldn’t be found in its appointed place for one mysterious reason or another—most likely because said family member never gave The Keeper of the Keys the spare key to begin with, though said family member prefers to think The Keeper of the Keys misplaced the spare key—I’m a little bit obsessive about hanging on to all the keys that have ever come into my possession—ever—from the beginning of my mysterious appointment to this role.

The result of this obsession combined with our tendency to move is what I’ve come to call The Dead Key Bag. It’s a plastic, zipper bag stuffed full of keys that I have no idea what they open but feel compelled to keep—just in case. I laughed out loud when the lady who packed our house for our most recent move found my dead keys, brought them to me, and asked, “Are these important? Do you need to carry them yourself or should I pack them?” I told her that I didn’t know what they belonged to, so she could go ahead and pack them. She looked a little confused but took them back to pack anyway.

That’s when I realized I probably could have taken them and thrown them away right then. (The packer was probably thinking this, too.) We were moving. I had all keys-in-use on my key chain. Any keys in that bag were most assuredly dead. I’d be getting new keys. It was the perfect opportunity to free myself of The Dead Key Bag. Since the lady had already packed them, though, I decided I’d toss them when I found them in my new home.

I shouldn’t have waited. Earlier this summer, I told you about this particular packer and how she collected all the night lights in the house and packed them together in one box. Well, on the other side of the room from the drawer where I kept The Dead Key Bag was a drawer where I kept current spare keys. Spare keys that I could identify. Keys currently in use. My efficient packer friend found these keys—in their different drawer on the other side of the room—and thoughtfully added them to The Dead Key Bag.

It’s a key nightmare! Now I have to keep the dead keys or risk throwing out a key we still use.

The other day my son Seth asked for the spare key to his car. With a sinister gleam in my eye, I handed him The Dead Key Bag. He dumped it out, and we examined its contents together.

“Mom, these little keys are luggage keys—for the little padlocks on your suitcases that anyone can open with a toothpick. They’re useless. You can throw them away.”

I didn’t.

“These are the keys to Justin’s, Alex’s, and my first cars. We’ve sold the cars. You can throw these keys away.”

I think I’m going to have them bronzed—like Grandma bronzed her children’s baby shoes!

“This is the key to Dad’s Ranger the lady hit and totaled two years ago.”

That one needs to be plated with gold! My husband walked away without a scratch. Thank You, Lord!!!

“The rest of these look like house or padlock keys. We should melt them down and make something useful out of them.”

I have no idea how to do such a thing, but Seth will figure it out if I give him permission. In the meantime, I’m putting The Dead Key Bag back in the drawer for a designated project day when I’ll toss every key for which I cannot find a lock.


This reminds me of the parable of the fig tree found in Luke 13:6-8. The owner of a fig tree goes out to search for fruit. For the third year in a row, he can’t find any, so he tells the caretaker to cut down the tree. The caretaker begs him for one more year and promises to give extra attention to that tree for that year in order to help it produce fruit.

The tree’s purpose is to produce fruit. A key’s purpose is to open a lock. A person’s purpose is to find God, accept His gift of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ, and spend eternity enjoying a loving relationship with Him.

The world is full of people who haven’t found their purpose, but God is patient “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Like the owner of the fig tree and The Keeper of the Keys, however, God has chosen a day when His patience will end—a day known only to Him (Matthew 24:36).

Until then, those of us who know God are like the caretaker in the parable. We walk and talk with Him daily. We love Him and strive to get to know Him better. We serve Him faithfully, doing whatever He tells us to do. We’re fulfilling our purpose, while doing all we can to lead others to Him. The end of the year/designated project day is coming. We must help lead people to our Lord.

How do we do this? We do what the caretaker did!

  • We plead with God on their behalf.
  • We offer them Living Water, like Jesus offered it to the woman at the well (John 4:1-26).
  • We give them the nutrients of God’s Word as opportunities arise.
  • We pay attention to their needs, loving them in Jesus’ name as we love ourselves.

There isn’t much we can do for a bunch of dead keys. They’ve served their purpose; they are done. But we can pray for and love people who haven’t yet discovered the purpose for which they were made. Our God is patiently waiting, reaching out to all. Let’s ask Him for a greater awareness of opportunities to help people come to Him.

Father, thank You for salvation. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for sending Your Son to save us from our sins, so we can enjoy an eternal relationship with You. We thank You now for Your patience with those who haven’t found You yet. Please continue to wait. And while You do, please send Your Spirit to help us do all we can to help lead these souls to You. We love You, Lord. We want them to love You, too. For their good. For Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Making the Most of God-Given Opportunities

Thanking God for Opportunities“I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me.”1 Kings 14:8-9

I found a gentle reminder in this verse. God gives us opportunities. We choose to make the most of them for His glory and our good—or not. David chose to follow God with all his heart. Jeroboam, the king being spoken to in the above verses, did not. As a result, God did not allow Jeroboam’s family to continue to rule. In fact, a challenger rose up to wipe the family out. (See 1 Kings 15:27-30.)


As parents, we give our children opportunities. We want them to succeed in life. We want what’s best for them. Our children, however, get to choose how to use those opportunities. When they’re young, we offer them healthy meals. They choose to eat them and grow strong (and maybe get dessert when they’re through) or to skip the broccoli, miss out on its benefits, and deal with our frustration. When they’re older, we may offer to help finance their college education. But they’ll choose whether to work hard and make the most of the opportunity or to squander it and fail.

When our children reject or waste an opportunity, we may feel responsible. As we watch our children suffer the consequences of poor decisions, we may wonder if maybe we shouldn’t have offered the opportunity to begin with. But the truth is our children are responsible for their own choices. If they do well, the credit belongs to them—though some of it usually rubs off on us. If they do poorly, that’s on them, too—though, again, fair or not, this often falls on us as well. Thankfully, God knows the truth one way or another—and He understands better than any other.

God gave David an opportunity. David chose to honor God—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5). God honored David in return, establishing a Kingdom that would stand in spite of the failings of David’s descendants.

Likewise, God gave Jeroboam an opportunity. Jeroboam chose to squander it. As a result, people who read the story sometimes question why God gave Jeroboam the opportunity in the first place. We don’t know the answer to that question. We only know that God gave Jeroboam an opportunity, and Jeroboam messed up. The failure is Jeroboam’s. God’s Kingdom stands without this man.

Let’s go back to that gentle reminder. God gives us opportunities just like He gave David and Jeroboam opportunities. He also gives us the freedom to choose how we will use them. Today let’s spend some time thinking about the opportunities God has given to us. Let’s consider how we’re using them, whether or not we’re doing the best we can with what we have to follow and honor God. Are we people after God’s own heart or are we going our own way? The choice comes with the gift.


Father, thank You for all the opportunities You give to us. Help us to show our gratitude by using them in ways that honor You. Please search our hearts and reveal to us any selfish or wicked ways. We want to follow You like David did. Help us live lives that glorify Your name. Amen.

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That the Fully Committed Will Stay Strong

Parachute Prayer Post“And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” -1 Kings 8:61

After Solomon built and dedicated God’s Temple, he spoke to the people. 1 Kings 8:61 records some of his words. When I read the first phrase of this verse, I started to pray for people I know who aren’t fully committed to the Lord. But then I read the last phrase. Solomon wasn’t urging the people to become committed to the Lord; he wanted them to stay that way. That little phrase, as at this time, reminded me, once again, that while it’s important to pray for the one lost sheep to be found (Luke 15:1-7), it’s also important to pray for the 99 who are safely in the fold.

And Solomon’s own life proves this. Just three chapters later, we read of Solomon’s downfall and death. This king who urged God’s people to remain faithful did not. Tragically, his choices set a series of events in motion that led the whole nation to fall. Likewise, when strong Christians falter, they tend to take others down with them. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” When our enemy gets hold of someone influential, he’s especially thrilled. It’s his opportunity to take a whole herd. For everyone’s sake, we must pray that those who are committed to God will find the strength in Him to stay that way.

Because Solomon was a king and because Christians are God’s “chosen people, a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), let’s let symbols of royalty be our prompt to pray. When we see crowns, thrones, scepters, news of one royal family or another, let’s ask God to strengthen those who are fully committed to Him. May their hearts remain that way for their good, for the good of God’s Kingdom, and for God’s glory. Amen.


For more prayer prompts, read Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Available in paperback or for Kindle.

 

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Giving Our Petitions to God

Then Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.’” –1 Samuel 2:1, emphasis mine

For This ChildHannah’s story is one of my all-time favorites. The Bible only gives her two chapters, but there is much we can learn from this devoted woman of God.

When I read of her misery at not having a desperately longed-for child, compounded by taunts from her husband’s other wife, my heart always breaks for her. When Eli confronts her during a time of intense prayer, accusing her of being drunk, I want to scold him for being so dense: “Hasn’t the poor woman suffered enough?” And then, when she finally bears this child and turns him over to the Lord, I admire her courage at following through on her promise. (If you are unfamiliar with this priceless story, you’ll find it in 1 Samuel 1.)

But today, I’m drawn to something about the story that I usually miss, and I think, perhaps, it may be the whole point. Remember, I just told you, Hannah’s story is found in 1 Samuel 1. The chapter ends with Hannah putting Samuel into Eli’s care for a lifetime of service in the house of the Lord. Chapter 2, however, begins with Hannah’s prayer of joy and praise. Hannah gave up her son, then Hannah praised the Lord.

You would think the prayer of joy and praise would have come when Hannah learned she was expecting Samuel, or maybe a little later, when he was born. Then, you would think putting Samuel into Eli’s care would result in a time of mourning, or maybe another time of petition, asking for more children to replace the one she’s given up. Wouldn’t you think this? I think I would.

But I’m thankful for Hannah’s example here. We often view her as a symbol of hope for childless women—and that she is! She’s also a mentor, though, for all women who’ve ever had the privilege of raising a child or two or more.

You see, we don’t bear children in order to have them—to possess them, to keep them forever in our care. We bear children in order to send them off in faithful service to God through whatever occupation He leads them into! This does not mean we drop them off at our local church for the pastor to raise from the day they’re weaned—like Hannah did. We are blessed to be able to keep our children a little bit longer than that. But, like Hannah, our goal from the day they are born is to raise them to know, love, and serve God as He directs throughout their lives. He gives them to us, so we can give them back to Him.

That’s why the day we successfully launch them is a day to sincerely rejoice! (even if it’s through a few tears.)

And, when this day comes, though we’ll miss our children, we can trust that, just as God blessed Hannah with more children, He will bless us with more children, too—people to love and nurture, projects to complete in His name.

As I ponder all this, I have one more thought to add to this thought. And, as I mentioned earlier, it may be the thought, so I hope you’ll bear with me for just a few paragraphs more.

Hannah’s petition for a child, the way she handled it, can apply to all petitions we may bring before God. When considering what we want or need, rather than considering what these will mean to us personally, like Hannah we can consider what they’ll mean to God’s Kingdom and to our work within it. We pray for things we can develop for the honor and glory of God. We pray for things that will build His Kingdom, drawing more people to Him. Then we care for these things as God provides, releasing them willingly and with praise when it comes time for that. Perhaps this is what it means to give our petitions to God. We ask for what we want or need, releasing the answer to Him even before we receive it, with faithful intentions to use all God provides for His Kingdom’s good.

That is what Hannah did. Let’s learn from her and do the same.

Father, thank You for Hannah’s example. Teach us to consider Your Kingdom and our role in it whenever we present our requests to You. Thank You for the gifts You bring into our lives for a time. Help us to nurture them as You intend, and then release them back to You with joy. Let all we do be for the honor of Your name. We love You, Lord! Amen.

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A New Way to Pray for Family and Close Friends

Teach Us to IntercedePrayer is having a conversation with God.

Intercessory prayer is one kind of prayer: praying for other people.

When we intercede, we usually present to God a list of concerns for others that we have been made aware of: they’ve asked us to pray, another person has asked us to pray for them, we’ve observed their struggles and decided to pray. We collect these requests then choose a time to present them to God in prayer.

But if prayer really is having a conversation with God, then intercession can be so much more than presenting a list of concerns. I believe that we can learn to pray with God about people instead of simply praying to God for people. I also believe that as we do so, we’ll be allowing Him, if He so chooses, to use us more effectively in the process of answering those prayers.

This is how it works:

1. Begin by telling God all the things you love about the person you are praying for. This will allow God to go to work on your heart. If there are hidden resentments or other problems, God will reveal these as you attempt to focus on the positive. You’ll be having a conversation with God about this person, and as you do, God will prepare your heart to intercede by helping you go into it with the right attitude.

2. Take some time to thank God for that person’s presence in your life. Officially recognize and recount ways God has used that person to positively influence you. Let God show you how this person is one of His gifts to you. Thank Him for the gift.

3. Ask God to show you how you can love that person in His name. Ask Him to give you specific ideas. Determine to be alert to His promptings throughout the day—and ask Him to help you with this. When you follow through, that will be your opportunity to work with God, allowing Him to use you however He chooses to answer your prayers. If you don’t see an opportunity or feel prompted to do anything out of the ordinary, trust God with this. He may use you without your knowledge. He may use someone else to meet a need. He may have something else in mind. His ways are always best.

4. Finally, present any known requests on that person’s behalf. Present them one at a time, thoughtfully. Again, be open and alert to anything God’s Spirit may suggest to you. Thank God for all He plans to do in this person’s life.

Praying this way for everyone we love every day is probably too much to ask. If ever we’re aware of something serious, that can be a prompt to take the time to do this. And, of course, we can whisper Parachute Prayers on the spot whenever we learn of a need. Here’s a fun suggestion, though, for scheduling time to pray for those in our close circles regularly:

  • Make a list of the people you consider family and close friends, people you want to pray for regularly just because you love them.
  • Write the number of their birthday beside their name. For example, if your mother was born on May 4, write a four beside her name.
  • When a person’s number rolls around every month, pray for that person on that day. Using the above example, on the fourth of every month, you’d pray for your mom.
  • Because some people have birthdays at the end of long months, pray for those people on the last day of the month, so you’ll still get to focus on them twelve times (at the very least – always be open to pray more often if God calls you to).

Caution: please don’t ever let a suggestion such as this one, simply a useful tool, become a burden. Talking with God about the people we love is meant to be a joyful privilege—never something we have to do on this day-at that time-no matter what-or else.

Father, please teach us to pray with You about the people You’ve placed in our lives. However You lead us to do so, help us to enjoy our visit with you and to learn if and how we can help as You work in their lives. Teach us to love. Teach us to encourage. Teach us to obey. We love you, Lord. Amen.