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When Praying Is All You Can Do

Note: I originally posted these thoughts at Wildflower Thinking. As I was preparing this week’s The Conversation Begins post, though, I remembered this post from 2009. These thoughts provide a foundation for the post I’m working on, so I’m posting them here for you now.


Praying Is BigFor the past few weeks, I’ve been pondering a phrase that most of us use. I’ve even used it myself, but I’m questioning whether it’s true. It may be very true, but lately it seems wrong to me.

The phrase is: All we can do is pray.

It seems to me that if prayer is talking to the God Who created the universe and all that is in it, the all-mighty, all-powerful, for-Whom-nothing-is-impossible God of everything, that prayer is doing something pretty big. God raised people from the dead. God fed thousands of people with only a few pieces of bread and fish. God pulled a coin out of a fish’s mouth in order to pay His taxes.

And so I would say that prayer is not a last resort. It’s should be the first thing we do whenever we need help—and, in reality, considering how much power an all-powerful God has, it’s probably all we need to do. We give Him our problems; He doesn’t need our help.

Imagine a little kid facing a big school bully. He knows the bully is bigger than him and will win, but he also knows his big brother is bigger than that bully. Would the kid face the bully alone? Or would he get help from the one who can spare him some pain?

I’m raising boys, so I know they don’t always go for the logical answer there, but, then again, neither do we. We put up our little fists and try to fix the situation alone while God quietly waits for us to pray. Then, when we’ve exhausted ourselves with the effort, we sit back and tell God that the situation seems pretty hopeless, but He’s welcome to give fixing it a try. If God is God and has all the power to do anything, that seems like living backward to me.

Prayer is not our last resort. Prayer is our best first move. It’s the most effective action we can take.

On the other hand, sometimes we do pray first. Then we do what we can do—as we should. God may use us to answer our own prayers, so we should do what we can. Yet sometimes we use up all our ideas and exhaust all our resources until finally we know that praying really is all we can do.

But even then, even when we reach that point, there’s more going on than just prayer.

Paul said, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). I think he must have been writing about just such a situation. As we wait for God to act, we joyfully anticipate whatever He will do, knowing without a doubt that is it God Who will do it, and that He will get all the glory, honor, and praise as He deserves. We joyfully hope for the best because God is in charge, and He loves us.

As we patiently wait for Him to act, we learn that God’s timing is perfect and that His plans may be different than ours. Have you ever prayed, like I have, “Lord, we’re running out of time here. If You’re going to do something, You’d better do it now. Really, Lord, now. Now would be really good.” But only God knows when the timing is right; deadlines mean nothing to Him for He can work around them easily. Or we may see a perfect opportunity for God to fix everything in one fell swoop. So we tell Him about it, then sit back and watch to see Him work. But His plans aren’t ours, so He doesn’t do what we suggest. He’s working on a bigger, more perfect picture than we can see or imagine. So we patiently wait some more, knowing God is truly in charge. Yet while we wait, we faithfully pray—and we grow ever closer to God.

I leave you today with two thoughts:

  • Prayer is not meant to be only a last resort–always pray first, then pray all the way through.
  • When prayer is a last resort, when it’s truly all that we can do, know God is at work. Trust Him as you faithfully and continually pray.
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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: Parachute Prayer

Parachute Prayer PostI confess. I’m cheating this week because I’m enjoying holiday time with my family. The following post was first printed at Wildflower Thinking on September 14, 2008. It’s where the Parachute Prayer concept began.


Dear Readers,

When I first started writing this blog, I told you my goal is to become more intentional about seeking, finding, and sharing the Truths God has for me to learn. He’s planted life’s lessons everywhere, like wildflowers. I just have to slow down and pay attention, so I won’t walk on by leaving them unnoticed, unlearned, and untold—to wither and die unseen.

Another goal of mine is to become more intentional about sending up prayers about anything and everything all the time. Paul told us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17KJV). Practicing that concept can be fun! So from time to time, as I come up with a new prayer prompt or trigger, I’ll share the idea with you.

I realized these prayer reminders need a name you’ll recognize, and I wanted the name to fit my wildflower theme. Dandelions immediately came to mind. You pick a dandelion, blow on it gently, and send the seeds flying through the air. Prayer is like that. You send your prayers to Heaven, and God just blesses everyone! You never know where the blessings will land—but God does. They aren’t as random as they seem.

Interestingly enough, the little, fluffy grey things that blow off the dandelions to carry the seeds are called parachutes. And that image fits the concept I’m trying to communicate so perfectly from my perspective, that I think I’ll use it. When you see a blog titled, “Parachute Prayers,” you’ll know it’s an idea to promote prayer without ceasing in our lives. I hope you’ll find these ideas useful. I won’t post them unless they’ve been helpful to me.

Parachute Prayer #1
As you read the headlines in your paper or on your homepage, whisper short prayers for the people involved. Today we could pray for victims of Hurricane Ike, their families, and their rescuers. We could also pray for those injured in the Los Angeles train wreck and the Ural Mountain plane crash. Of course, the election outcome should be fervently in our prayers.*

You may come across local and human interest stories to pray about while you read, too. As you pray for strangers in your city and around the world, God will bring people you know and their personal needs to mind as well. Send up a few prayers for them before you go on your way. Parachute prayers are like wildflower thoughts. When you stop to consider one, you’ll find another behind it, then another and so on as you go through your day.


Since 2008, I’ve written many more Parachute Prayer prompts now available in my book by that name. To purchase it on Amazon, click here.


*Those were the headlines in 2008. Today I’m praying for tornado and flood victims. Of course, election issues are already and still in the news.

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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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Memory Gratitude

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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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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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Thanksgiving and Prayer

Thanksgiving and Prayer“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.”Colossians 1:3-4

Paul starts his letter to the Colossian church with thanksgiving and prayer. He tells them that he is thankful for them and why. He is thankful for them because he’s heard of their faith in Christ and their love for His people.

  • Who are you thankful for today and why?

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.”Colossians 1:9

Because Paul is thankful for the Colossians, he and his ministry team pray for them.* They pray that:

  • God will fill them with the knowledge of His Will (v. 9).
  • They will live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way (v. 10).
  • They will bear fruit in every good work (v. 10).
  • They will grow in the knowledge of God (v. 10).
  • They will be strengthened with all power according to God’s glorious might (v. 11).
  • They will have great endurance and patience (v. 11).
  • They will be joyfully thankful for the inheritance they share with all of God’s people (v. 12).

What a beautiful way to honor someone you are thankful for!

  • What blessings are you asking God to bestow on the people you are thanking Him for today?

*Click here to read the full passage at BibleGateway.com.

I’m sharing this post with the following sites today: Word of God Speak and Spiritual Sundays. Click on the links to see what others are sharing there too.