Monday, February 28, 2011

How to Pray, Listening for God ~ Prayer Lesson #5

Jackson, our first GRANDchild is almost 5 years old.  My prayer life took on a new dimension when Jackson was born. 

I started asking God what He would like me to pray for Jackson.  Sure there were obvious things that I knew I would pray for him.  From before he was born I started praying that early on he would know his identity as the beloved child of God.  And years before a friend had told me that she always prayed that it would be easy for their grandchildren to love God.  I liked that and I added that to my prayer list.  And I asked other friends what they prayed for their grandchildren. 

But my prayer life for Jackson really came alive when I asked God what He would like me to pray for Jackson.  I don’t remember ever doing that before.  Immediately God led me to II Timothy 1:5,6.  I started praying that Jackson would develop a sincere faith like his mother and grandmothers and that he would fan into flame the gifts that God had given him.

As Jackson started growing, and the pictures started rolling in, I began to see a theme in the pictures.  Jackson is a wonder-er.  What a wonderful quality.  And my prayer life for him began to include that Jackson would never loose that quality of wondering. 

Then another theme emerged.  Jackson is a helper.  Many children say, “I want to help”.  But it seems to be a real strength for Jackson.  So that quality was added to my prayer list for him.

When Ashlyn and Judah were born, I asked God the same thing, what should I be praying for these precious GRANDchildren? 

Now, asking God that question has become a regular part of my prayer life beyond my prayers for our GRANDchildren.  How do you want me to pray, Lord?” or “What do you want me to trust you with in this situation, God?” have become normal parts of my prayer life.  Usually God leads me to a specific Scripture, like the II Timothy passage.  Sometimes, He impresses on me a quality, like wonder-er.  But He has never failed to answer my question.

I feel like my prayers are in tune with the heart of God.  Yikes, I just thought of something I’ve been praying about that I have not asked God my question!  God is faithful.  I will ask.

That doesn't mean that God always says yes to my petitions.  But it does help my understanding and perspective when the answers come.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; …”  Matthew 7:7a

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cloud-Carrying Friends

I was sitting on top of a cloud.  I guess you are closer to God when you are on top of a cloud rather than under a cloud.  Clouds are kind of fluffy and sometimes even see through.  I was concerned that I might fall through the cloud.  Ah, I didn’t need to fear.  Underneath the cloud was a large group of friends.  These friend’s arms were over their heads, their wrists bent backwards, palms up supporting my cloud.  These wonderful friends escorted me to the seminar I facilitated last week on listening to God. 

There was Dyxie who mentored me on how to “brand” myself.  That sounds kind of important, doesn’t it?  J  Thank you my friend.  There was Pat whose generosity provided resources for me to give away.  J  I so appreciate Kristi and Audrey and Carolyn and Jack and Jane who allowed me to share some of their stories.  J  Thank you to Jodi who opened her home.  J  And my other friends Jodi and Kim and Doris who took care of a lot of the behind the scenes work.  J  Then there was my friend Carol who partnered with me that day and Louise and Janine.  J  Your contributions were so appreciated. J  Thank you to Lisa who allowed me to share some of the work she had previously done.  J   Thank you to Carolyn and to Jennifer who shared their wisdom with me from afar.  J   Thank you to Lindy and Jenny and Chris and Blythe and Kathy and Marion and Carolyn who encouraged me by faith ~ before the fact.  J  And to the many many many friends who prayed with and for me that day.  J   And thank you to all who have inquired about the seminar.  I love telling the story of how my friends heard God speaking to them individually through His word that day.  This is all quite overwhelming.  Not only do I thank these wonderful friends, but I also know I share with them in the blessings of God’s good work that day. 

The picture of my cloud-carrying friends was a gift from God to me.  It was an illustration to me of Romans 12 and the other places in the Scriptures that speak of the body of Christ.  As believers we do life and ministry together.  What a wonderful gift.  I love it!

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.   For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:…”  Romans 12:3-6

THANK YOU to all my friends who used their gifts to make this day of listening to God a blessing to so many.  I couldn’t have done it without you!      love, sue

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Praying and Roller-Coasters ~ Prayer Lesson #4

I don’t like roller-coaster rides.  I’ve even heard myself use the word hate in relationship to them.  That comes from personal experience.  I’m much more the carousel type. 

I do like to pray. 

But sometimes my prayers feel like I’m on a roller-coaster ride.  You know what I mean.  God seems to be saying yes to my requests one day and the next day, it’s wait or I (God) have a better plan.  The highs and the lows, the mountains and the valleys are emotionally exhausting and sometimes very discouraging.  The peaks and the dips of a roller-coaster ride seem a good analogy to life some days and how I am praying.

Recently a friend reminded me that a roller-coaster ride is only a good analogy to prayer if my prayers are centered around the ups and the downs of life.  Father, would you cause this job offer to come through?  Father, would you cause this medicine work?  Father, would you cause my child to obey better?  Those are all legitimate requests.  They express desires.  I believe God is the author of our desires and He wants to fulfill them.  So I will continue to pray prayers like these.  But requests like these are a moving target controlled by circumstances.  I should not be surprised by a roller-coaster ride.

Hebrews 13:5, 6 and 8 remind me of three great truths,  “I will never leave you or forsake you;  the Lord is my helper; I will not fear; and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
1.      God is omnipresent.  He is always aware of all the circumstances of my life.  God is going to ride them out with me. 
2.      God not only is on the roller-coaster ride with me, He is helping me hang on through those very scary down hill parts. 
3.      God is not affected by the circumstances of my life.  His Word never changes.

This weekend I heard a friend share her story of the ups and downs of her marriage.  She put words to what I’d been thinking about.  She said, “I wasn’t looking to my marriage to be my security”.  Then she shared the Scriptures that had become her security during the very rocky days of her marriage.  She was hanging on to our omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, never-changing God.  The words of Scripture became her main prayers and they tamed the roller- coaster ride for her.

And so it is for me.  I am learning to tame the roller-coaster ride by praying Scripture; by trusting the truths of God’s Word.  Yes, I still pray for certain circumstances, but more and more I’m defaulting to what I know is truth.  The roller-coaster is becoming much more bearable.

“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Praying is Loving ~ Prayer Lesson #3

“You can love this kindred-spirit family by praying for them.”  Those were the words that closed a recent email telling of the death of an 18 year old young man as a result of a car accident.

The words of my friend who sent the email rang true to my heart.  Praying is loving.

Several weeks ago when I learned of the stroke of another friend’s daughter, my “doing” mentality immediately kicked into gear.  I am a practical person.  I thought about meals that this dear family would need.  I thought about errands that needed to be run.  I thought about laundry and ironing and cleaning.  You get the picture.  What practical thing could I do to lift my friend’s load?

Yes, I would also pray.  That was a given. But prayer was something in the background that happened along with everything else.  Or so I thought.

I did begin praying with and for my friend daily on the phone and on-line.  We were enjoying wonderful fellowship with God together.  We were trusting God together.  It became something that we both looked forward to.  Praying for and with my friend was my gift to her.  This was God’s plan that I contribute in this way.  Praying with my friend was loving her. As time went on I realize there didn’t need to be more.

We began sharing specific Scriptures as we were praying.  That led to talking together about the Word and how it was relating to the right now.  I could see both of us growing as some previous perceptions were being challenged and changed.

For me what was being changed was my belief that prayer was enough.  Prayer was my gift to my friend.  Prayer was deepening our friendship more than anything else could, our friendship with each other and our friendship with God. 

Then the identity crisis struck!  I knew others were contributing in other ways.  I knew meals were being delivered.  I knew flowers had arrived.  I knew a special account had been established to help with the bills. And I could list many more ways people are serving. But for some reason when I learned of the creative gifts that my friend’s daughter was receiving from perfect strangers it was like prayer wasn’t enough any more.  Not true!  But that’s what I began believing in that moment. 

Once again, time to check in with my identity.  I am the beloved child of God.  A beloved child whose heart’s desire is to encourage other women in their relationship with God.  Praying with and for my friend was doing just that.  I was living out my identity. 

You know, to be honest, I would have gotten tired of providing meals.  I’m glad others are contributing in that way.  And I’m thankful that others are using their creative talents and their financial resources and expertise to contribute and encourage my friend and her family.  My gift of love is prayer and sharing the Word.  That is enough.

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,”  Romans 12:4

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Praying and Trusting ~ Prayer Lesson #2

Prayer ~ a wonderful gift to us.  I’ve been learning lots about 2-way communication in prayer.  Listening to God in my prayer times is becoming more natural.  When I concentrate on just asking or working my way through a list of requests, I’m missing out on the blessing of prayer, a conversation with my Father who loves me.

For several years I have been asking God this question during my devotional times, God, what would it look like for me to trust You for  today?  I don’t always hear the answer to my question immediately, but I can usually tell you the answer at some point.  Our omnipresent, omniscient  God has answers and He knows the timing when I’m most receptive to hear.

I’m realizing that my worrying prayers that reached into the future were keeping me from trusting God today.  The “I ams” referring to God are throughout the Scriptures.  That  challenges me to trust the God who is the trustworthy one today.  It has been helpful to me to think about what I am giving up when I don’t trust God today.

From reading Truefaced (I highly recommend this book), a principle that has stood out to me is until I learn to trust God, I will never be able to receive His love.  ~  By the way this is true in our relationships with each other as well. When I don’t trust my husband, I cannot receive his love. ~  I NEED to be aware of God’s love for me every day.  God wants me to be aware of His love every day.  God’s love is the security I need to face the uncertainty of life. So I pray, God, what would it look like to trust You today?  I don’t want to give up knowing His love.

Brennan Manning has also helped me flesh out what it means to trust God today.  He challenged me in his book, Ruthless Trust, (another I recommend) with the thought that I don’t need new insights, but I do need to trust God with the insights I have already received.  So my prayer for today might sound like, God I know the truth that You are going to meet my needs, Father help me to be aware of how You are providing today.  I don’t want to give up knowing God as my provider.

Manning also says that my biggest obstacle in my journey of trust is my personal sense of insecurity (I’m not spiritual enough to believe God), inadequacy (I’m not mature enough to believe God) and inferiority (I’m not good enough to believe God).  When I default to any of those lies in parentheses I’m not trusting God, I’m trusting me.  That is scary!  I don’t want to give up living out of my true identity and trusting the only Trustworthy One.

So what does it look like for me to trust God today?  Not sure yet.  But I want to be quiet enough so I can listen for His voice and trust what I hear.

“Listen diligently to me, … delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear and come to me; hear that your soul may live.”  Isaiah 55:2b,3

Friday, February 4, 2011

Praying in the Present ~ Prayer Lesson #1

A few weeks ago I mentioned Joanne, the daughter of our dear friends Chuck and Kay.  LINK  Many of you has inquired about how Joanne is doing and have assured me of your prayers.  Thank you.  Joanne has been moved to an LTAC ~ Long Term Acute Care facility.  She is making progress.  Her family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayer support.  If you would like specific requests, Joanne’s husband Toben updates their prayer requests regularly of her blog,  As well as knowing how to pray for Joanne today, you will be ministered to by reading his words.

Joanne, her family, and many of you who have allowed me to walk with you in the hard things you are in the midst of have been a big part of my prayer life in this new year.  And you are also part of some of the lessons I’m learning about prayer. You are helping me to pray in the present.

Joanne’s stroke was a flashing red light on the topic of praying in the present.  I guess a crisis has that effect.  But I’m thinking, doesn’t God want me to trust Him every day with all that is happening around me, even if it’s not a crisis? 

I have been thinking about praying in the present and it’s implications for the past four months.  God brought it to mind as a corrective.  I was worrying too much ~ especially over one situation.  As I prayed over this worrisome situation, I was praying way into the future.  “What ifs seemed to be controlling my prayers and fueling my worry.  NOT good. 

As a child I learned the Lord’s Prayer recorded in Matthew 6.  The fourth petition says, “Give us this day our daily bread”.  This day!  God is instructing me to ask for my needs for this day.  According to the notes in my Bible this phrase by implication includes all of the believers physical needs.  I wonder if God is pleased when my petitions that go beyond physical needs  focus on this day as well.  Just a thought.

Throughout the Scriptures, God refers to Himself as “I am”.  John 8:58, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”. In Exodus 3 Moses and God are having a conversation during and after the incident with the burning bush.  Several times God refers to Himself as I am. 

In the New Testament, many times Jesus uses the phrase, “I am” to speak of himself.  I am the way; I am the light; I am the bread of life; I am the good shepherd; and there are others.  When I think about these claims, I realize they speak to just about everything I pray for. 

I am memorizing Psalm 46.  It starts, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Until I started memorizing this Psalm and until I started thinking about praying in the present, those words slipped off my tongue without me thinking about the wonderful truth they are conveying.  God IS ~ and I am working on praying in the present.

“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; …” Isaiah 41:10