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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

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When my children were small and learning to talk, I delighted in the sound of their voices and each sweetly expressed syllable. Heather spoke with a high-pitched, tinkling voice while the boys—especially Connor—had unusually deep, raspy voices for such young children.

I met each simple request, exclamation, and phrase with keen interest and excitement. I’d lean nearer to hear the words of my precious ones, wondering what amusing little speeches might leave their lips.

In the same way, a believer’s prayers fill God’s heart with joy. Scripture even tells us that “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” (Proverbs 15:8 NIV)

Though written directly to the people of Israel, God extended His promises to those who claim Christ as savior. As Christians, we can look to the truth of Proverbs 15:8 to encourage us in our practice of prayer.

At the time of the Old Testament writings, a sacrifice entailed any number of complicated preparations of meats, grains, or other items presented to God in an attempt to gain God’s favor and direct attention to the needs of His people. Sacrifice required a lot of work!

Prayer? Communing with God? That was—and is—all about relationship. Prayer is a heavenly invitation from the King to meet Him in the throne room where we can marvel at His beauty, find safety in His presence, and express the deepest part of ourselves to a Father who bends close—leaning ever nearer to capture each word in His memory.

Unlike an earthly parent who may listen half-heartedly to her tween’s dramatic relaying of the latest sixth-grade drama in the lunch room and respond with a noncommittal, “Uh huh. Really?” our Abba Father delights in the times we set aside to pray…to thank…to request…to worship.

And during those moments—whether we’re joyful or depressed, content or needy, subdued or expressive—we have the Maker completely to ourselves. Oh, the beauty of being able to pray!

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“The great battle of our spiritual lives is ‘Will you believe?’  It is not, ‘Will you try harder?’ or ‘Can you make yourself Worthy?’  It is squarely a matter of believing that God will do what only he can do.”

-Jim Cymbala

I’ve read about Chrissy.  Raised as a pastor’s daughter in a loving home, she deserted her faith and family.  For two years, Chrissy’s parents lived a nightmare–unsure their beloved child was safe or warm–and wondering  if she would ever return home.

One evening, Pastor Cymbala asked his congregation to intercede on Chrissy’s behalf.  And those gathered at church that night lifted their voices to heaven beseeching the heavenly Father to rescue one who had been stolen.  Two days later, the lost daughter knocked on her father’s door.  She was finally home.

This story is an incredible encouragement to me.  It gives me hope for my own prodigal.

While he wasn’t born into a pastor’s family, our prodigal’s story began in a Christian home.  We prayed over our child, dedicated him to the Lord, and read scripture together.  His gentle spirit responded to God’s and this precious blonde haired, blue eyed child invited Jesus to be his savior when he was almost five years old.

Our shy little boy told other children about Jesus…raced to the car in his red AWANA vest eager to go to church…and began growing in his own faith.  Several years later, one life altering moment shattered everything in Benjamin’s life.  Unaware of the his pain, my husband and I were confused by the sudden change in Ben’s personality and choices.

This was the moment that opened the door and allowed the enemy access.  He stole one who rightfully belongs to God.

Since then, I have battled on myknees.  I have begged God to loose the chains…to “replace the heart of stone”…to return our prodigal to us.  Still, the enemy holds fast–reluctant to give up the child we claimed for Christ before he was ever born.  But I am convinced there is more to this story…that God has a better plan for Ben…that one day God will replace the deadness in my boy’s eyes with the light of joy and that words of praise will flow from the lips of the son who now utters words that deny His power.

As my brothers and sisters in Christ, can I be vulnerable with you?  After not having seen Benjamin for several weeks, yesterday we stopped by the apartment where he is staying.  We stood awkwardly in the doorway…invited him to dinner…asked about his plans.

Giving each of us a hug he quietly asked, “Can you please leave?”

Reluctantly walking down the rickety iron steps, I imagined our unspoken conversation.

Why are you here?  Don’t you realize I’ve cut you out of my life?                                                                                                     

Yes, son, but we love you just as God does–without condition.

I feel so alone in this life.  teddy-828506_640                                                                                                                                                           

You don’t need to walk this road alone.  We are here–and there is one whose loving presence is ever-constant. Call out to Him, my son.  He will never leave you or forsake you!  

But the words were never spoken and my son sleeps on the floor of a one room apartment.  What does he eat?  Is he safe?  And I wake during the sleeping hours to pray.

And today I follow Jim Cymbala’s example.  Friends–in all humility can I lay my heartache before you?  Would you please pray for Benjamin?  I believe he is at a critical juncture and I am pleading with God that in his mercy He will do a work in Ben’s life..that he will set the prisoner free…that he will rescue that which has been lost.

If we share in the same journey, would you also gift me with the opportunity to pray for your prodigal?  Let’s pray our prodigals home!

Scripture for Reflection

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear.  (Isaiah 59:1)

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:30-31)

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. (Isaiah 42:3)

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

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God shapes the world by prayer.  Prayers are deathless.  The lips that uttered them may be closed in death, the heart that that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them.  Prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.  –E.M. Bounds

If you have a share in a story like mine, you understand the pain of loving a prodigal.  Your prodigal might be a spouse, a parent–or, like so many, a treasured and precious child. I know my experience is far from singular.

The Christian speaker’s adult child has turned from God to alcohol….the Sunday School teacher’s son glares at the clock as the passing of each day reminds him the iron bars are a visual representation of  choices that have bound him to more than this place…the adopted child raised “in the fear and admonition of The Lord” lives for the next high…and, for at least the last four years my own son has walked a painful path–his soul searching for fulfillment in a lifestyle devoid of the God he trusted as an innocent boy.

And that painful path?  He may not realize it….or may even resent it–but, my heart has been with him the entire time.  Like Mary, I feel “as if a sword had pierced my own soul”.  But, I refuse to give up the fight for this is “not a battle against flesh and blood…but against the powers of this dark world”.

Above all, I know that neither your prodigal nor mine wanders alone.  In the dead of the night…when the lion of this world prowls about seeking to satisfy his gluttonous hunger, the Lion of Judah stands strong and vigilant–the eternal victor who “will contend with those contend with you, and your children I will save”.

Be encouraged, Friend, and continue to pray on behalf of those who refuse to pray for themselves.  If you do not have a prodigal in your life, then pray–without judging–for someone who does.

Scripture for Reflection

Ephesians 1:18-19

John 16:33

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Shoulders slumped, the Farmer gazed at the cracked earth.  Reaching down he plucked a stalk from the edge of crop.  Nothing.  The hulls were empty…worthless bits of wheat lay scattered across the ground.  The potential for harvest was dim and the Farmer shudder.  Who will provide for my family?  Why hasn’t God answered my prayers for rain?  Doubt fell  across the Farmer just as the drought left the cracked earth and shriveled crops in its wake. 

Moving away from the evidence of failure, hopelessness, and defeat the Farmer turned away.  Wait…it couldn’t be.  A cool, damp breeze–the promise or rain, the promise of tomorrow, the promise of God’s faithfulness–brushed across the Farmer’s face like a the dampness of a tear cried by a child’s mother at her little one’s suffering and fear.  

God understood the Farmer’s need and He understands our needs.  Praise God for the relief offered by the very breath of refreshment and hope!

He has not forgotten.  The True Gardener sees the need and offerer his assurance.   

 

Verse for Reflection

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

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calendar

The to-do list sat passively on my desk as if mocking my attempts to cross each item off.

  • Call the doctor’s office.  (Schedule three children on different days to avoid missing work.)
  • Write Christmas thank-you’s. (Never mind that it’s almost Valentine’s Day.)
  • Finish that writing assignment.  (Remember, it’s due tomorrow.)

I did manage to arrange appointments between bites of chewy, warmed-over Sesame Chicken but my little notepad is clearly lacking a display of satisfying check marks–and I love check marks.  There is something so wonderfully tangible about slashes of pencil disecting the daily chore list.

I used to fall into the same self-affirming practice with my faith.  If I could just stick to the plan, complete the list, maintain the ritual–then I would have done something worthwhile.  Moved ahead.  Prove myself worthy of God’s love.

  • Get up before the sun and read X number of Old Testament chapters.  (Forget that I can’t concentrate before 6 a.m. unless I go to bed by 10:00 p.m.–a minor miracle in a home with four children.)
  • Forgo the laundry for prayer time.  (While there are times to kneel in prayer without the encumbrance of Fruit of the Loom in my hands, I’ve discovered the attitude of prayer is as important as the circumstance of prayer.)

Self-affirmation of faith doesn’t get me–or anyone–anywhere.  It only reveals our need for Someone to erase the unattainable list we’ve created for ourselves.  And Christ is that Someone.  There is no list.  The slate is wiped clean.  Dear friend, let’s find our satisfaction in Him today.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1-2

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A child reacts to police and fireman staged nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School where a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. REUTERS-Adrees Latif

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…Isaiah 42:3

Like the rest of you, I’m in mourning today for the horrific and senseless loss of life in Connecticut. I sit helplessly in front of my computer screen–watching in stunned silence–wanting to do something, to help someone, to erase those fatal moments from history.

I cry and wonder aloud, How could something like this happen to innocent children? What if these were my little ones? Why would God allow such evil?

I don’t have the answers to the hard questions. I wish I did–or that someone did.
All we can do now is to bend our knees in prayer for those families who have been robbed of the gift of their precious children.

One day there will be justice for this unjust loss of life–for the children.

Lord,
We can’t begin to describe the sadness, anger, and bewilderment we are feeling. We can’t begin to understand how such an evil act can occur within the walls of a school building where crayons and books are the norm. But you, Father God, are the Comforter and Healer. You are the Rock and Sustainer. You bring about justice and offer us life everlasting in Jesus Christ.

We ask you to surround those families who have suffered and lost all hope today. Act mightily in their lives and turn our nation toward you because we are desperate for our Savior and in need of his redemption.

Amen

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany years ago a Far Side cartoon featured a small dog and it’s owner.  The words in the bubble read, “Blah, blah, blah, Minnie.”  Like Minnie’s owner, I’m certain my words–though spoken–are often unheard.  I imagine it something like this.

Tammy:  Child 1, please put your toys away when you’re done playing with them.

Offspring’s Interpretation:  Child 1, blah, blah, blah…play with your toys.

And…

Tammy:  Child 4, call if you’re running late.

Offspring’s Interpretation:  Blah, blah, blah…run late.

Or…

Tammy:  Child 3, when you calm down then we can talk.

Offspring’s Interpretation:  You can talk.

You, too, might struggle with a similar problem.  Maybe your colleagues don’t consider your opinion, your children disregard your guidance, or your husband ignores your input.

Christ understands, friend.  His words fell on the ears of the religious leaders of the day, but they ignored the forgiving call of his voice.  The masses dismissed him as worse than a criminal and overlooked his promises of freedom.  Even Christ’s own family dismissed him as deluded.

But there are some who listen…some who respond.  They are the ones He came to save.

Scripture for Reflection:  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  (John 10:27)

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