When, Lord?

This post is for all of you who have been crying out to God for something, maybe even for years, and all seems silent.

This post is for you who are ready to give up.

This post is for the prayer warriors, who are growing weary, yet day by day keep praying.

This is for you who wonder if God is even listening.

These are not my thoughts, I can’t take credit for them. I only share them because today they impacted me deeply.

This morning my pastor was sharing on the topic of prayer, and how we need to ask if we want to receive answers.

And in my head I know this, I really do.

But in my heart of hearts, if I were to be really honest, often I don’t believe it. There are things I have been praying for, for YEARS. Literally years. And Nothing. Seems. To. Happen.

Ever.

In fact, often everything just seems to get even worse.

And I cry out, “When God? When will you hear my prayers? When will my dear loved one give her life to you? When will I be reconciled with those whom I love?  I long for our friendship to be restored!! When will my friend’s broken marriage be healed? When God? Are you even listening anymore?!?”

And sometimes I’m filled with despair, because it seems hopeless. It seems as if all my prayers have been in vain.

My heart is filled with pain.

Because I am tired. I’m so tired of hoping when all seems hopeless.  I’m so tired of pressing in for people who just seem to grow harder and harder against me and against God.

However, today, once again I was filled with hope.

Today I was reminded of a passage I had long forgotten. It’s found in Daniel 10.

Daniel goes on a 21 day fast. He is crying out for answers. This fast is so intense, he is most likely not even bathing – I mean, Daniel is SERIOUSLY seeking God…but for 21 days he hears nothing. At the end of the 21 days, he is visited by an angel whom God sent in answer to Daniel’s prayers.

We hear this story, and we nod, because of course it seems perfectly natural for this to happen…in the bible.  And we think, after 21 days, I mean that’s persistent prayer and fasting… so we reason, ok, God was just sitting there, waiting, and after enough prayer, Daniel finally got his answer!

This was not the case. Read the story, and read it carefully. Daniel 10:12 says:

“Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before God, your words were heard and I have come in response to them.”

The first day.

God heard him the first day.

I don’t know about you, but these words cause my eyes to fill with tears even now.

Because they fill me with hope. Hope that was almost gone.

God heard me the first time I prayed.

Whether I started praying for it today, or 2 years ago, or 10 years ago, he heard me the first time.

This means the first prayer I prayed for these things mattered, and my prayers still matter. The moment I began to call on God, God began to answer.  However, if you read on in the book of Daniel, you will see that there was much happening behind the scenes before an answer could be given. There was a battle to be fought, and won. There were spiritual forces needing to be struck down. The timing had to be right.

Dear friend, the moment you call on God, he begins to answer.

He heard you the very first time.

Don’t give up, don’t lose hope – for God is a good father and he WILL give justice to his elect, who cry out to him day and night. (Luke 18:7)

May this message bring you as much encouragement today as it did me.

 

 

 

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Devotions? Or Devotion?

I used to think New Years Resolutions were pointless – that they were nothing more than another attempt by the world to become the best we could be…only to fail three weeks in. You hear it all the time – the gyms are full come January 1st, but by the end of February, membership has returned to normal.

We’re funny that way, us human beings.  So desperate to be great that we jump on any bandwagon of change, only to jump right back off when life gets too hard. Some of us feel like failures when we give up, but most of us don’t even think twice about it. After all, we do it time and time again.

In the year 2015 all of that changed for me.

I decided to attend a Christian conference at the end of the year. The conference runs right after Christmas and goes until New Year’s Eve, ending with “praying in” the New Year. It was the first time in years that I was going somewhere without a baby or toddler in-tow. Me and my husband went with the older two kids, leaving the younger three kids with their grandparents.

To my great shock, the first two days were incredibly difficult for me to sit through the long messages. It had been years since I had sat through a message without my kids beside me crying, or needing a diaper change or nap. I had expected to just soak in the atmosphere and love it without my usual distractions.

And here I was, with no excuse at all, unable to consentrate for longer than 10 minutes without drifting off into lala land! With the busyness of my life, I hadn’t even realized how far I had been drifting from God. I hadn’t realized that my five minute a day devotional with God while kids jumped all around me and a quick read through of my prayer list wasn’t enough to sustain me. I realized that I was hungry – no, STARVING for God!

By the end of the conference, I was overwhelmed with a deep desire to be with God every single day. Not just reading the bible, I already did that. Not just reading through a prayer list, I did that too. But to encounter God daily – to KNOW the One true God.

My only problem was that I have five kids…How in the world could I possibly find time to spend with him? Certainly God didn’t expect me to find more time with him in my busy stage of life, could he?

It was as if God had known my thoughts ahead of time, and prepared this conference exactly for me. A woman got up on stage at this time and began sharing. The testimony she gave changed my life forever.

She was a top student at her university. Her schedule was packed and her workload was overwhelming. On an average day she was so busy that even without any social life she would only get four hours of sleep.  During this time she became overwhelmed and asked God to help her.  The very reason she has started going to university in the first place was to make a difference in the world. And now she felt like she couldn’t keep going.

During this time, God told her that he wanted her to start tithing. Of course, at this point she was thinking dollar amounts – but God made clear, “No I want you to start tithing what is most important to you – your time. 10 percent of your time.”

That’s precisely 2 hours and 24 minutes a day.

She, of course, responded like we all would – like I would: “No God, that’s not possible! I can’t possibly spare any time, never mind that much of it! I don’t get any sleep as it is!”

But she obeyed, waking up at wee hours of the night to be with her Maker.

Sacrificing what little sleep she had.

What happened as a result was an absolute miracle, for she began to find more and more time. She had time to do her work, she was more efficient in her studies, and she was even able to go to bed earlier. She found after just one week that she was getting more rest than she had since starting university! God had simply and miraculously multiplied her time.

Now until this moment, until this testimony, I had always believed that lack of time was unique to parents of young children only.

It’s laughable now, but really, I believed that singles and couples without children had no valid excuse to not be spending time with God…I, on the other hand had every excuse: the constant interruptions,  the lack of sleep, busyness of the days, the sacrifice of being depended on 24/7 – who has better excuses than that? My excuses weren’t even selfish!!

It was at this moment, this very moment, that I realized Satan has lied to us all.

We all have the time. 

In every stage of life, in every situation,  we all have the time because we are all given the same amount of it.

I began noticing all the excuses:

“Oh I work all day, if I was a stay at home mom I would have much more time! I’m just too tired after work to spend time with God.”

“Oh I can’t possibly do devotions daily, right now I’m in school, I constantly have homework!”

“My job demands so much of me, I don’t have any time for myself – never mind for God!”

On and on the excuses go, every single person believing that they have less time than the next.

This was crazy to me! Every single one of us believed that lie: I can’t find the time because my situation is unique. I’m more tired, more over worked, busier than most. 

It was only when I recognized that lie that I was able to overcome it.  Because the truth was that I had time for all sorts of things. I had time to scrapbook, time to cook, time to get together with friends, time to clean my house, time to sleep, time to be on Facebook, lots of time!

Therefore, the issue had never been time – the issue was desire. This changed devotions in my life changed forever.

I then made the first resolution I had ever made, and it lasted.

My resolution was to quit devotions as I knew them and to begin a life devoted to God. Devotions was never mentioned in God‘s word. Not once. What is mentioned are people who walked with God. Devotions are merely a tool to start off the day focused on a single task: devotion to God.

I no longer found it hard to spend time with God, because it wasn’t something on my checklist. It was my checklist. If I wasn’t walking with God all day, every day, I had gotten nothing done.

That is the essence of Christianity.

This year don’t get caught up in the meaningless resolutions. Rather, in desperation, resolve to do nothing but cling to Jesus. To abide in him. To walk with him.  If this is your heart’s desire, you’ll find the time.

I promise.

The Power of Praying Scripture

Most of us would agree that prayer is one of the most important things in our Christian walk. Our walk with God is a relationship, and relationships are only built through communication. You can not have a relationship without communication and prayer is communication with God! Therefore, one can not have a relationship with God if they don’t pray because it’s the very core of our connection to God!

Yet many people seem to hit a brick wall in their prayer life. They try to pray but after a while their prayers all end up sounding the same. And we begin to wonder, what’s the point? Are my prayers doing anything at all?? There are seasons in my life where my prayers seem alive and vibrant! They just seem to flow naturally. But it isn’t always that way.

A few weeks ago, I was at a loss on how to pray for certain people in my life. I had been told that praying for my “enemies” was the only way to actually love and forgive them. But there was a problem…I wasn’t sure on how to pray for my enemies. To just pray “God, help so and so to have a good day” didn’t seem beneficial at all! I mean really, do I expect God to give everyone in my life a good day just because I prayed that for them each morning? These prayers soon became so habitual that they seemed meaningless, like a ritual or a superstition. And I didn’t want this for my prayer life. I didn’t want to just babble some meaningless words out of habit! I wanted to PRAY! I wanted my prayers to make a difference in the lives around me! I wanted my prayers to transform and change my heart!!

One day, as I was stumbling over my prayers for someone who I was having a hard time forgiving…I was praying “God, please help them to see what they’ve done. Help them to see that I am also your child…” and suddenly I just stopped! What if I was wrong about them! What if they had done nothing wrong and I had done something wrong? What if…So I started praying the “other” side…”God if I’m in the wrong help me to see what I’ve done…help me to see that they’ve been obedient…” I stumbled over these prayers and something just didn’t seem to flow. This sounded so stupid! I was so unsure of anything I couldn’t even pray! Was I just praying from all angles just to “cover” my bases? Was there any power to these prayers?

Finally out of frustration, I just said out loud: “God! I don’t know how to pray for this situation! I don’t know what’s right and wrong! I don’t know what’s going on in their hearts! How can I pray for them? Teach me how to pray!!”

And you know where God led me? To Psalm 23. And I felt as if he was asking me to pray this Psalm over them:

 “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” 

There is nothing more healing than praying these over your enemies. The first time I prayed these words for them I broke down and wept because I realized how much God LOVES them and how he truly wants the best for each one of us. “God, be their shepherd… lead them beside quiet waters…restore their soul. Guide them along right paths for your name sake…be with them through the dark times and comfort them…”

I prayed these verses everyday and I began to see that God isn’t taking sides! He loves ALL people, and he wants the best for ALL of us. He’s not concerned about who’s right and who’s wrong. He doesn’t see things the way we do and he doesn’t work the way we expect him to.

Blessing your enemies day after day changes you. It wasn’t long before I realized that I actually meant what I was praying!  “God, let your goodness and love follow them ALL the days of their lives! May they dwell in your house FOREVER!!!” I meant these words with all my heart…for my enemies!! I was praying God’s will for their lives and the power of God’s words were transforming mine.

For my children my prayers were different because I had specific things I wanted to see in their lives…”God help Isaiah with his test today, help Bella to be kind to her brothers, help Jonas to control his anger, help Dallas to obey the first time, help Emerson to have a good attitude…” These were the types of prayers I’d pray, and I don’t think they were wrong! But after the transformation with my other prayers, I wanted more for my children! I don’t just want them to succeed and be “good” people, I want them to be godly men and women of faith! Once again I asked God to show me a scripture to pray over my children and I started praying Psalm 63:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Finally, I had the words to pray my actual desires for my children! And I KNEW these prayers were in his will for them, because they’re in God’s word!

For “my” three churches (Blumenort EMC, HOPE church, Southland) that I’ve attended and loved in the past 29 years of my life:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousnessthat comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

Do you feel unsure of what to pray? Are you in a situation where you don’t know how to pray? Do you feel like you’re just praying the same prayers over and over again? Ask God to show you a verse or passage of scripture to pray over the people in your life. I promise you that if you persist in it, you will see your prayer life transformed!