Leave It There!

34In 1855 Joseph Scriven wrote these words:

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

Most of us are pretty good at the concept of “take it to the Lord in prayer.” But how often do we yank whatever “it” is right back from him as soon as the going gets tough, or as soon as some problem is solved, causing us to think we can handle things on our own?

God’s yoke will be easy and his burden light only if we are relying on him. Does this make us into some sort of worthless puppets? No, surrender simply makes us into his servants. It’s not our job to be in charge, nor is it our responsibility to fret over our worthiness, our safety or the success of our efforts. The Master knows what he wants, and he knows how to go about accomplishing his will. Our job is that of compliance, regardless of how much (or how little) of the plan he may choose to reveal to us.

You’ve heard the joke before, haven’t you?
If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!

What looks slow to us may be perfect according to his schedule. What looks like failure to us, may instead be a glorious success according to his purpose. I have a favorite sweater. It doesn’t look like much when it’s turned inside out, but if I look at it when I turn it back the way it belongs, it’s beautiful. God sees the whole plan, the “right” side of the fabric.

Why let pride or worry or discouragement overtake us, when we can live in the humble confidence of, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Yes, Christ gives us strength. He wants to take the lead, each and every day. May we take everything to the Lord in prayer and leave it there!

Cookies from Heaven

IMG_1580“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be known…” I tend to focus on the first part: be anxious for nothing. But that doesn’t work without the second part: in everything, let your requests be known. Really? Does God want to know my requests in everything? Absolutely! And not long ago I had a most unusual need. I needed a cookie.

I’m a bit of a health nut, so one of my personal mandates is to eat as few cookies as possible. Monday night, however, found me at the gym running for the first time after a long bout of recovery from a knee injury. Steve was downstairs playing racquetball. We’d gotten to the gym a little later than I’d plan and, simply put, I was out of energy and in need of food.

There were vending machines, but I hadn’t brought any money. My gym bag was close by, but I hadn’t stashed any food inside. I could go ask Steve to cut his game short and take me home, but that didn’t sound good either. So I prayed for food.

As I headed downstairs, I imagined finding a couple of packets of sugar at the coffee bar and downing those. Ugh. Or maybe I would sheepishly borrow a couple of hard candies from the secretary’s desk even though she had left for the day. Embarrassing. Then again, I had prayed, so maybe…

As I entered the lounge area, an abandoned stack of 100 calorie bags of fudge striped grahams caught my eye. Absolutely perfect. A little fat. A little sugar. A lot of taste. I downed one bag and was back on the track in no time, mulling over this question: if God will give me cookies from heaven when I need them, shouldn’t I figure he’ll take care of every crisis that comes my way? All I have to do is ask.

Who’s Watching You?

DSCF9718

Perhaps you’ve read Dorothy Nolte’s poem, “Children Learn What They Live.” If I’d written that poem, my first two lines would be:

  • If children live with those who trust God, they learn to walk by faith themselves.
  • If children live with those who pray, they learn to do the same.

My husband and I tried to raise our kids in an atmosphere of faith and prayer. Sometimes that wasn’t so easy. One morning, everything took longer than I expected, and when we finally got to the car we were running super-late. (I do not like running super-late!)

The kids, still small at the time, were all buckled up and ready to go when I realized we hadn’t prayed together yet. So, out loud, before doing anything else, I said something like, “Dear Lord, thank you for this day. Please be the boss of it, and help me to thank you for everything that happens.” (Not a bad way to start every day.) Then off we went, right?  Wrong! I had no sooner uttered “Amen” than, turning the key, I heard… nothing. I turned it again…nothing.

Giving your day to God doesn’t mean he will give it back to you perfectly aligned with the plans you’ve made.

The kids were waiting for me to react to our mini-crisis. How could I respond, knowing they had just heard that prayer? The only decent choice was to stay calm and trust that God would work everything out. I honestly don’t remember how that day ended. (Many crisis moments are eventually forgotten, especially if we do not lose our cool.) What I do remember is this: We are being watched—much of the time—by those we love, our children as well as our friends and neighbors. And so, we have this challenge: 

  • To start each day with thanksgiving.
  • To let God be in control!  (He is anyway, so why not admit it?)
  • To pray about all things, small and great.
  • And to let others see us trusting our heavenly Father no matter what.

Unanswered Prayer

IMG_1525Nobody likes to be told no. I certainly don’t. Yet, our loving Father really does know best. Let me tell you a story…

Long ago, my husband took a job in Houston. We needed to find a house in a hurry. We came down for a weekend and embarked on what we later described as “the beauty pageant approach to house shopping.” First we saw eighteen contenders. (Yes, all in one day.) Later we went back for a more detailed look at our top three choices, prayerfully picked one, and made an offer. I was thrilled with the choice. Our first two houses had been fixer uppers. This property was move-in ready and had just the floor plan I was looking for. It was perfect.

Then lightning struck. We were sitting in the living room of our house-to-be when the current owner came in crying and said something like, “I’ve changed my mind. It’s not for sale. I’d like for you to leave now.” Talk about a punch in the gut! None of the other houses we’d seen held a candle to this one, and we had to leave town very, very soon. I remember saying deep within myself, “I trust you, Lord. I trust you, Lord.” But on the outside I could barely breathe. We put an offer on our back-up option, left town, and wondered what in the world was going on.

Fast forward 23 years. We still live in that “second choice house.”  It’s more perfect for our family than we ever could have imagined. The floor plan wasn’t what I thought we wanted, but it was exactly what we needed. We’re down the street from my parents, close to the community center, and next door to terrific neighbors. What’s more, this house is bordered by flood plain land on two sides, so while I drive up to a home in the suburbs, I walk out back to a wooded countryside. The other house, the one I thought was perfect? For a variety of reasons, we would have moved a long time ago. Thank God for unanswered prayer. He sees a far bigger picture than our human eyes can perceive.

When have you been blessed beyond measure by an unanswered prayer? Now’s your chance to share that story. Post a comment and tell us what God did!

Don’t Worry, Pray

harvest.org

Greg Laurie, I am happy to say, pastors the church where two of my children attend. My husband and I now laugh and learn as we listen to his podcasts. The one you’ll find at this link is a favorite. Although I’m hoping you’ll download the whole sermon, here are some of the best bits in bullet form.

  • Old hymns impart great wisdom. Consider the lines below.
    “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
  • Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.” To not rejoice can be disobedient to God. So why do some Christians walk around looking like they’ve been “baptized in lemon juice?” When life is rotten, we might not rejoice in the circumstances, but we can still rejoice in the Lord. (See Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”)
  • Our natural reflex when bad news comes may be to worry, but we can develop a different, conditioned reflex, to go immediately to prayer.
  • Our perspective changes when we see remember how big God is. “Big God, small problems. Big problems, small God.”
  • God will say “no” to us sometimes because he loves us. Any parent who says “yes” to every request a child makes is an idiot. (Greg’s words, not mine!)
  • We never need to be afraid to commit an unknown future to our known God. (Corrie ten Boom’s words, well worth repeating!)
  • And if we will go to prayer with our worries, the peace of God will keep or guard our hearts as a military guard protects an outpost. (The apostle Paul’s words, and I believe ’em!)

Thanks, Pastor Laurie, for the great reminders!

Let Us Pray, Eventually

IMG_1392Been there, done this? A friend and I got together to pray, or so we thought. We chatted a while, and then began to talk about what we were going to pray about, staying on topic most of the time. Sadly, by the time we’d finish talking, there was no time left to actually pray.

Enter one of my favorite old books: Prayer: Conversing with God, by Rosalind Rinker. The title alone is a game changer. When we pray, how often do we remember that prayer is a conversation with God? It’s not a show for those around us, or an exercise in using big words, holy language or pious thought, but a chance to talk with the Lord who loves us.

Rosalind suggests that prayer groups cut to the chase: No lengthy pre-prayer lists of requests. No assigning of each request to an individual responsible for praying about it out loud. (Do you, like me, find yourself distracted by pressure to remember all the details?) Instead she offers this advice.

  • Bear in mind that when we gathered to pray, the Lord is right there with us. Go directly to prayer.
  • Let each person that knows of a need bring it up to the One who has the answers.
  • Since this is a conversation that includes everyone in the room, go ahead and stop midway through the prayer and add any significant information for those in the room who are not in the know.
  • Let several people pray, or add information, regarding each need, just as you would in any other conversation.
  • And by all means, feel free to pray more than once and in any order!

Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” When my friend and I got together, we knew the Lord was there. Next time, though, we’ll include him in the conversation right away.

I welcome your comments. Have you ever prayed this way? How did it work for you? Do you think your next prayer group would be willing to give it a try?

If you’ve received this by email, click here to comment.