National Day of Prayer

Jesus Himself calls us to be people of prayer in Matthew 21:13 he tells us,

“It is written,” He said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer.”

Today, on the National Day of Prayer, let us focus on praying – pray alone, pray in groups, pray at your house of worship. Pray for your nation, your state, your county and city, and for your local church, neighbors, friends, and family. Scripture reminds us why to pray, what to pray, how we should pray, for whom we should pray, and even results we can expect.

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. Matthew 26:41 

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:22-25

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:28

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:16

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. Ephesians 1:18

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I praythat you, being rooted and established in love. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 3:16-20

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. Philippians 1:9

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:6-8

girl-20878_1280Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. Colossians 4:2-3

Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 1 Thessalonians 5:25

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonian 1:11

 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. Hebrews 13:18

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. James 5:13-18

Join us at GFBC to pray. The sanctuary will be open. Tune in to the National Day of Prayer services being televised at 6:30 p.m. on the Daystar Network.

PRAY!

My Story, His Glory

by Guest author Hope Hill (Re-printed with permission.)

A little over 3 weeks ago I noticed a gray cloud forming and moving across my left eye. One thing you need to know about me is that I am not a person who runs to the worst case scenario. I don’t go to the doctor on a regular basis (sorry mom). But all of that is because aside from the occasional cold or filling I have never been really sick. The blessing of health for someone like me is often overlooked and not appreciated until something happens. So I did what you are not supposed to do….I googled it. And all of my worst fears came true. I was reading about retinal detachment, permanent blindness and other eye-threatening issues when fear started to rush over me.  I noticed that I was fitting nicely into all of the right categories for a major eye problem.

The next day I phoned my optometrist to schedule an emergency appointment because a wise man once told me to never wait if there is an eye problem. As I walked in I started to explain my issue to the doctor. She took some tests, and I waited. I then waited a little longer. And even longer. Until finally the doctor came in and touched my shoulder. Uh-oh – this isn’t starting out great. She proceeded to tell me that it looked like a retinal detachment but I would have to see a specialist to determine the intensity of the issue. My worst fear in this situation came true. I was going to have to have emergency eye surgery that day. WebMD – 1   Hope – 0

Then came the tears. A bunch of tears. After 3 more hours of seeing different doctors to figure out just what kind of surgery was awaiting me, it was time. I was having a full-blown Vitrectomy. I will spare you the details of the surgery because that is definitely not the point of the story and super gross. What is important to know right now is that I have a gas bubble implanted in my eye. For 10 days I had to keep my nose pointed to the ground and sleep on my right side, so that gravity will use that bubble to hold my retina in place. If you do not do this properly the gas bubble can damage your eye and could cause blindness.

The medical term for my state (looking down) is called posturing. The word posturing suddenly captured my attention. I knew I had read it in the Bible, but I just couldn’t remember where. So two weeks later when I was allowed to sit up, I began my research of the word “posturing”.  I found many Biblical references to the posture of prayer. Abraham fell upon his face before God. (See Genesis 17:3, 17.) Moses prayed with his hands outstretched. (See Exodus 9:27–29.) King Solomon knelt in prayer. (See I Kings 8:54.) Jesus prayed looking up into heaven. (See Mark 6:41, John 11:41, and 17:1.)

Communication with God does not require a certain physical position, but postures do give expression to the attitudes of our hearts. Wow! What has the attitude of my heart been? Well, I didn’t know the answer to that question right away so I decided to sit in silence, face down, for one hour to hear from God. ONE HOUR, PEOPLE! First of all it is hard for a busy body like myself to be confined to the house, facing down, listening to podcasts. But now the Holy Spirit wants me to be quiet for one hour.

After many mental lists were made (ladies know what I mean) I began to really be still. As I began to listen a thought popped in my head to read the story about Jesus visiting with Mary and Martha. So I scrambled to my Bible app to read the story.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Woah. I am a Martha. As a ministry assistant my entire time is spent running around preparing for events, meetings, etc. And even though all of those things are great and needed, I can’t let the preparation distract me from sitting at His feet. So is it a coincidence that I had a surgery that forces me to posture myself? Is it a coincidence that I am unable to be at work, events, and meetings? No, God is not a coincidence. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things together. It is important for us to sit at His feet each day and get a fresh word from Him. God sees and knows what we are going through. He wants to remind us that in whatever situation, He is there, and He wants to be exalted. Every impossible situation is a perfect opportunity for Him to display His power and magnify Himself.

All of this sounds really good when you are not blind in one eye. Even though I heard that awesome Word from the Lord, I was still upset that I had to go through this process. Not because I think I am above it, but because I know He is bigger than it. I wanted God to heal me before the surgery, take away the pain and discomfort and show up big in the situation. But it was at that moment I failed to understand that the greatest expression of our mission can be born out of the deepest pain. It’s the same way that a crucifixion was necessary to bring eternal hope – to transform sin and death into life and liberty. The same way this trial was necessary to transform my life and my ministry. My question to you is what has been your blindness, your darkest hour? Have you allowed God to transform it into the victory and the calling that He intends for you?

I encourage you not to waste a single heartache but to seek for God’s plan in the middle of it. He doesn’t let us suffer needlessly. And your suffering may be the catalyst to what is next!

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Hope Hill – https://hopehill828.wordpress.com

Wash, Dry, Pray

About 3 months ago I was doing laundry. I had pulled out a load of whites, bleached and ready to be dried. As I pulled those chlorine laden clothes, towels, and sheets out of my washer, I inhaled deeply. Bleach always reminds me of my Grandmother, I called her Mam-maw. She lived in a time when in her words,

“We might didn’ta had nothin’ but we were clean. Bein’ poor ain’t no excuse for bein’ filthy.”

I had heard her say those words countless times as I grew up.

When I was a little girl she would “warsh my hands and face” with the hottest bleach and dish soap water. Just thinking about it now makes me wince. My four-year-old digits would involuntarily recoil as she wiped away any residue my lunch may have left behind. “Hold still Mamie!” I can see myself sitting on that homemade bench next to her kitchen table, my feet dangling, face and hands tingling more from the heat than the bleach. Her hands always smelled like bleach. Even long after her mind went away and her body was still strong, her hands smelled of bleach.

laundry-2000256_640.jpgShe was a hang out to dry king of gal. She shared a clothesline with her sister-in-law and also neighbor. Facing the road My Mam-maw’s side was the one on the left. There was something magical and intoxicating about fresh sheets whipping in the wind. My sister and I would run and play through those linens with a delight and carefree nature I have not known in my adult life. Inevitably Mam-maw would yell out from the kitchen window,

“You youngins better get back from my warshin’!”

She had to have known that we were there, that we had been weaving in and out of those linen walls made of clean cotton for a while. In hindsight I see now that she likely didn’t start fussing until we had wandered to the right side of the line and risked inadvertently pulling down her brother, Big John’s overalls.

As I pulled my own laundry out I spent a moment in my childhood, meandering down Memory Lane. It was the he rust colored spots that yanked me back to reality. My bare feet weren’t on a grassy hill in the clothesline of the past, they were standing on the concrete floor of my basement. As I pulled my recently re-spun load of whites from the washer I noted that my rickety old washing machine had deteriorated even more than the last time, spraying rust colored stains all over my fresh laundry. I sighed, I’d already reckoned that two spin cycles were necessary to drain the clothes. I had long ago noted how the “spin” hadn’t been as effective as it once had and how I had to manually switch the knob to request the spin cycle several times. I had reduced the size of the load all in an effort to reduce the workload of the already taxed and band-aid covered dryer. They were a pitiful pair those two, my washer and dryer.

As I sorted and divided the load into portions to accommodate the dryer, I calculated what a new washer and dryer might cost, coming to the realization that there was no way our budget would accommodate such a purchase. I said a quick prayer. Something along the lines of

“Lord, you know how sketchy this washer and dryer are, you reckon you could provide me with some new ones.”

As I continued on with the laundry task, I pulled from the dryer a fully assembled and intact Lego dude with a cape. I smiled and put him aside. Someone would be looking for him soon enough. I smiled thinking how for years my dryer has chinked with the sound of stray Lego parts, all manner of bricks, and such. The stuff great structures of imagination are made of. I transferred the wets into the dryer, threw in a dryer sheet, and turned to head back upstairs. I had not even made it the ten feet to the steps when I received a text from my husband.

wahser dryerIt said, “Hey do you want a new washer and dryer?”

My stunned response. “Are you kidding me?’

“Nope. They’re used but they’ll be new to us.”

Some friends were upgrading and were getting rid of their old ones; we were the recipients of their good fortune. I marveled at how, not even moments before I had asked, well sort of asked for a new washer and dryer and here in the form of a text message was an answer to that very prayer. The new, used washer and dryer have blessed us tremendously. The dryer still chinks with Lego pieces, and when the washer spins I still look around for a helicopter landing. The new ones are sort of high-tech-like with literal buttons and bells on them, but I am becoming accustomed to them. The old pair made a trip to the recycle plant, which in itself is an adventuresome outing for the Martins.

1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast your anxieties on Him (God) because he care for you.” That day the King demonstrated the very essence of that to me. He alone knew I had prayed that. I hadn’t told anyone. I was too busy meandering down Memory Lane. He knew I needed a faith builder, and he chose to use a second-hand washer and dryer to do it. 2 Timothy 2:13 says that even when we are faithless, he remains faithful. That day as I said that quick prayer I was lacking the faith that the King would move on my behalf. I will admit that even as said it I did not quite believe that I would be the recipient of a new washer and dryer. Despite that though, His goodness was not, it is not, contingent on my belief. He is faithful, even when I am not. Since then, I have yet to do the laundry without the reminder of the goodness and faithfulness of God, and the tangible evidence that He hears our prayers and is our provider.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13

Back to Basics: Prayer

When It Seems God is Not Listening

Ever been praying and it felt like your prayer wasn’t getting any higher than the ceiling? Most of us have had that feeling at some point in our lives. We are not alone. In the Old Testament book of Lamentations, we see the author experienced this same sort of feeling when he says, “Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer,” and then again, “You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through.” (3:8, 44)

If we had our “druthers” as my grandmama used to say, we’d rather this not happen. Our hearts long to go into every prayer encounter with God with an assurance in our heart that He hears every word we speak to Him and a confident expectation that He will act on our behalf in response to our prayers. But when we depend on how we feel, it can affect our faith. We may begin to feel that our prayers are hitting that invisible ceiling and wonder what we’re doing wrong that they aren’t getting through. Or we may feel that God isn’t listening, He’s ignoring us. We sometimes feel he’s not acting fast enough, and wonder if that means He’s abandoned us. We could even buy into Satan’s tactics and feel that we’ve been so sinful, so bad, that He won’t ever listen to us. In fact, how many times have we asked someone else to pray for us, because (although we do not consciously admit this) we wonder if maybe God would answer them, when He seems to be stalling on us? Do you ever feel that need to bring in the big guns for the battle, so you call the holiest friend you have at the time and ask them to pray? There’s nothing wrong with doing that, in fact, there is power in multiplied prayer. But there is a problem at the core of our belief if we fall into these ways of thinking.

When we depend on how we feel, it can affect our faith.

So how do we counteract these feelings? How do we strengthen our faith? The same way we counter any of Satan’s other attacks, with God’s Word! According to scripture, are there requirements to prayer? Things that make us able to communicate with God better? Are there things that block or hinder our prayers? Just what is prayer anyway? And what about a “No” answer, is that an answer or is it God not responding to us? What about when we wait for years for an answer? Many of you aren’t bothered by these questions; your faith carries you through. But there are others out there, like me, who have fought this spiritual battle many times, as Satan has used our feelings as mortars to bombard our faith and to try to make us back down and doubt ourselves and our effectiveness in prayer.

Let’s take a look at some of those scriptures, so that we can effectively wield our sword of the Spirit and destroy those incoming missiles directed at our faith. (For a more comprehensive look at prayer than we have time, space here, or the theological genius to depart to you, check out the prayer resource links at the end of this article.)

girl-praying-hands-eyelashes-41942When should we pray?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18

Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

How are we to pray?

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Colossians 4:12

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:

pexels-photo-267748
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come, your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from the evil one.’ Matthew 6:5-13

 

Our prayers will get results.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11

For I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. Philippians 1:19

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Colossians 1:9

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Colossians 4:3-4

Our prayers are fruitful even when we don’t know what to pray.

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. Romans 8:26

Our prayers can be hindered by our behavior.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Peter 3:7

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. 1 Peter 3:12

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matt. 6:14-15

The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. Proverbs 15:29

Our prayers are eternal, ever before the Lord.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. Revelation 5:8

In Conclusion

Ladies, we can walk forth with an assurance in our heart that He hears every word we speak to Him. But we must believe His Word and NOT trust our feelings.

Most all of you are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11. You could probably quote it. But are you familiar with Jeremiah 29:12-14? It states, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” You can call on Him. He will listen to you when you pray. He hears. He is not playing Hide and Seek with you – He wants to be found by you. Are you seeking Him with your whole heart Dear One? Then you will find Him and the answers to your prayers. You can have a confident expectation that He will act on your behalf in response to your prayers. Isaiah tells us, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:4) Don’t become weary with waiting. Lack of an answer today does not mean “No,” and it does not mean God is not listening. Every word you pray rises to God’s ear. Be faithful in Waiting on Him – be it a week, a month, a year, 10 years, or a lifetime!

milada-vigerova-45368.jpg

RESOURCES:
Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent
Evelyn Christenson books including Lord Change Me
Sylvia Gunter’s Prayer Portions (and check out her blog)
Stormie O’Martian books
Kay Arthur’s Lord Teach Me to Pray
War Room movie and Bible study

Back to Basics: Fasting

We recently had a  wonderful breakthrough in something we had been praying about for many years – in fact, for over 30 years in general, and very specifically for the last 7 years. Before Easter our pastor called our church to a time of corporate prayer and fasting. My husband and I both felt led to participate. We told each other, and as a couple supported each other with 3 specific goals in mind: 1) to support our pastor and church body, 2) to be obedient to Christ, and 3) to pray specifically for the salvation of someone very close to us whom we had been interceding for the last several years. At the end of our time of fasting, God acted on our behalf and this dear one accepted Christ! It was a glory day for us! A day that sprung out of faith in scriptural truth and obedience to that scripture. Specifically these scriptures:

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:17-18 ESV

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”
Isaiah 64:4 NIV

So what is fasting? According to dictionary.com fasting is “to abstain from all food” or “to eat only sparingly or of certain kinds of food, especially as a religious observance.” The fasting we are talking about here is not abstaining from food before a medical procedure or to lose weight. No, we’re going with the second definition here, abstaining “as a religious observance.”

Now why in the world would we do that?

Here are a few reasons.

  1. Jesus fasted. Matthew 4:2 says about Jesus, “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” As Jesus began his 3 years of ministry on earth, He started it off with a time of intense fasting and focusing on His heavenly Father. If Jesus set this example for us, we should follow this example.
  1. Scripture assumes that a Christ-follower will fast. Notice in Matthew 6:17 above the underlined phrase. It says “when you fast.” Fasting is a given. There is no waffling in scripture about “if you think you want to do this… .” It is expected of those who walk with God.
  1. Scripture offers examples of people of God fasting and praying and receiving answers to their prayers.
    In the Old Testament when Ezra was on his mission to rebuild the temple, he made this statement, “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8:22-23 NIV) And in the New Testament we see the sweet picture of Anna, waiting faithfully in the temple for years for THAT day when she finally got to see her Savior, the baby Jesus, whom Mary and Joseph brought to the temple to dedicate. “There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38 NIV)

     Fasting and praying yields an answer from the Lord.

  1. Fasting brings instruction from the Lord. When we are wandering or wondering in our Christian walk, not knowing what to do or which choice to make, fasting turns God’s ear to us and opens the way for Him to bring instruction or direction. Acts 13:2 reveals a vivid example of this. It states, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ ” The Holy Spirit spoke to the body of Christ with specific instructions in response to their worship and fasting.

Ladies, we are a needy people. We need God to act on behalf of people we know –  of us even. And we desperately need direction, instruction, and wisdom from the Lord. So I encourage you, whether you are setting out to fast out of simple obedience to God or from a place of emotional desperation, needing the Father to intervene immediately for someone you love, it’s time to do it. We need to quit treating fasting as a habit of God’s elite followers and begin to see what it really is. Fasting is a spiritual discipline we are expected to do in our Christian walk just as much as we are expected to pray, read the scriptures, love our fellow-man and spread the gospel.

pexels-photo-198810
Let’s allow the Lord to set a table before us, and let us feast on His Word as we make fasting a regular part of our Christian discipline.

Back to Basics: Authentic Community

Hello, my name is Gina and I…

Lately the ladies in our office have been discussing sharing and how important it is to share your life with others. Not just what you did over the weekend or the latest thing your child did, but real, authentic sharing. Sharing of struggles and hurts and dreams that did not come true. It’s easy to share our wins with others but why is it hard to share our struggles? Why is it that we always want to put on a front and not be real with the community that God has put around us?

Ladies, there is someone out there who has struggled with infertility, who has lost a job, whose filed for bankruptcy, whose husband has left them, whose child is away from God, whose loved one has an addiction to drugs, pain killers, pornography, or alcohol, who has suffered a miscarriage, who is battling depression or another mental illness, who has a child with special needs, who has post-partum depression, who is struggling with having an empty nest home, whose spouse has cheated on them, who is caring for an aging parent, who has been physically or mentally abused, who has an eating disorder, who has had an abortion or an unplanned pregnancy, who is struggling with being single, who is lonely, who is grieving the death of a child, who is in an unhappy marriage – the list could go on and on. We all have stories to tell.

S9LA9E7JI0.jpg

Our Father doesn’t want us to keep these hurts and struggles bottled up inside and hidden from the world – I believe He wants us to share so we can help others and bring Him glory. Your struggle is part of your story, your testimony and your journey with Him. You never know what someone else has walked through but how are we to know who that person is unless you share? Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]” (emphasis mine).

Since this topic first came up in my life it has come up in many conversations the past few weeks and I have seen people talking about it on social media. I keep going back to work and saying – “guess what I talked about with so and so today – sharing”! I believe that the Lord can really heal our hearts and bond us together through this.

We need to embrace the community that God has placed in our life. This community is there to lift you up and pray for you when you are struggling and having a hard time. Community is there to call you out (in love of course), community is there to make sure you are not alone – Satan wants nothing more than to isolate you and make you think you are the only one. You do not have to be overwhelmed alone! There is wholeness and transformation when we share our stories with each other. Galatians 6:2: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

women-praying.jpg

Pastor Pete Scazzero says, “The church is hopefully the place where people can come and it’s safe. We want to be in a place where we admit we are broken, we are vulnerable and we are authentic. If we really believe in grace, we can come out of hiding and hopefully be something that will make the world a little thirsty for Christ. Without transparency I’m not sure we have much to offer the world.”

Ladies, we need each other and it is so important to never stop sharing the stories…your story…my story…so let’s not stop. Keep sharing, keep loving, keep encouraging and keep talking to people around you.
pexels-photo-110440.jpeg

I’ll start it – Hello, my name is Gina and in January I had a miscarriage. What’s your story?

Back to the Basics: Prayer

So do you have your coffee, tea, or cocoa? Ready to chat? We as women love to talk. We are relational. We thrive on deep communication, being known. With that in mind, let’s jump right in!

Prayer is one of the most important things in the Christian walk. Prayer coupled with the Word of God forms our conversation with the Lord. Communication. He speaks to us through His word; we speak back to Him through prayer. Then we listen…. I personally like to listen with a pen and journal. That way when He impresses something on my heart I can write it down, contemplate it, pray more about it, and obey when He calls for action.

Would you agree that prayer is very important in the Christian walk? Most Christians will agree with that, I believe. Then why do we treat it so casually? Why do we not pray frequently, boldly, and confidently to our Father who loves us? And if we pray intentionally and frequently, daily even, in our quiet time at least, why do our prayers often end up sounding like a child’s Christmas wish list to Santa? Why do few Christians practice walking in the “praying without ceasing” mindset we are instructed to in 1 Thessalonians 5:17? Why do we not have the “peace that passes understanding” that we are promised in Philippians 4:7 after we pray? Why do we pray and then find ourselves surprised when something miraculous happens in answer to our prayers? Please hear my heart here, I’m not asking in an accusing way! I’m asking myself why I do these things too?

A photo by Ben White. unsplash.com/photos/BtNxJsFOjtQI believe prayer is one of the simplest yet most profound and powerful parts of our life with Christ. It is beyond our understanding in many ways. Prayer is so simple that a little child can do it, yet so powerful and profound that it intimidates lawyers and doctors. It can be sporadic or a disciplined pursuit. Prayer is earthly words spoken that are then acted on by all the power of our Omnipotent Creator. It is at the same time practical and mystical, in that it is a practical action we are instructed to do by scripture, yet it has spiritual ramifications that are beyond our comprehension. Prayer sets in action the spiritual forces in the heavenly realms and is eternal. When we pray a prayer it is never lost floating around in space. Revelation 5:8 tells us “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” and they are there in heaven eternally before the Father.

Whole books have been written on prayer. So of course I cannot touch on every facet of prayer in one short blog post. I will mention a few resources I love at the end of this post. So for the rest of the article I will focus on carrying through with prayer in your daily life. I’ll offer some ideas for being intentional and organized in prayer.

Tips for a flourishing prayer life:

1. Make prayer and Bible study a priority.

If prayer coupled with Bible study is a conversation with God, then we need to make it a daily activity, and many times a day. We women would not be pleased if our husband, boyfriend, or best friend, only had a conversation with us on Sunday! So why would we think a relationship with God can be sustained without intimate conversation on a regular basis? God speaks through His Word, and we respond to Him through prayer – that’s the conversation. I love the Navigator’s “Wheel” illustration. It refers to prayer and the Word as the vertical spokes of a wheel – us reaching up to God and Him speaking to us. (I’ll include it at the bottom of this article, and we’ll discuss the 2 horizontal spokes of the wheel in other articles.)  And without these spokes our wheel of life becomes a flat tire to drive on.

2.Start the day off with prayer.

Make it a habit to go to God first thing in the morning. Start your day talking with Him. Set the clock for 15 minutes earlier than you would normally rise, then gradually increase the time you spend. It’s worth every moment.

3.Pray scripture.

One of the most powerful ways to pray is to speak God’s words back to Him. There is power in the Word of God! As Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Just personalize verses that speak to the issue you are praying over.

Example. Praying scripture using Hebrews 12:1-3 might go something like this:“Lord, As I’m facing tough times ahead and since I’m surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, help me throw off everything that hinders me and the sin that so easily entangles me. And let me run with perseverance the race marked out for me, fixing my eyes on you, Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith. For the joy set before you, you endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Father God, remind me to consider Jesus who endured such opposition from sinners, so that I won’t grow weary and lose heart. In my struggle against sin, I have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood as Jesus did! Amen.”

4.Have a plan for your personal prayer time. 

Don’t just give your wish list to God every time you meet (supplication). Spend time in praise, adoration, thanksgiving as well as confessing sins, interceding for others, and listening to Him. I’ve seen the acrostic ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It reminds us to do more than just ask, ask, ask. In reality, my prayers are very much like a human conversation with a rich flow of comments & questions, speaking & listening, ideas, and appreciation all mixed together.

5.Write out your prayers.

One thing I’ve found very helpful is to write out my prayers. It gives me a glimpse of my motives and what I’m really saying. I use my simple lined journal and write stream-of-consciousness style as my thoughts flow. Many times I will be drawn to my knees when I see my prideful, selfish attitude on paper. And equally as many times I find the resolution to my situation spilling out of my pen as I write. I often write out verses in my prayers and even find myself moved by God in a new direction. It’s shockingly revealing. My prayer journal has taken many forms over the years. My recommendation to you is to Start Journaling! Start with whatever you have. If you aren’t satisfied, research so you can refine or change your format. Check out this article on ideas for a prayer journal.

*********************************

Here are a few other important things to consider about your prayer life:

A. Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) All day, every day keep the conversation open with Him as you go about you daily life. You’ll love it and be surprised at the things the Lord has you pray and do as you go about your job or daily errands.

B. Pray for others on the spot when they ask for prayer.This is a form of interceding. Dictionary.com defines interceding as – to act or interpose in behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, as by pleading or petition. But basically interceding is a big word that means praying for others (or yourself). You plead their case to God and ask Him to act on their behalf. And here I am challenging you to do it out loud, in the moment, in their presence! I can see your reaction in my mind. You’re sitting there like, “Oh that makes me really uncomfortable. Won’t it be awkward?” It’s worth it!

So why pray for someone right there on the spot in the church hallway, in the aisle at Wal-Mart, or sitting in the bleachers at the ball park? Three great reasons to pray aloud, on the spot with a person:

1) You won’t forget to pray for them. You are doing it right then. And guess what. When you’ve done it once you’re more apt to remember to pray for them again later when they’re not around.
2) There is power in the spoken word. Having someone pray aloud for you touches the heart. It brings peace, comfort and hope. It lets the person being prayed for know that you actually prayed (and didn’t just say that) and what scriptural promises you prayed over them. 

3) Your personal prayer life will ramp up when you are unafraid to risk or to be awkward or to be vulnerable enough to pray with them in public.

C. Be a part of a prayer group with like-minded people. I’m part of a prayer group for moms of teens and young adults. We come together knowing we are loved and never judged, and that we’re prayed for in our darkest moments. We text each other during the week when a crisis or a praise comes! We cry or celebrate together. I call us Stretcher-Bearers because we are like the lame man whose friends had to carry Him to Jesus; sometimes we are broken moms, and the hurts are so difficult we can’t even get the words out to pray for ourselves and our situation, but our stretcher-bearers take us to the throne. We have prayed each other through major ups and downs.

So find you a group. Start a group. I guarantee someone else is wishing someone would. Your prayer group could focus on praying for: spouses, children, schools, grandchildren, missionaries on the field, the team, the band, the workplace, the pastor… whatever your need is.

D. Remember, the Holy Spirit prays for us when we don’t know what to pray. Romans 8:26 tells us, “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.” So don’t let not knowing what to say stop you from praying!

E. An Emergency prayer: “Help me, Jesus!” God knows. You don’t have to explain. When those moments come just shout out His name.

Remember James 5:16 (NIV) “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

****************************

The Navigator’s Wheel Illustration

wheel

Resources on prayer:

“Be Devoted to Prayer” a wonderful article by John Piper

Lord, Teach Me to Pray – Kay Arthur  Kay’s Arthur’s website

Prayer Portions – Sylvia Gunter

Sylvia’s website has devotionals, a blog, and a place to order the book.

The Power of a Praying Parent – Stormie O’Martian  She also has resources on praying for your spouse, grandchildren, adult child, etc. Stormie’s website.

Back to Basics: Keeping a Prayer Journal.

My prayer journal has taken many forms over the years. My recommendation to you is to Start Journaling! Start with whatever you have. If you aren’t satisfied, research so you can refine or change your format. Here are some ideas on different types of journals, how to set them up, and tips to think about.

1. Write out your prayers. Most often my prayer journaling consists of writing out my prayers. I write basically a “Dear God” letter in my daily notebook – a simple, lined journal from Walmart or Books-a-Million. This is the same notebook I use for sermon notes, ideas, quotes, diary-type daily writings, etc. I used to keep a separate journal just for prayers (and that may be the option you like best), but I slowly realized that although I like to organize and separate things into boxes, the different areas of my life blend together and I am more satisfied having it all in one book. That way if God used a sermon to pierce my heart, the next quiet moment I had, I could spill out my prayerful response and these things would be together in one place.

2. Keep a prayer list journal. If you don’t just love to write like I do, consider doing a journal in which you keep an ongoing list of prayer requests and answers. Having a dedicated notebook, or a specific section of a notebook, just for list would work best. In this journal I do less essay praying and more just-the-facts request lists. Just write down the people and needs that you are praying for. Always date your entries, requests and answers. You may want to number or bullet the list. Leave room to write the answer when it comes. You may want to consider writing requests on the left-hand side of the book and leaving the right-hand page blank to jot answers to these prayers as they come. Sometimes answers are shockingly immediate! You realize God was already working out the answer before you prayed your prayer. Other requests will be on your list for 30 years before you see an answer, if you even do in your lifetime. (You may want to check out Etsy or Amazon for a specifically designed Prayer Journal if you have the money.)

3. Use a 3-ring binder with dividers. This is a very organized method using a binder, dividers, and theme paper. It is great for a scheduled 7-days-a-week in-depth prayer list. Set up categories to pray for. Label each tab of your binder with one category or a day of the week. Categories I’ve used for the week:

Church – Sunday

Family & Like Family – Monday

Friends & Intercession – Tuesday

 Government – Wednesday

The World – Thursday

Missions/Missionaries – Friday

Praise – Saturday

At other times I have added, Community, Schools, Prayer Group (when I was part of a large prayer group that involved praying for a couple of dozen people), Healing, Salvations, and Church Leaders. This binder idea works well if you have lots of things you’re praying for and limited time. You can pray for a different section of your notebook each day of the week. The idea is to try to use only 7 groups or else have more than 1 topic to pray for under each day of the week.

4. Use an index card box. Another great idea is to use 3×5 cards and a small card box or even blank business cards and a binder to hold them. Categorize or alphabetize requests. I tend to always have a section up front for “Urgent Needs.” Put the request on the front with the date and the answer on the back with the date. Rotate cards to a separate “Answered Prayers” box once they’ve been answered to keep room in the first box, and in order to use the “Answered” box as encouragement and a reminder of what the Lord has done.

5. Write scriptures to pray beside specific prayer requests. When God gives you a specific verse to pray for a promise, or when you come upon a scripture that specifically meets a need you’re praying for, jot it down in the notebook or on the card with the request where you will remember to pray it!

6. The busy mom option. Use a photo book. A small photo album or flip book you can put photos in is a quick prayer reminder. Place in the album photos of people, churches, etc. that you are praying for. Keep it on the kitchen counter, nightstand, or the end table next to where you sit to nurse the baby. Flip through the pictures praying for each person or situation in whatever spare moments you have.

7. Try a paperless Prayer Journal. Apps such as Prayer Notes or Pocket Prayer Pro offer techies and people on the go something that is always with them. Record prayer requests, set reminders, get a system of daily prayer going, all at the tip of you fingers. I haven’t personally tried this form, but would love to hear from someone who has.

pexels-photo-92333

The bottom line – PRAY.

Get yourself organized in a way that assists you but doesn’t dominate you.

Remember the goal is not the organization, but praying and growing in our communication with the Lord.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Back to Basics: Quiet Time

In my early twenties and fresh out of college, I was blessed to stumble upon a treasure of a book, Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund. Anne became my mentor. I have longed for years since then to find a woman I knew to mentor me, but what the Lord finally showed me was that this woman, her writings, were the guide God put in my hands along with His word and a few other books, to grow me up. I’ve re-read the book several times. I find the key concepts of Anne’s writing are so fundamental to my beliefs that I frequently teach them as I mentor young women today.
pexels-photo-65045So, if you are like I was and can’t seem to find that flesh-and-blood mentor to have a cup of coffee and chat with, then grab a cup right now – I’ll take Green Mountain breakfast blend with one Truvia pack and 2 teaspoons of peppermint creamer – and join me for our first mentoring session!

While there are many areas of the spiritual life that need our attention, the 4 main ones we will focus on and their importance are clearly shown in The Wheel Illustration.
 wheel
This illustration shows us the fundamentals of a well-rounded Christian life: Prayer & The Word – the ways we interact with God, and Witnessing & Fellowship – the ways we interact with people. If any one of these spokes is not being tended to or if Christ is not at the center of everything we do, we risk living an out of balance, wobbly life as we roll through our days here on earth; traveling with a flat tire so to speak.
The prime spiritual discipline that is the air our spirit breathes is a personal Quiet Time with God each day (built on Prayer and The Word). No matter your age, your spiritual growth and health is dependent upon this discipline. Your spiritual life will suffocate without daily time alone with your Father.
The Set Up.
  1. Have a set place. (Mine is a cushy love seat in our living room.)
  2. Have a set time. (30+/- minutes before you normally have to get up works well.)
  3. Have the materials you need. (Listed in next paragraph)
  4. Be consistent. (Commit to do this every day for a month and your time will be firmly established and easier to stick with.)
So how do you go about it? Simple. Grab your Bible, a pen, and a notebook. That’s all you need! God has promised to give His Spirit as your teacher (John 14:26).
Resting in the fact that a member of the Holy Trinity will be teaching you, this is
The Process.
  1. Pray. Pray praising God, thanking Him, confessing sins, asking forgiveness, and interceding for others. Most importantly Pray for God to open the eyes of your heart to understand what He is teaching you through His written Word. (Phil.4:6-7)
  2. Read a portion of scripture. 
    1. Get yourself on a Bible reading plan. Look over the options in the link. If you’re new to this, one or two verses a day may seem to be all you can take in without being overwhelmed. So you might want to start slowly cruising through the book of John or Philippians a few verses at a time.
    2. Read with purpose. Don’t just read the words to check this off your list. Read trying to absorb what the scripture is saying. Ask yourself the 5 W’s and an H – Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Leave your reading time with the attitude that you want to be able to tell a friend about it later that afternoon.
  3. Meditate on it listening for the truth God is teaching you. This may involve praying over portions. It may mean you read back through the passage very slowly, stopping every time you are curious and contemplating what the deeper meaning is. It may mean repeating a single verse of the passage over and over to begin to memorize it. Or you may personalize the scripture by putting your own name in it or turning it into a prayer. You may want to read the Word emphasizing different words to see a deeper meaning. Or read it looking for Biblical concepts or patterns and repetitions in the passage.
  4. Journal your thoughts and prayers. Even if your time is limited as you scurry off to work, take your notebook and take a moment to journal one take away from the scripture. Maybe it’s a promise in scripture you want to cling to in the issues you are facing. Maybe it’s a command you realize you need to obey to please God. Whatever it is, jot it down. Then follow up with a written prayer to end your quiet time. It can be brief. But personally, I have found these prayers to be very revealing and healing. As I pray writing it out seeking God’s heart I often write truth I’d never realized before, blessings the Lord speaks into my heart, wisdom that crystalizes into a clear thought, or even tender loving words or words of reproof to myself. When we open a conversation with Him in prayer, God speaks back if we will just listen!
  5. One process of Bible study is called Inductive Bible study. (Check out the link. More on this in another post.) Inductive reasoning is reasoning that derives general principles from specific observations. So inductive Bible Study hinges on deriving general life principles through diligently observing His Word, praying, and listening to what God quietly speaks to your spirit.
Thanks for the coffee! I loved our first mentoring session. So now that you know how to have an effective quiet time, I guess I’ll end with the Nike slogan “Just do it.” Blessings!
pexels-photo-261577