Waiting For Answers To Prayer

One of the more frustrating experiences for someone of faith is unanswered prayers. The Bible tells us again and again that our prayers are indeed answered and God definitely hears our prayers so that isn’t the cause of our frustration. Part of our frustration is God’s timeline vs. our timeline. We are used to the fast food, high speed internet, 2 day shipping life, wherein we can get answer or things in a few minutes or few days at most. But few relationships are made in 2 days, homes aren’t built in 2 days, and God doesn’t always answer prayers in 2 days. Sometimes these things take years, which can be hard for us to understand or accept, but we have to trust and have faith in God’s plan and timing.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m in a bit of a waiting pattern and I’m dealing with some of that frustration myself. There are moments I’m definitely enjoying not being quite so busy, and while it took a little while I finally have been getting stuff on my to-do list done. As I’ve shared on some of my other blogs recently, I’ve been reminded how even giving a little time and effort can bring some great results. I’m amazed how little time some of these things take and how much sooner I could have gotten them done if I knew it wouldn’t take that long (and were willing to accept something other than perfection or a complete job).

So while I’m still waiting for answers to prayers, I’m finally adjusting to waiting. It’s been a reminder how each moment is a gift, even if it’s not the gift you were expecting or hoping for. But it’s not like the gift of that “fantastic” knitted sweater from a grandmother or aunt that you might get at Christmas, but it’s a gift that you can actually use and benefit from. If you’re waiting right now for answers to prayer too, I encourage you to look around and see if God’s giving you a different answer to prayer or has some other things that you should be doing right now, instead of being focused on what you have been. What will you be able to cross off your to-do list this week?

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Prayer and Restoration

School is in full swing, and while I don’t have plans to go back there are still some things that come up each year on the school calendar that I make note of for one reason or another. This week schools around the US are gearing up for See You At The Pole. It’s a student led spiritual ministry for students, by students at schools of all kinds, not just private spiritual based schools. In this day and age students have to communicate with the school about doing it, but back when it started in 1990 students would just show up around the pole and pray.

Each year they do pick a different theme to reflect on, but the ultimate goal of the event whether it’s done at a school or off campus (due to a request to disperse), is to pray for the school and students. Prayer is and has always been a central part of the Christian faith and it’s also a central part of many other religions as well. Faith and prayer is as natural together and intimately connected as peanut butter and jelly or fish and chips. This year the organization has chosen the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to be the focus for the prayers and topics of discussion on Wednesday:

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

It’s a great verse for many reasons, including the focus it has on the topic and importance of prayer. What so many people need today is restoration. But this verse, and others throughout the Bible, are clear that like many other things including the seasons, there’s a process that has to be followed. Restoration can only happen after realizing something isn’t right, admitting your part in it, making changes in your life, and asking for forgiveness.

I do pray for restoration, and also for the strength and courage to do what it takes to get to that point. Each student that stands up and joins around a flagpole on Wednesday is taking an important first step and showing great courage and strength. If we were all to stand up and pray for each other, could you imagine the healing, transformation and blessings that could occur in our lives?

Life may be just beginning for those students, but we’re still here too, so it’s not too late to say a prayer and begin a restoration process in your life as well. How will God heal you this week?

How Do You Hear From God?

I think one of the biggest questions, challenges, concerns, or struggles people have when it comes to their faith, or any type of spiritual beliefs in general, has to do with hearing from God. If you ask someone of faith they will tell you that God has certainly had a hand in their lives, or that they can see God’s leading.
And yes, we’re able to pray directly to Him, we don’t have to go through an intermediary like a pastor or priest which makes it a lot more comfortable and encourages us to do it more often.

But let’s face it, saying prayers to God is not often the same as sitting down to have coffee with someone and having an actual conversation where there’s listening and speaking on both sides of the table. I say that it is rarely like that because throughout spiritual history there have been people who have spoken directly with God like Enoch, Samuel, Solomon, Jonah, and Saul/Paul from the Bible. And then there are people from more recent history who also had a close relationship and heard from God like Smith Wigglesworth, Mother Teresa, and Billy Graham, just to name a few of the more well-known people.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with God guiding us through means other than words, I will always take that over nothing at all, but there’s something so much more personal, powerful, intimate and real about hearing actual words. It’s kind of like how you can connect with someone on social media and message back and forth, but unless you meet them in person or talk on the phone/skype, you’re not really positive they’re a real person or who they say they are.

I don’t think it’s impossible to actually talk with/hear from God, and since God is all powerful He’s certainly able to talk with anyone (or everyone) at any time. But most of us don’t take the time to develop the relationship with Him that would encourage Him to speak directly to us in that way (although He certainly can speak to you that way to get your attention as He did Paul/Saul who He didn’t have a relationship with).  And while He could speak to us all with words, it might make Him seem less divine or people would feel like they’re more equal with Him, which wouldn’t be a good thing.

So what do you do if you want to hear (more) from God? Read your Bible, make time to pray and talk with God on a very regular basis, and be open to His leading and the changes of your plans. God may choose to speak words through someone else that you need to hear, He may make your path obvious in another way, He may touch your heart with an impression or direction, and He may speak to you directly with words. I believe God speaks today, and He wants to speak to each of us, it’s a question of whether we are truly listening or not.

A Choice of Burdens

I read a quote recently that I think really lines up well with the Biblical passage of Matthew 11:28-30 but also sheds light on it. Let’s start with the Bible passage:

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.””

It’s a very well-known passage, one that is repeated and turned to during times of stress, fear, confusion, challenge and weakness, maybe one you yourself have said or read recently.  It’s one that we turn to because Jesus is clearly saying that although there will be burdens in life He is here to help us with them. Which is where the quote I mentioned comes in:

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” Lou Holtz

It’s very rare in life that we truly are out of option or that we have no choices. Typically we just can’t think of them or don’t like the ones that we can think of or see. But both the passage and the quote remind us to rethink that and be encouraged that the burden we bear doesn’t have to be the burden we see it as, and that there are options and hope, if only we would open our eyes.

Today I would encourage you to not only bring your current situations to God in prayer, but also take the time to really do your research and consider your options.  You’re only out of options and hope if you believe it is so or stop looking.  Maybe the one you’ve been avoiding is the answer.  Maybe it’s something you haven’t heard of before.  Maybe it’s something a friend has heard about and would be able to share with you if you share your burden with them.  Maybe today will be the day that brings hope back into your life.  But even if it isn’t, I know that God has everything under control and has a plan for everything, and He is here to carry your burdens with you.

Words on Prayer

As we finish the 2019 National Day of Prayer I thought I’d share a few quotes on prayer, what prayer can mean, and the power of prayer.

“In my deepest, darkest moments, what really got me through was a prayer. Sometimes my prayer was ‘Help me.’ Sometimes a prayer was ‘Thank you.’ What I’ve discovered is that intimate connection and communication with my creator will always get me through because I know my support, my help, is just a prayer away.” Iyanla Vanzant

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Prayer doesn’t just change things – it changes us. If we are diligent in seeking God, slowly and surely we become better people.” Joyce Meyer

“I think you grow wherever God plants you. I hope I’m growing as a person of faith, as a Christian. That should be our number one objective this journey of life. That all starts with a personal intimate relationship with Christ and then being in prayer every single day about all of those things – being tenacious about it.” J. C. Watts

“Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” Corrie Ten Boom

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Prayer’s important, not just as some kind of a metaphysical exercise, but I think it’s a way to refresh one’s own mind and motive. If you’re praying, you’re really looking beyond your own personal thoughts and the pressures that are around you.” Mike Huckabee

“For me, in my Christian belief, prayer is not an opportunity to manipulate God into doing what you want him to. Prayer is an opportunity to have a conversation with God to try to get in tune with what his will is.” Francis Collins

“I believe in prayer. It’s the best way we have to draw strength from heaven.” Josephine Baker

“Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.” Saint Teresa of Avila

A Prayer for Love

Love has to be one of my favorite topics to talk about. It’s all about hope, caring, selflessness, compassion and togetherness. Yes, you can and should love yourself, but there’s so much more to love than just loving yourself. Today we’re talking about love because it’s this year’s theme for the National Day of Prayer which is this Thursday.

Prayer is important  and awesome because we can do it anywhere for anyone, we don’t need their permission, nor do we need to know exactly what’s going on in their life to pray for them. All we need to do is lift them and their life to God. So it’s great that we take time each year to have this day and to focus the nation on prayer. But I’m thrilled that love is the topic they’ve chosen to focus on, because even though Easter was just over a week ago, it seems like the world has already forgotten the message of Easter: a message of hope, forgiveness and life.

Prayer is an important and valued part of our spiritual life and of our relationship with God, and love is taking it the next step. Love is something you can do without any hint of spirituality or directly connected to your faith.  Love is something everyone knows they need, and more people are willing to accept love than they are the words of faith that they don’t know they need, but really do need. Love can be the first step towards building relationships and sharing faith or it can be a continuation of that faith. Love is a universal action and concept that doesn’t require us to speak the same language or have the same culture or be of the same faith, it just asks us to give and care without judgment or ulterior motives.

So as you spend time in prayer this week I encourage you to ask God for opportunities to love, and to look for opportunities to love others in this week, and even beyond National Day of Prayer.

“Love one another. Just as I have loved you.” John 13:34

Prayer for Students

This month we’ve been talking a bit about the topic of responsibility, one of those responsibilities is to the younger generations, both on a spiritual level as well as a whole-life level. We have to give them the tools that we’ve got as well as do our best to prepare them for what is yet to come that we don’t know about yet; challenges and opportunities that have never been seen before.

This week on Wednesday students around the US will be gathering around the flagpoles at their schools to pray for each other as well as our nation. It’s a moment where they step up and take responsibility for themselves and their school mates, the future leaders of the world. This week the rest of the US has the opportunity to pray for students and the people they will become as well, and for those who teach them and guide them.

Each year the organization behind See You At The Pole selects a passage to focus that year’s prayers on, this year it’s Ephesians 3:14: “I fall on my knees before the Father.” I encourage you to check out what they’ve shared about the thought behind their choice of passage on their website. What stood out to me was that the verse really is a reminder to pray, to seriously dedicate yourself and time to praying for what’s going on in your life and the world around you and taking the time to develop a relationship with God. We don’t always dedicate the time and effort to prayer that we should, and this verse is a reminder to do exactly that.

I encourage you to devote some of your prayer time this week for students, both those who will pray around the pole on Wednesday and those who will not, that this year will be a positive one and full of opportunities that will help shape students into the men and women that they will become.