POOR ME

I was talking to someone the other day and they asked why I had these red patches on the back of my neck.  I told them that it was psoriasis and that it tended to flare up when I was stressed.  In a shocked voice she asked, “What are you stressed about?!”  I tried to explain that we are working every spare minute on the house that we bought in January in an attempt to get it ready so we can move from our temporary housing to our permanent home.  We also have one of the biggest events that our church has coming up in 1 1/2 weeks with a special speaker arriving that I need to prepare a guest room for.  And let’s not forget the pies to bake for the Sunday of Father’s day, the potato salad I am supposed to make the next weekend and 2 other desserts.  Oh yes, and I am supposed to work 3 days a week.  You get the picture.  I’m tired and overwhelmed. 🙂

This morning I was thinking about that scenario and the Lord reminded me that most of us don’t understand another person’s stressors.  What drives me crazy would be a piece of cake to another person.  Yet, that same person could be bent completely out of shape over something that I would just take in stride.  The fact that even our closest friends can’t always understand why we are upset does not keep us from going to them to give us sympathy. If we knew what many of our friends and acquaintances are going through we would be embarrassed that we even THOUGHT we were stressed or overworked.  Just look at the news this last week.  No one has shot me or someone I love and I did not just lose a child to a gator attack at Disney World.  Those are stressful situations that I hope I will never have to experience!

When I am tempted to say “poor me, I just can’t take the pressures of my life”, it’s time to look around and get some perspective of what real problems are.  Then I need to have a talk to the only one who truly understands me–my Heavenly Father who created me just the way I am.  Because my creator is all knowing and all powerful, He also knows exactly how my schedule should work out and what I am capable of doing.  God is just waiting for me to come to Him so that He can give me wisdom and strength to do all that He has called me to do.  Yet I too often forget that fact while working myself up into a dither over something I can’t control. 🙂

 

Self Discipline

This is a departure from my series entitled “Life’s Lessons”.  I was thinking last week that it is much harder to discipline myself then it was to discipline my children. There were many times when my kids were young that I was so tired I was tempted to ignore whatever infraction of the rules they had committed.  Most of the time I was able to overcome the laziness and take care of the problem knowing that inconsistent discipline leads to more problems in the future.  Sooo, you would think that I could make myself do the things I know I should.  After all, there is only one of me!  However, it is amazing how many excuses I can come up with to avoid whatever I don’t truly want to do. 🙂

It seems that I am in good company.  The apostle Paul had the same problem.  In many of the epistles that he wrote Paul talks about his struggle with the flesh and encourages Christians to walk in the spirit and keep our bodies in subjection (Rom. 7:18-19; 13:14; I Cor. 9:19-27; and Gal. 5:16).  It boils down to the fact that I must allow the Holy Spirit to set my priorities and work in my life so that I can produce good fruit that will draw others unto Him.

What does that mean in my life?  I must quit making excuses for not having time to exercise.  My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  If this temple crumbles because I did not do my part to eat well and exercise, I will not have the strength to help others and I may make it harder on my children as I age.  Not only do I need to exercise my body and care for it; but, I must also exercise my mind so that I am ready to witness and encourage others who need the Lord.

How do I do this?  By putting first things first.  Have devotions & study the Bible BEFORE I check my email & facebook.  Make sure I allow time to do my exercises even if I don’t read every post that my friends put on facebook. 🙂  I managed to live more than 50 years without all these wonderful posts so if I miss a few shared quotes or blogs it probably will not hurt me.  But, skipping my spiritual and physical exercise over time will weaken my body and mind.  I pray that the Lord will help me to overcome the excuses that the devil puts in my path.  I want to become a vessel fit for the master’s use.  Will you join me?

Prayer | Part 2

People today are going crazy and spending big money to go to classes and spas that will teach them how to meditate so that they can relieve the stress caused by their frantic paces and ungodly lifestyles.  God in his great wisdom gave us the answer for this problem years ago in His Holy Word.  Our Heavenly Father knew that we would need time to slow down and get answers for our  problems.  He even prescribed meditation; but it was not the kind that clears the mind!  It was meditating on God’s Word and learning to communicate with God through prayer.

              This lesson is part 2 on the subject of prayer.  I have heard many people say “I can’t pray because I don’t know how.”  Read the following lesson and then get to work praying so you can reap the blessings of peace and answered prayers.

 HOW TO PRAY        

In the last blog we discussed where we should pray and when we should pray.  This lesson will be devoted to what God says about how we should pray.  As I said in the previous lesson, prayer is simply talking to God like you would talk to your best friend.  So you may be wondering why there would be rules for praying. 

Do you remember when you were growing up?  As you made friends you learned that there was unspoken social rules for conversing and there was a right and a wrong way to try to persuade people to see your point of view.  When you wanted your parents to approve a plan there was a successful formula for approaching them and persuading them to agree with you.

Please don’t think for a minute that I am placing God on the same level as sinful human beings.  But the Bible does tell us that God is our Heavenly Father.  Jesus even commands us to pray to our Father in Heaven.  Therefore we can assume that approaching God in prayer would be similar to petitioning a good, loving, earthly father. So let us see what our Heavenly Father tells us about how to pray.

1.     We must be his child.  If one of your children ask you to buy them something expensive like a computer for Christmas and you were financially able to do that, you might consider it.  But, if your child’s best friend asked for a computer you would most likely tell them to go talk to their parents.   Why?  Do you not care about that child’s educational opportunities?  No, it is simply that you are not responsible for the training and rearing of other people’s kids.  You may help but it is not you that will get blamed if your neighbor’s child does not turn out well. 

God cares about the whole world.  But until we accept His gift of His only son Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and ask Him to come into our hearts we do not have the right to call Him Father.  John 1:12 tells us that when we receive Jesus in our hearts God adopts us into his family.  We then have a heavenly Father that wants to hear from us and delights in granting our requests when they are for our benefit.

2.  We must not have sin in our life.  When your child has been cheerfully obedient you desire to reward him or her for following the rules.  But when they are grumpy, sneaky and rebellious you have no desire to give them what they want in fact, you are more likely to take away something that they love to teach them a lesson.

The Psalmist, David, tells us in Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.  The prophet Isaiah reprimands the children of Israel in chapter 59 verse 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 

We are all sinful and God knows this.  He simply wants us to keep a clean slate with Him by confessing our sins as soon as we are aware of them.  That way we can come to God with a clear conscience knowing that He will listen and respond.  Our heavenly Father has promised us in I John 1:9 that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

Once we learn to confess sins immediately it will become second nature to stay in a right relationship with the Lord.  Then when we feel a need to ask God to help us or someone else or we want to talk with him about a problem we won’t have to spend time first confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness.  How sweet it is to stay in a right relationship with your Heavenly Father.

3.  We must ask according to His will.  In the sample prayer that our Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples it says, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10.  It is part of God’s command  that we pray seeking God’s will.  Even our Saviour prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Not my will but thine be done.  If God’s Son set the example by submitting Himself to the will of His father, can we do less?

God gives us the opportunity to make our own choices.   He will not force us to do His will even though following the will of God is what will bring us the most happiness.  As finite human beings we cannot see the end results of our desires and requests.  Frequently I believe that we demand God answer our prayers our way with no room for our creator to give us the best answer.  Just as a parent might allow a child to get in trouble so they could see the results of their actions God will allow us to have what we have begged Him for even though He knows it is not best.

If we truly wish to be blessed we must learn to pray for what we want with the condition that it is in the will of God.  We tend to think that we can help God by making suggestions on how He could work out our problems.  Instead we should be simply bringing the problem to Him like a son would bring a broken toy to his father and in childlike faith say “Fix it, Daddy”.

We have two examples in the scriptures of great men of God who submitted to God’s will even though it was not what they requested.  In II Samuel chapter 12 we read the story of David’s sin being revealed by Nathan the prophet.  Nathan tells him because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.  The child became sick and for seven days David fasted and prayed for God to spare the child.  But God kept his promise and the child died.  When the king was told that the child was dead, he got up, washed himself, ate and went back to business.  David, a man after God’s own heart, knew that the Lord loved him and his child; therefore, he accepted God’s answer and went on to serve the Lord.

In the New Testament we  read in II Corinthians 12:7-10 how the apostle Paul asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh”.  Paul says that he asked the Lord three times to remove this affliction from him

In verse 9 and 10 Paul shares with us God’s answer and his reaction.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:  for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore, I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Instead of demanding that God answer his prayers his way or else, Paul accepted God’s answer knowing that he would be a far more effective minister and testimony when he allowed God to work through him in spite of his infirmities. 

We must remember that God sees the whole picture, we only see a tiny part.  If we will learn to graciously accept the Lord’s answers to our prayers,  He will give us strength to deal with whatever He places in our lives.  God’s blessings for sweetly submitting to His will far outweigh any imagined happiness we would attain by having God give us what we think we want.

4.      We must ask in faith, believing He will answer.  James 1:5-6 says If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.  For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  Our Heavenly Father has given us all kinds of wonderful promises in His Word.  We know that God never lies and always keeps His promises.  So why do we have such a hard time believing that He will answer us with the solution that is in our best interests?

I don’t know about you, but part of my problem lies in the fact that I am a sinful human being.  I know that I do not always keep my promises and I fail God, myself, and others; therefore, I have a hard time believing that God will do what He says.  I also have a very short memory.  My God has performed miracles for me time and time again.  I always praise Him when He answers my prayer in a way that is so superior to what I could imagine.  Yet, the next trial appears and I panic!  I read about the Children of Israel and  think that they were so immature when they so quickly forgot God’s miracles for them…yet I am no better!

So, how do we learn to have the faith to believe that God will answer our prayers?  First we need to remember that when we waver and panic we are sinning.  That is what the devil wants so he plants seeds of doubt in our minds.  We must ask God for help and learn to say Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9:24).  Our creator already knows when we are frantic and having trouble believing that He will answer.  James tells us that our Heavenly Father will not rebuke us when we ask for help in our faith.  In fact, I believe God is pleased when we finally admit our weakness and ask for His help. 

Once we admit that our lack of faith is sin, then we must tell God what we need and act upon it.  For instance, it doesn’t take great faith to tell the Lord “if you give me $1,000, I will write a check to the church for $100”.  Faith in action is writing the check first then trusting God for the money.  I am not trying to encourage you to give away money foolishly.  What I am saying is that if God impresses on you the need to give a certain amount you must obey and then trust God to provide.

First, we confess our sin of doubting, Secondly we act upon our faith and third we must be prepared for the devil to fight us.  Satan does not want us to be a victorious Christian telling others how God answers our prayers and praising the Lord for the miracles that He does.  Therefore, he will constantly try to remind you of how hopeless your situation is and do his best to steal your joy so that your testimony will be null and void.

We need to memorize God’s promises so that when the sin of doubt pops into our mind we can quote scripture for our own encouragement as well as a shield against the devil.  You could start with the following verses:  Psalm 91:15, Luke 11:9, and Phillipians 4: 13,19.  Once you have these verses committed to memory, start a study of God’s promises to you in the scriptures.  You will be amazed at all the verses you will find to encourage yourself when Satan wants you to panic or become depressed.

5.     We should pray specifically.  Years ago while I was still in college a chapel speaker asked, “How can you know if God has answered your prayers if you do not pray specifically for exactly what you want?”   I thought about that and the answer was simple –you can’t!  If I prayed God bless the missionaries it only stands to reason that some of them would be blessed.  But if I asked the Lord to provide the $500 that a certain missionary needed to pay for shipping books to his field of service and God provided, that would be an exciting answer!

Over the years I have made this practice even more personal.  When I need a new appliance, piece of furniture or whatever, I tell the Lord what I want, what color I would like, and how much I can afford to spend then I go shopping.  The idea is that if God wants me to have that item, He will provide exactly what I want for the amount of money I can afford.  If I should not have it, I won’t find anything to fit my specifications and I know that God has a better plan.  I have been amazed over the years how God has provided.  This method has saved me a lot of time and hassle because I don’t feel any great need to stand in long lines at outrageous hours (like 4 AM) so I can be the first to get some great deal.  My philosophy has become “If God wants me to have it, it will still be there when I arrive.”

When a friend or a missionary requests prayer for something, I always try to find out names and details if possible.  That way I can help them pray specifically for the problem and we will both know when God has answered.

6.  We must never forget to praise God for all he has done and all he will do.   When we do something special for someone, we like to have them say “thank you” or “good job”.  Good parents always teach their children to say thank you when someone gives them a gift.  God is our Heavenly Father who is constantly giving us blessings and answers to prayers.  How often do we thank Him for everything that He does for us each day?

The Bible has an abundance of verses that tell us that when we ask God for something we should also thank Him.  Phillipians 4:6 says Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Colossians 3:17 gives a similar command And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.  We read in Colossians 4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.

Are you seeing a pattern here?  I believe that our creator knew that we would need to be reminded to be thankful otherwise we would become like whining, spoiled children.  When we focus on our blessings we learn to put our problems and wants into a Godly perspective.  That is why we are told in I Thessalonians 5:18  to give thanks in everything.  One of the best ways to obey this command from God is to sandwich your requests between praise and thanksgiving.

Let me challenge you to check your prayer life.  Is there more prayer requests then thanks?  Do you remember to thank the Lord when He answers your prayers?  Are you getting specific answers to your requests?  Is talking to your Heavenly Father as natural as talking to your best friend?  If the answer to any of these is “no” then you need to commit to working on your prayer life.  Caution:  Be prepared for blessings and spiritual growth.

Prayer

Our nation has experienced many disasters in the last few years.  It is ironic to me that in a country that is arguing about the right to pray in public places we often hear on the news that people are praying for help or that they were thankful for the prayers of others.  Many people who never go to church or read the Bible will resort to prayer when a disaster strikes their life.  Why is that?  I believe it is because we are born with a God given knowledge that there is someone greater and stronger than we are who can help in times of distress.

The sad fact is that many of us, even professing Christians that faithfully attend church, do not pray except when we, or our loved ones, are in trouble.   Prayer is so simple.  Yet we humans want to make it complicated.  We resort to prewritten prayers that have no meaning to us or to God or we don’t pray at all. 
God wants us to share our hearts with him.  Prayer is simply talking to God like you would converse with your best friend.  When you talk to a friend, you share blessings, frustrations, needs, hopes and dreams.  That is what our Lord and Master planned for us when he designed prayer.

 

Remember, that God already knows all our thoughts and desires (Psalm 69:5; Psalm 139:1-2).  He is just waiting for us to share them openly with him so that he can help us and bless us.  The Bible tells us repeatedly that God wants us to pray.  The Lord even gives us instructions about where to pray, when we should pray, and how we should pray.


1.     Where should we pray?  The wonderful thing about prayer is that we can do it anywhere.  I know that many religions teach that you must go to church, or be on a prayer rug, or face a certain direction.  None of these methods are mentioned in scripture.  These are simply man made rituals that make people feel like they have done the right thing. 

Paul tells us in I Timothy 2:8 that we are to pray “everywhere”.  That doesn’t sound to me like we have to be in one certain place or position in order to pray.  Because we do not have to speak out loud in order for God to hear us, we can pray while we do housework, while we are driving (don’t close your eyes!), when we are lying in bed.  There is no place that we can go that God will not hear us.

There is a time for us to go into our “prayer closet” as the Lord Jesus talks about in Matthew 6:8.  God does want us to spend some time with him in a private place where we will not be interrupted and we can commune with him.  We need that quiet time to share our thoughts and feelings and listen for his still small voice of direction.  But the beauty of God’s plan for communicating with us is that it does not have to be in the same place all the time.  God made us and he knows our schedules.  He understands that there are times when the best we can do is ten minutes for devotions before we start the day running.  But we must not forget that we can still communicate with him wherever we are.

Some of my best prayer time is in the car on my way to work.  I have a 30 mile drive which translates into about 35-40 minutes of peace and quiet with no interruptions.  It is a great time for me to pray and meditate before I start the day dealing with the public.  I also find that I can talk to the Lord while I do housework.  Even when the children were at home, cleaning and gardening was a time when I could be alone with peace and quiet to think if I chose not to include the family.  Believe me, there were no volunteers to help with chores if I didn’t ask! 

The point is that there are many things that we do in a day that do not require our full attention.  These are great times to pray for our family, our friends, our country, etc. and to share our thoughts with the Lord.  If we are feeling discouraged and depressed this is a good time to praise the Lord for all the blessings that He has given us.  It is amazing how much better I feel when I take the time to praise the Lord for all He has done for me and for who He is.

Once you get in the habit of praying everywhere, you will find yourself talking to God as you park the car, “Lord help me to find a parking space”, as you shop “please give me wisdom”, you get the idea.  Prayer is just like asking for help from your best friend.  Only this time you are talking to the one true God who is omnipotent and omniscient.  He is far better than an earthly friend when we need help and advice.

2.  When should we pray?  The Bible has plenty to say about when and how often we should pray.  I Chronicles 16:11 says Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.  Even in the Old Testament God commanded us to seek him all the time.  When we pray we are seeking or searching for the Lord and his help and wisdom.  God wants us to do this on a regular basis not just when we are in church or when we are in trouble.

In Ephesians six the apostle Paul tells us the kind of equipment that we will need to win the battle against Satan.  In verse 18 he says that we are to be praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit….  In order to win battles for the Lord and live the kind of life He wants us to live, we must be filled with the Spirit and be in an attitude of prayer at any time.  Also in I Thessalonians 5:17 we read the very short verse Pray without ceasing. 

So what do these verses tell us about when we should pray?  The Lord tells us that we should pray continually, always, and without ceasing.  Does that mean that in order to obey God we must drop everything and go live in a monastery where we do nothing but pray?  Absolutely not!  That would be disobeying God’s definite command to go, preach and teach.

I don’t believe that scripture teaches us that we are to be on our knees with bowed head and closed eyes every moment that we are awake.  Rather the Lord is telling us that we should have such a close relationship with him that we can pray all day long, anywhere, at anytime.

God wants us to have such a close, sweet fellowship with him that it is like he is walking or sitting beside us all the time.  Therefore, we can talk to Him all day long.  Starting with when we first wake up and say “Good morning, Lord!” sharing thoughts, concerns, and praises throughout the day until we lay down at night and say “Thank you Father for a good day.  Help me to sleep well tonight.”  You see, our prayer life should be such that it is a running commentary of us talking and listening to the Lord all day long.

This kind of friendly, chatty praying does not mean that there is not a time for more formal planned prayer time in our lives.  We should all say a blessing before we eat showing our gratefulness to God for providing for us.  When we are in church we have a set prayer time and sometimes we recite The Lord’s Prayer together.  There may be other times in your day when you say regular prayers at family or personal devotions.  Yet none of these times take the place of our communicating with the Lord throughout our daily activities.

As you grow in the Lord, people should see that you seem to get your prayers answered and they will ask you to pray for them.  If you promise to do that you must keep that commitment.  That is hard to do on memory alone.  It is a good idea to have a prayer list to remind you of those that you have promised to pray for.

Years ago, I found that my list was entirely too long for one sitting.  Therefore, the people at the top of the list (family and close friends) got a lot of prayer and others seemed to get ignored except for occasions where I had an unusual amount of time.  One of the speakers I heard at a retreat had the same problem.  She said that she divided her list into seven days.  That way everyone got prayed for at least once a week.  I thought that was a great idea.  I bought bright colored index cards and wrote the days of the week at the top.  My husband and children were listed on every card then I went through our family members, church people, missionaries and evangelists and others.  I then made a second copy.  One set I keep with my Bible and the other set is clipped to the visor of my car.

This system has made a world of difference in my prayer life.  It keeps me focused when I pray and it helps me to fulfill promises to people.  When I tell someone that I will pray for him or her, I remember to do it on a regular basis.  Naturally, there are times that someone I know has a special need and that gets added to the daily list.  I even have friends who will call and say “I know I am on your list for this day, please pray for our family that day.”   Then she will proceed to give me her specific request.

If you put people on your prayer list, it is nice to remember to ask them about the results of your praying.  I remember years ago when Larry and I moved to a new church, we were amazed that when we gave a prayer request on Sunday several people would see us on Wednesday night and ask about the answer to that request.  We were both impressed that the people in that church actually cared enough to do more than pray about the requests of others just once on Sunday.  They obviously remembered and continued to pray until there was a reason to praise the Lord for his answer.

This is true Christianity in action!  Getting involved in other’s lives enough that we would actually take up some of our precious time storming the gates of  Heaven asking God to help our brothers and sisters in Christ.  So often we seem to have the attitude “bless my husband, bless me, bless our 2 children, us four no more, Amen!”  Instead we should be caring about other’s problems the way we would want them to care about ours.

I believe that this is the beauty of God’s plan that we can pray anywhere, any time, in any position.  Our creator knew that if we were going to be unselfish and care for the needs of others we would need more than a ten minute prayer slot in the morning and another short time at night.  We need to be able to talk to God as problems arise and ask for his help and wisdom.  Isn’t it wonderful that we do not have to make an appointment or stand in line for our turn to talk to God?

Wouldn’t it be sad if the Lord brought someone to mind that really needed our prayer but we couldn’t pray right then because it wasn’t the right time of day or we were not in the place of prayer?   Matthew 6:8 says …for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.  He knew before we were created that we would need to have an open line to his throne at any time of the day or night.

Our Heavenly Father even gave us the right to be our own priests (I Peter 2:5) so that we do not have to go to the temple and ask the priest to pray and make sacrifices for us.  Once we have accepted Christ’s death on the cross and the shedding of His blood to cover our sins then we have the right to go straight to the Father just as an earthly child would take their requests to their Daddy.  Don’t we have an amazing God?!

It is sad that God gave us all these privileges and we do not take advantage of them.  We are missing out on so many blessings when we do not develop a rich prayer life.  In this stressful world we all need a way to reduce our worry and help us calm down without drugs.  Scientists have discovered in recent years that people who pray and trust in God seem to heal quicker and be calmer than those that don’t.  Christians could have told them that 2000 years ago and we could have saved thousands of dollars in research money!

Don’t let the world’s attitude “I don’t want to bother God with my tiny problems” seep into your thinking.  God has told us to bring everything to him. He has plenty of time to listen and he wants to hear from us.  Spend some quality time with the Lord talking, listening, and communicating.  You can’t have a good relationship with someone you never talk to.

3.  How should we pray?  Hold that thought for the next blog.