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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

 

“Stand with me and sing!” invites the enthusiastic worship leader on the church platform, while guitars begin an upbeat tune and drums rap out a foot-tapping rhythm.

Around me people sway a bit to the music, some raise their hands, others worship with eyes closed.

And though I, too, sway and raise my hands, I have to admit my heart’s not in it. For some reason, lyrics that have brought me to joyful tears on other occasions are not penetrating today.

My spirit seems paralyzed—no feeling whatsoever. Efforts to engage—focusing on the words and imagining my Heavenly Father on his throne, listening with parental pleasure—don’t seem to help.

What’s wrong with me? I wonder.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the same numbness in corporate worship, maybe during personal quiet time or at prayer. And like me, you’ve felt certain that something must be wrong.

 

 

Granted, we worship God to honor him. Our end goal is not to rustle up feel-good endorphins for us.

But, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. How is that even possible when we come down with a case of the spiritual blahs?

Actually, days and even seasons of spiritual dryness are a normal part of our faith-walk, experienced by almost every Christian at one time or another. And there is comfort in that, knowing we’re not alone.

Theologian Sam Storms offers us further encouragement:

 

“God is glorified by your longing for the joy to be found in him,

even if you are not yet experiencing it” (1).

 

But are there strategies we can implement to jump-start our hearts into exuberant responsiveness?

As a matter of fact, yes.

 

 

We can: 

1. Be honest with God.

King David certainly was. “I spread out my hands to you;” he cried. “My soul thirsts for you like a parched land” (143:6).

Yet in spite of his emotional tailspin, David writes, “I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul (v. 8).

 

 

David provides a worthy example to follow: acknowledge the truth; affirm our trust, and seek God’s guidance.

 

2. Rehearse what we know about God’s character, his promises. 

Our minds are renewable resources (Romans 12:2). We can turn our thoughts away from the numbness we’re experiencing at the moment, and focus on what is lovely and true, excellent and praiseworthy about our God.

Sometimes such thought processes are all that’s necessary to bring us out of the doldrums (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

3. Persevere in spite of our emotions.

Keep showing up in God’s presence whether we feel like it or not.

Our emotions must not be allowed to control actions. In fact, God especially appreciates a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), which surely includes offering him our worship when the fervency just isn’t there.

 

 

4. Anticipate.

Worship with an outlook on the future (Psalm 42:1-2). We can look forward to the day when our hearts will overflow again with ecstatic praise—even to the point of joyful tears.

 

5. Pray. 

Perhaps something like this: 

“Father in heaven, flood the dry places of my soul with your presence; lift the gray clouds that conceal you. Within my spirit I want to feel the warmth of your radiant Light, be wrapped in your unfailing love, and fly with you on the wings of the dawn!

In trusting expectancy I wait for you, O Lord. I know you will answer.”

 

 

(Isaiah 44:3; Psalm 4:6, 32:10, 139:9, 38:15)

 

What helps you beat the spiritual blahs?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

(1) https://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/how-can-i-worship-when-i-feel-nothing.html

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at       https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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After running a few errands last Saturday, Steve and I stopped at Panera for soup, salad, and sandwich.

We’d been seated for a while when Steve said, “A few tables behind you are two young men, and the one facing this way is wearing a T-shirt that says, ASK ME FOR PRAYER. Great big block letters too. ”

“Interesting. ‘Haven’t seen that one before,” I commented.

“Do you suppose he means it?”

“It’s a bold statement; I’ll bet he does.”

When we’d finished our lunch, I headed to the cold drinks bar to refresh my tea; Steve headed to the table of the young man in the T-shirt.

(We never did exchange names, so I’ll call him Paul, because I can see the Apostle Paul wearing just such a shirt, if it were available in his day.)

By the time I reached their table, Steve had discovered Paul did indeed mean what was blazoned on his chest.

“I’d appreciate it if you’d put me on your prayer list,” Steve told him. “I’m facing some serious health problems right now.”

But Paul did not assure us that he would pray. Instead he said, “Let’s pray for you right now!”

He and his friend immediately stood up, laid their hands on Steve, and Paul prayed for him right in the middle of Panera—and very articulately.

 

 

With conviction he praised God for His power to heal every kind of disease and sickness. He thanked God for his compassion on those who suffer, and prayed for the Spirit to move in Steve’s body and restore him to health. Paul also prayed against the spiritual forces of evil that would try to attack–and all in the powerful name of Jesus.

 

 

We spoke for a few moments more, first thanking them for hitting the pause button on their lunch to minister to us. Steve told them he’d been a pastor for forty years; Paul said he was from Tennessee, just passing through Cincinnati.

On the way to our car Steve said, “That was the most genuine, thorough healing prayer I’ve heard in a long time.”

And it undoubtedly came from a righteous man. In just those few moments of contact we saw passion, sincerity, obedience to God, humility, and grace.

You might remember what God promised about the prayers of such a person:

 

 

I found myself wishing we’d asked Paul for his business card. Wouldn’t it be fun, perhaps a year from now or so, to share with Paul how God had answered every part of his prayer on behalf of Steve.

Then, I remembered.  Eventually Paul will know, because:

  • God knows everything (Isaiah 40:13-14).
  • And since God and his Son are One (John 1:18), Jesus knows everything.
  • And when Jesus returns, we’ll be like him (1 John 3:2), and then we will know everything too.

 

 

So, one day, “Paul” will realize the outcome of his prayer for that preacher named Steve, while he just happened to be in an out-of-state Panera restaurant, wearing his ASK-ME-TO-PRAY-FOR-YOU T-shirt.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We praise you, O God, for your excellent deeds–like engineering delightful, specially designed events.  What God is there in heaven or on earth who can do such marvelous and mighty works you do?  We also praise you for your acts of power–like healing, because you are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.

(Deuteronomy 3:24; Psalm 77:14)

 

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flicker.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.maxpixel.net.)

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Saturday afternoon provided the perfect circumstances for a cozy sit by the fire.   The calendar was clear for the day and we could burrow into the quiet. Snow showers added to the tranquility as they gently outlined backyard trees in white.

 

 

The serenity of our sitting area is enhanced by the beloved hand-me-down decor: the clock, oil lamp and child-size rocker from my grandmother, lanterns that belonged to Steve’s Dad and grandfather, books of our parents’ youth, and a painting that once hung in the home of Steve’s parents.

 

 

Altogether, the golden firelight, familiar furnishings, and cozy comfort engender peace and contentment.

But as delightful as these moments are, this kind of tranquility is fleeting. At any moment the phone might ring and the caller share distressing news. Then we’ll hardly notice our snug surroundings as concerns and questions begin to demand our attention.

When that phone call comes, circumstantial peace will not be enough. But that’s the only kind this world can offer. What we really need at such times is a stillness of spirit that originates outside this world from the Master of Peace.

My peace I give you,” Jesus told his disciples. “I do not give you as the world gives.”

 

 

Remember when he spoke those words? The night before he died.  He well knew what was to come (1). The next day would be a maelstrom of suffering, climaxed by tortuous pain on a cross.

How could he speak of peace on the eve of such horror?

Because his heart was always directed Godward, resulting in radiant peace. Jesus faced rejection, false accusations, hateful treatment (from religious leaders no less), and even attempted stoning. And yet he remained unruffled.

“Christ’s life outwardly was one of the most troubled lives that was ever lived…But the inner life was a sea of glass. The great calm was always there” (2).

 

 

And this is the peace he offers us—a peace that includes tranquility, security, and prosperity of spirit in spite of circumstances. It is “a rare treasure, dazzling in delicate beauty yet strong enough to withstand all onslaughts” (3).

How do we avail ourselves of this treasure?

By reviewing the attributes and promises of our Prince of Peace–all day long.

“Great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace,” said Charles Spurgeon.

 

 

Perhaps we could word our great thoughts of Christ as a prayer:

You, Lord Jesus, are our Good Shepherd, always leading in the way we should go. You tenderly watch over us, meeting every need and protecting us from evil—including wild, fearful thoughts and emotions (4).  

You are full of love for us. Out of your kindness and compassion you see us through every dark valley of life. Though we may not always be aware, you are ever-present, ready to offer strength and support (5).

 

 

You have said, “Everything is possible for those who believe” (6). And we know that’s true because we’ve seen your miracles. You’ve healed incurable diseases; you’ve protected and provided in hopeless situations. You’ve enabled others to transition to heaven with impossible grace and joy.

For these reasons and many others, we place ourselves in your attentive, all-wise, all-powerful care.

You are our Mighty One, our Rock, our Haven of Peace.

 

 

______________________________

 

P.S. I started rough drafting this post last Saturday afternoon, while sitting by that fire. Uncertainty had already moved into our hearts after Steve’s blood work last week turned up questionable results. The doctor immediately called for a cat scan that took place on Friday. Monday he shared the results with us: liver cancer.

Steve is now on an obstacle-ridden road toward a liver transplant, and the future holds much greater uncertainty than we faced last week.

Do you suppose it’s just coincidence that I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about peace for the last six days?

I don’t think so either.

 

Notes:

(1) Luke 22:15-16

(2) Henry Drummond

(3) Sarah Young

(4) John 10:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; John 10:11

(5) Ephesians 5:1-2; Luke 6:35; Matthew 28:20

(6) Mark 9:23

 

Photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

 

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In three short days 2017 will melt into memories, and we’ll greet a new year with all its potential for grand possibilities.

These last few days of December offer a time of optimism and expectancy within our spirits. We wonder if 2018 will be the year for:

  • The fulfillment of a long-held dream,
  • The answer to a frequent, heart-felt prayer, or
  • The accomplishment of a hard-won goal.

It’s also a time when our hearts become reflective:

 

 

  • What might God have in store for me in 2018?
  • What would he desire me to do over the next twelve months?
  • How would he have me grow in character and maturity?

And so I pray.  (Perhaps you’d like to join me?)

Thank you, Father, for the demarcation between one year and the next, giving us pause to evaluate and encouraging us to:

  • Refocus our attention on priorities,
  • Recalibrate those attitudes that hold us back, and
  • Renew our resolve to live your way for your purpose (and experience your effervescent joy in the process).

 

 

To that end:

  • I pray for strength to accomplish what you have ordained for me.

Make clear your plan, Lord, and then help me tackle that plan boldly, mindful that you rarely give strength beforehand; most often you grant strength as we journey.

Remind me also: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). That sense of inadequacy in my spirit is actually a positive force. It compels me to rely on you more consistently.

 

 

  • I pray for wisdom to choose those areas where you want me to spend my time, energy, and resources.

Remind me my days on Planet Earth are growing short (Psalm 90:12). I need to remain focused.

 

 

Thank you, O God, for the delightful promise that the pursuit of wisdom results in joyful satisfaction in life. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding (Proverbs 3:13). May I be diligent to seek wisdom from your Word and then make choices based on that wisdom.

  • I pray for courage to speak of you everywhere, anytime.

As I pick up the phone or head out the door, may I affirm you are with me (Joshua 1:9). You will spread the knowledge of Christ through me, like a sweet perfume (2 Corinthians 2:14)—if I am a willing participant.

 

 

With Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001), I do not pray for my fears of rejection or conflict to be removed; I ask for courage equal to my fears.

  • I pray for faith to relish the adventure of a God-honoring life.

Keep me mindful of your promises, Father, that create a rock-solid foundation for my faith, including: 1) You are always working to accomplish your plan (John 5:17). 2) You are always working in me to mold my character into Christ-likeness (Philippians 1:6). 3) Your incomparably great power is always available for us who believe (Ephesians 1:19).

 

 

And if I proceed into each day with a simple reliance upon your power, with a single eye to your glory, it is certain you will be with me…And if you are with me, then I must succeed (Charles Spurgeon). Thank you for such emboldening words!

  • Last, I pray for passion to experience even more of your abundant life.

I want to participate with you in what you are doing around me, Lord—in my family, church, neighborhood, community, even in the lives of those I meet in the blogosphere.

I want to live with spiritual intensity, acutely aware of your presence around me and your power within me.

I want to experience the abundant life you offer in John 10:10 until even simple moments sing with significance because they reveal your glory.

 

 

O God, as you fulfill these desires and increase these qualities in me–strength, wisdom, courage, faith, and passion–what a year 2018 promises to be!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.wallpaper4god.com.)

 

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Just twelve days to Christmas 2017. Are you too immersed in preparation? In all honesty, I’m scrambling a bit in order to accomplish the remaining items on the must-do list: finish the Christmas cards, wrap the gifts, clean the house before the first guests arrive on Saturday, etc.

And for me, with the scrambling comes that uncomfortable feeling I’ll never get everything done.

It’s so silly, I tell myself. In the final analysis will our friends and family care if their cards arrive after Christmas? Is it necessary the packages be just so? Will our guests mind if every surface of the house isn’t gleaming?

Of course not. But my OCD tendencies still want to press me toward those expectations.

So what can I do to calm my spirit? I’m thinking the answer is worship.  I can express to God my gratitude, praise, and adoration–even while writing cards, wrapping gifts, and cleaning the house.

 

 

Scripture assures me that, as I worship in God’s presence, I will experience:

 

  1. Peace.

 

 

  1. Joy.

You, [O God], will fill me with joy in your presence.”

Psalm 16:11b

  1. Rest.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 91:1

 

 

What a glorious gift worship is! Isn’t it just like our loving Father to bless us as we seek to bless him?

And so, while writing the Christmas cards, I am praising God for friends and extended family spread all over the country, and praying for them, too.

 

 

Heavenly Father, I praise you for (insert name).

Thank you for their influence in our lives,

Their support and affection.

Thank you for treasured memories of time spent together.

We may have lived apart for many years,

Yet the bonds of love hold firm because of you.

Bless them, I pray, with joy in each day,

Provision and protection too.

 

While wrapping the family’s gifts I can offer praise on behalf of the recipients.

 

 

Your goodness, O Lord, has impacted our family again and again.

Every member has his/her stories to tell of

Your wonders, interventions, and miracles.

I praise you for each loved one—

His/her gifts and personality traits,

The delight You give us in each other.

I praise you we are able to gather once more

In celebration of you, our indescribable gift.

.

While cleaning, I can focus on gratitude. What am I thankful for in each room?

 

 

I praise you, Father for our cozy home,

for the perfectly sized dining set you provided

And the hutch we found rather miraculously.

I praise you for the large windows

Across the back of the house,

giving us a grand view of the backyard trees.

And I praise you that with gratitude

Even housekeeping can be turned into joyful worship.

 

Throughout the day, whatever the task, I can meditate on the wonder of what Jesus our Savior has accomplished.

And marvel again that it all began with his humble birth in a stable-cave:

 

(Gerard von Honthorst, 1622)

 

“O Sovereign God!

You have humbled yourself in order to exalt us.

You became poor so that we might become rich.

You came to us so that we can come to you.

You took upon yourself our humanity

In order to raise us up into eternal life.

All this comes through your grace,

Free and unmerited;

All this through your beloved Son,

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

–Karl Barth

 

Come! Let us adore him—even as we work!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.commons.org; http://www.flickr.com; publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org.)

 

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The time:  1892

The place:  Spindletop, Texas.

A group of five investors formed the Gladys City Oil Company.  Sulphur springs in the area gave them great hope that black gold lay beneath the surface, especially since gas seepages in the area would ignite if lit.

Soon the area was dotted with holes–holes that produced nothing.  Two investors pulled out.

A geologist was brought in.  More investors were convinced to take the risk.

Nine long, unproductive years went by, and  still no oil. That’s 3,285 days of discouragement, disappointment, and exhausting labor.  Yet those men would not give up.

Finally, on January 10, 1901, their long-held dreams were realized.  At the depth of 1,139 feet, the company struck oil.  And it wasn’t just a gurgling flow.  The discovery at Spindletop gave new meaning to the term, “gusher.”  The oil shot over one hundred feet into the air, spewing enough to fill 100,000 barrels a day.  It took nine days to get the well under control.  No oil field in the world, up to that time, had been so productive.

 

Lucas_gusher

 

I wonder what those men said to each other each morning, over those 3,000-plus days of working, learning, waiting, and wondering?  Surely their conversations included some positive uplift, or they would have quit.  Perhaps they made such comments as:

  • “If we don’t find oil, at least we can say we gave the effort everything we’ve got.  If we quit before all possibilities are tried?   That‘s failure.”
  • “All the signs indicate there is oil.  We cant quit!
  • “Today might be the day!”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Just as oil is sometimes discovered by accident, so God’s blessings fall into our laps as glorious surprises. Other times,  God chooses to postpone a blessing while we dig our way through learning, working, waiting, and wondering–like the oil men of Spindletop, Texas.

How do we press on when circumstances look bleak, when common sense tells us to quit?

1.  Pray!  The key to knowing when to persevere and when to change direction is to spend time with God.  Ask him to make clear what the next step is.  Most likely he will not reveal the whole plan at once.  He rarely works that way, because it eliminates the faith factor.  Our moment-by-moment trust in him is too crucial to the abundant living he desires for us.

 

 

2.  Believe!  Dozens of promises in scripture probably apply to your situation and mine.  We can recite those promises–not as demands (“God, you said this, so I’m expecting you to do it.”) but as faith-builders.  (“God, you said this, and I know with you all things are possible.”)

 

 

3.  Fight!  Fight against discouragement with plenty of encouragement.  God is very creative in the ways he brings hope to our spirits.  We must keep watching and listening!

 

 

A friend or even a stranger can speak uplifting words that resonate in our hearts.  Sometimes it’s as if God is speaking directly. One sign for me, that someone is speaking for God?  Goosebumps!  I can almost feel his light touch on my arm and his voice saying, “Pay attention to this, Nancy.”

Our God is a well of unending supply.  Whatever we need in this life, including wisdom, direction, and perseverance toward a goal, he will provide.  In fact, he will do whatever it takes for his praying, believing, fighting children to discover the oil of gladness, instead of mourning (over failure), a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

That’s one way our loving, supportive Heavenly Father displays his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).

 

 

(Revised and reblogged from February 13, 2014.)

 

Photo credits:  www.en.wikipedia.org; Art4TheGlryOfGod on http://www.flickr.com (2), http://www.pinterest.com;  http://www.pinterest.com.au.)

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